Right, so, I might have an idea at last. I've been hitting my head against a brick wall for some time now, trying to work out a storyline that satisfied me, and one that I thought would be worth writing. I've discarded a lot because they just didn't work in my head. There was a fantasy series I pondered for a time, but there are good reasons not to go into that particular well at the moment, which I'll get to later on – because this is talking about long-term, as well as short-term.
About a year ago, I came up with an idea for a character and a story that was designed as an easily introduction to the Triplanetary universe. At that point, it was on Book 12, and I realized that it was going to potentially put people off diving into the Battlecruiser Alamo series, if they thought that they had to go back through such a large number of books to get into the story. (In actually, I think a lot of them stand-alone at least reasonably well, though there are a few I wouldn't recommend as introductions. If you are reading this and want to jump into the series – then Aces High or Triple-Edged Sword wouldn't be bad places to start.)
The character was Midshipman Pavel Salazar, the book was Aces High. The eagle-eyed among you might have noticed that Aces High was Alamo 13, and Pavel Salazar has become an integral part of the main series. (Yes, I really like the character…) Nevertheless, the idea fizzled. Or perhaps expanded, instead. It rapidly became apparent that the story I was telling encompassed the whole crew, not just one man, and I needed to adapt it to fit that. I'm very happy with the story and the book – but as with me is all too often the case, it wasn't the book I originally planned to tell!
Nevertheless, the idea remains a sound one. The original specification is essentially unchanged – shorter novels, say 40,000 words, released in between Alamo books until the two series dovetail, which at some point they will do. Featuring one, or two point-of-view characters, at the $2.99 price point. I think now might be the time to introduce these into the story. Things have moved on for Alamo – a lot, in fact – and that provides significant opportunities for plot development. There are things moving back at Yeager Station as Commodore Marshall puts his task force together, and Logan Winter will be continuing his schemes. This provides a little window to look back to that, before their return to the main series.
Oh, was that a spoiler? Thought you'd seen the last of Commodore Marshall? No fear – he's taking a break, but he will be back.
The next six or seven Alamo novels are set to – at least in my mind – kick things up a gear. In a few days, Final Testament will be out, and that sets up a lot of the story I've been talking about. I was briefly tempted to simply move to monthly Alamo releases for a while, but I'm not sure that's a good idea. (Though comments on this are invited…) As it is, I have vague ideas for three to five Starfighter books – with the concept that these are intended both as introductions to the setting as well as expansions of the main plot. Serving both masters is going to be...interesting...but I'm determined to give it a try.
Longer term? Well, I still want that elusive second genre, and as ever, I've broken it down to two possibilities. Fantasy or historical. Common sense suggests the latter – as well as some fundamental problems I have with writing fantasy up in my head, but that's something I could probably get over in time. If you are planning to start out as a writer/publisher, I'd recommend taking a look at a book called 'Writing to Market'. (At some point soon, I really need to do a 'recommended writing books post', I think.) I don't agree with all of it by any means, but the writer makes an excellent point about choosing where to write.
Now, I'll stress here that the best piece of advice I ever read – from what was otherwise a terrible book – was that you should look at the novels on your shelves when working out what genre to work in, but it isn't quite as simple as that. Few people only like one sort of book; my shelves have science-fiction, fantasy and historical on them, biased somewhat toward the former, I must admit. Write to Market makes the point that you should look at the current, well, market in the genres you are looking at, before making your final decision on where to focus your attention.
Bluntly, fantasy is glutted. I'm certainly not saying that you shouldn't write in that genre, not at all, but I am saying that you might find it harder to get traction. This is one of those unpleasant times when I'm forced to stick my 'businessman' hat on. I'd say most – maybe all – writers don't have the problem of working out a story to write, rather the reverse – that there are too many stories in their heads, and it is difficult to focus on one. I've certainly got that problem. There are some books I want to write that I know I just can't justify, not at the moment, and those keep getting postponed. On the other hand, looking at what else is out there prompts me to think about pushing other ideas to the fore, thinking that their time has come.
Fantasy, therefore, slides to the back. I've got a couple of fantasy series in my head – one more sword and sorcery, one full-blown Game of Thrones-epic – but the time is just not right at the moment. Historical fiction, however, is more open, and that's a good place to look at. The trick is to work out where things are moving, and establish yourself in that genre as it matures. (Want another tip for the year after next? Westerns. My side prediction is that 2018 will be the Year of the Western, and yes, I'm planning something along those lines. I've got this Confederate veteran longing to explore New Mexico and Sonora in 1865-68, following along General Shelby's force...with occasional sidetrips to Honduras, perhaps...)
The Old West aside, Egypt is calling. In a big way. I've mentioned that I've been going through a lot of lectures lately, and I recently completed a lecture series on Ancient Egypt that, well, sold it to me very comprehensively. Not just to write, but let's just say I've dropped a lot of coin on additions to my library in the recent past, and I can't see that changing any time soon. So the research begins. (As usual, I have more than one idea. I'd like to look at the Thirteenth Dynasty, the start of the Second Intermediate Period – that's the one with the cannibalism, by the way – as well as the Nubian Pharaohs from the south, much later on. And there's always the Amarna period, as well…) I figure it'll take some time to get myself ready for that, so it's definitely a '2017' project, but something I'm pretty sure will happen.
So – there you go. A little look behind the veil. I'm as curious as you to know what's hidden behind there...