I’m in a weird place as the holiday buzz wears off and taxes rear their ugly head. From about January, 2020 to April of 2021, I wrote nine novels in what’s been dubbed the Suicide Arc, a continuation of the Compact Universe. Thanks to dictation, well-timed breaks, and quarantine scuttling Uber as a side gig, I was able to spin the arc out as one long story. One novel was scrapped outright, and the final book, Suicide Solution, will require a complete rewrite. I sort of did this on a dare. A writer I knew thought I should pitch to his publisher. He also said they want a lot of content, and he spins up so much of it that I will never, even if he’s all I listen to on Audible for a year, catch up. I’m kind of proud of myself for doing it and found a home for the books at Vamptasy.
And therein lies the strangeness. SJ Davis, the maven behind this imprint and a few others under the CHBB umbrella, released Suicide Run in August of last year (A nice coming home present after the family and I returned from New England), and will release Checkmate next month. Assuming this relationship continues to work, it looks like a book every six months with the final one likely to appear in late 2025. In other words, I have no need to write anything but the revamped Suicide Solution for the next two years.
As Jim Winter, I owe Down & Out books a follow up to Holland Bay, which is in the can. I also need to write that one’s follow up. So, what’s the plan?
Well, for starters, I need to write shorts. In crime, this is not much of an issue. The last three shorts I’ve written all went to themed anthologies. And, in fact, the Steely Dan inspired “No Static at All,” from A Beast Without a Name, marked my return to crime fiction. Colin Conway’s shared 509 series has an anthology about a cop offering a get-out-of-jail-free card over a specific sack of Dick’s burgers? Boom. “Prime Delivery.” Return to the Sleuthsayers blog and automatically get invited to a forthcoming (and still untitled) anthology about stories in a pub or a bar? Well, my ex-wife sent me a video of her husband’s Southern rock band. Flip the sequence of scenes in reverse, and “Bad Whiskey” is not only a song, it’s a short story. Someone’s doing a one-hit wonder-themed anthology? Well, I’ll cop to a crush on the still-lovely Alannah Myles, especially when I hear “Black Velvet.” Guess what that spawned.
Scifi, however, is proving a problem. In the Compact Universe, I can spin up a universe like no one’s business. But I have 70-100K words to work with. Names, cultures, planets, technologies, politics. You name it. It’s hard to do within 4000-6000 words. One story, “All in Your Head,” sprawled way too much in its original version and still hasn’t found its focus. I have one in to a major publication, but nothing else. I have to relearn how to write short stories. Unlike crime, where you pretty much live where I do – Earth – I even have to invent or explain the physics.
But shorts will be my focus this year. Oh, and a new Monticello novel to go with Holland Bay and its sequel, The Dogs of Beaumont Heights.
But I have to think beyond. the troika of crime novels and the Suicide Arc. Eventually, I have to aim for bigger markets. The Monticello novels and shorts all live in a more or less traditional publishing ecosystem. Down & Out is a small press, but they are well-regarded. Vamptasy is small enough that I control most, but not all, of the process. They do the covers, can ask for changes, and are slowly building a scifi list. A new publisher in either realm is going to demand a fresh series. I’ve had more than one writer tell me that’s stupid. Write what you want. It is, however, publishing reality. So, if I want a Grand Central or a Random House, I’m going to have to hand them something new. Not sure what that will be since thrillers are big, and I don’t read a lot of them. And for scifi, can I still write in my existing universe even if the stories are unrelated? If not, what do I write? I don’t want to be Gene Roddenberry in the seventies trying to spin up his Genesis series that had three pilots, one a remake of one of the others. Yes, I know all about Andromeda, but that was Majel Barrett and some former Trek writers salvaging GR’s work.
I have a couple of years to figure it out. For now, shorts are going to be the focus.