Is there a worse month in the year than January? I'm not so sure. The holidays are over. The weather is cold and gray (seriously, Mother Nature, would it kill you to give us some snow this year?) and there's nothing much to do outside the house. For my friends down in Australia, is this what your typical July is like? Maybe you guys in the south are out surfing, hiking, camping, enjoying all kinds of fun activities...I don't know.

At any rate, a boring month means lots of free time for writing!

Sibling Suns 2 Update

Last month, I recommitted to my plan to get the sequel to An Ocean of Others published by the end of this year. So far, things are still looking good. This month I wrote about 25,000 words of your book over about 25 hours. I've got one more chapter to go until the end of Part II in Grim's story, and let me tell's a doozy. The last chapter I wrote felt like it could have been the climax to the book, but of course what I have planned for the real climax is even bigger and more explosive. The stakes start off high in Sibling Suns 2 and they only get higher as the story progresses. I can't wait for you to read it!

If I make as much progress as I did this month for the next four months, Sibling Suns 2's first draft should be done by my birthday in June. I'll admit I wasn't as confident about hitting my deadline at the start of the year. I talked a big game in my January Newsletter, but in truth, I had quite a few reservations about whether I could get it done in time. However, I did a lot of organization and planning of the future chapters in Lorelay's and Garret's stories, and I'm feeling much better about it now.

If you would like to see the result of that planning and follow along with my progress behind the scenes, you can check out my Sibling Suns 2 Trello board. There's a helpful little README in the Notes column that explains what you're looking at, but if you have any questions, feel free to send me an email. I respond to every one I get, and I got quite a few more than usual this month.

I think that probably has something to do with...

NaNoWriMo 2022 Giveaway

Oh yes, that's right, there was a giveaway. I figure we should get to this before moving on to non-Sibling Suns topics. Last month, I put out the call (again) and you answered. Ten percent of you entered the giveaway (more than I expected!), and three of you have been randomly chosen as winners.

So many giveaways I may change my last name to Winfrey.

First, I must once again express my gratitude to Michael Sugarman for alerting me to the problem that scuttled the first attempt at running this giveaway. For that, he's also getting a signed copy of both books as well as a round of applause for enabling everyone else a chance at winning!

Our hats are off to you, Michael.

But now we come to the lucky three. They are:

Winner 1: Krina, of A Maze of Words

Krina runs a review blog called A Maze of Words, featuring reviews of both trad- and self-published books of all different genres. Thanks for being such a great advocate of the indie book community, Krina!

Winner 2: Dom McDermott

Dom has a YouTube channel called Dominish Books, and if you're a fan of thoughtful, well-articulated reviews of indie books, you should do yourself a favor and subscribe!

Winner 3: John Brown

John doesn't have a blog or channel for me to promote here, but he's been doing some pretty awesome giveaways on Twitter lately. Go give him a follow and maybe you'll win some indie book swag!

Your books are in the mail, my friends, and as soon as Sibling Suns 2 is ready, you'll be the first ones I send it to. Thanks so much for participating in the giveaway and for your support!

Grave of the Waiting Update

If you missed it, Grave of the Waiting Chapter 13 has been published and should be in your inbox. As you may know, the five characters are very loosely based on the five members of my band, gravelord. Their personalities are completely different from ours, but each character shares some incidental details with their namesake. The title of this chapter, Grave Stench, is kind of an inside joke between me and my bandmates. I hope it gives them a good laugh, but for everyone else, I don't think you'll be laughing by the end of this chapter.

Chapter 13 marks the 50% point in the publication of the serial, and it happens to be one of my favorite chapters in the book. It's not my ultimate favorite (that's Chapter 22, but it's up there. I also happen to think it's one of my most polished chapters yet, owing to two reasons:

The first is that this chapter is one of the first I conceived of in the story, back when this was going to be a Halo-style military sci-fi (I'll probably publish the first draft / short story of this one day, to show you how drastically things have changed).

The second is something you've probably heard of, and which may elicit an eyeroll, groan, or an immediate unsubscribe, depending on your priors. But maybe you'll be as curious as I was.

For this chapter, I tried using OpenAI's ChatGPT, to help me edit, and found that it's extremely helpful. It'll spot cliches and clunky sentences, offer suggestions for improvement, and output surprisingly insightful line-level critiques. It also serves as a nearly perfect reverse dictionary (i.e. you describe or define the word you're looking for and it spits out some likely candidates), something I've been dying to find for ages. No more floundering for words on the tip of my tongue!

It's almost like working with a proofreader and editor in real-time, something that would be inconceivable just a few months ago. Of course, as impressive as this tech is, I don't think it's going to replace the role of a real, human editor. There will always be value in working with someone with years of experience and industry knowledge. Instead, this is like a supplemental editing step, one that I think improves the stories I'm publishing in a way that would be unaffordable if not downright impossible before.

But you tell me. If you're up-to-date on the serial, did you notice a difference in quality, either positive or negative, for this chapter? I'd love to know! Maybe I'm just getting caught up in the hype of using a brand-new toy, so I'd love to get some feedback to disabuse me of any misconceptions. At the very least, it was exciting editing in this style, and for a story where AI plays such a big role, it felt appropriate. The world of today really is becoming more and more like those humankind has conceived of in science fiction, for better or worse.

SPSFC2 Semi-Finalists

Speaking of science fiction, you may remember that I'm a judge in Hugh Howey's second Self-Published Science Fiction Competition. If you don't remember, well...I am! I'm on Team ScienceFiction.News, and we've just announced an exciting selection of semi-finalists, which you can read about in the team's blog post, Announcing Our SPSFC Semi-Finalists.

Now that Phase 1 of the competition is done, our task is to read two other teams' semi-finalists. We've got a great docket on Team Sciencefiction.News, including a few books I was already planning to read outside of the competition!

Which of these semi-finalists will we advance as a finalist? We'll have to wait until May 11th to find out!

Spoiler-free AMA for An Ocean of Others

If you aren't subscribed to my channel on YouTube, you probably missed my AMA livestream from a few weeks back. It was supposed to be a recorded and edited video, but instead I decided to wing it, only announcing it on Twitter a few hours ahead of time. Unsurprisingly, not many people tuned in!

Still, I had some great questions to answer from the thread I started in November—some light and fun, others I really had to think about—so if you're interested, you can check out the replay below.

It felt good livestreaming again—this was my first time as an author; most I've done were challenge runs of From Software games on a different channel—so I'm planning to do the same thing for a spoiler-filled livestream.

Unlike last time, I'm setting a date ahead of time so more people can join in on the fun. If you've read An Ocean of Others (or you just don't care about spoilers) and want to hang out for a bit, I'll be live on Thursday, Feb. 16th at 6:00pm EST on John A. Douglas' channel answering questions about the story. Of course there's a giveaway attached, so if you haven't got a signed copy yet, here's another chance!

Should be fun! Hope to see you there!

New Releases

I know, I know, this is getting long, so I promise this is the last section. I want to start including some fellow indie authors' books I've got my eye on in each of these monthly updates. They might not always be new releases, but both of them are in this case, so I hope you'll check them out!

If you're active in the writing community scene, you probably will have heard of these, but if not... who knows! You just might find a new favorite book. Nothing would make me happier.

Eleventh Cycle

This book has been on my radar for quite some time now, as Kian Ardalan has been hyping it as a Dark Souls- and Berserk-inspired story. If you know anything about me, you know my newsletters tend to be way longer than I intend. But if you know anything else about me, it's that I am a diehard fan of the Dark Souls series, so this book really seems like it was made for me.

Though this is only Kian's second book, it has had a stellar launch in terms of sales, which has been amazing to see. I suspect a small part of Kian's success stems from the new fans of FromSoft who've recently discovered how incredible their games are by playing Elden Ring, released earlier this year. Also, perhaps, the influx of interest in Berserk after the tragic passing of Kentaro Miura, the manga's creator.

But credit where it's due to Kian as well, he's been putting in the work to promote this book for a long time, and reviewers are raving about it on all corners of the internet. My paperback copy arrived just before I finished this newsletter—I can't wait to see what all the hype is about!

No Heart for a Thief

Ahh, sips coffee I love the smell of Felix Ortiz cover art in the morning.

No Heart for a Thief is James Lloyd Dulin's debut novel, but evidently his writing is already polished and emotional, judging by the early reviews I've read of his book. James is clearly someone who takes the craft of writing very seriously and is always trying to improve. My evidence for this is that he's been publishing a series of blog posts where he's reached out to...well, I won't say successful indie authors, because somehow, I made the cut, but everyone he's interviewed (folks including Zack Argyle, Zamil Akhtar, and Sienna Frost) has had great advice.

James must have been taking it to heart, because his debut novel has sold nearly 400 copies in its first week. That's truly amazing, and if nothing else, shows you he's an author to keep an eye on. I've got my copy in hand and hope to read it this year after SPSFC2 wraps up!

All right, as I promised, that was the last section. Thanks so much for sticking with me if you've made it this far. I expected this to be a short one, and once again I was sorely mistaken. Maybe in March you'll finally get a short newsletter, but on the other hand, I hope to have some exciting news for you next month. Fingers crossed!

I'll see you then, and as always, thanks for reading!