Update on The Apex Predator … Book 7 of The Human Chronicles Saga

ApexCover5I’m about to play poker with my next novel. Let me explain.

I wrote this book a little differently that my others; essentially in sections that now must be shuffled together. I have three major plot lines running throughout the book, one with Adam Cain and Sherri Valentine, one with Riyad Tarazi and another with Nigel McCarthy. These are almost complete stories in their own right, yet related to the overall novel. I’ve completed these three storylines, and now I have to shuffle them together to make one complete story.

In nearly all novels, the perspective shifts between characters, either through chapter changes or within the chapters themselves, and as the storyline moves along, the author switches from character to character and from locale to locale. We normally do this within the writing process, so one moment you may be writing from the perspective of Character A, and then the next Character C. And then you may go to Characters B and D before returning to Character A. With this book I decided just to stick with one character throughout and entire section of my master Word document and tell the entire story from that perspective. And then, with the miracle of Microsoft Word, I can cut and paste all the various perspectives together. This will involve some segue writing to tie everything together and then a careful examination of timelines. Yet it has allowed me to blast through one character’s (or set of character’) complete story without the constant switching of personalities and perspective during the writing process. Now it just needs to be all tied together and mingled so that the story flows and makes sense.

I’m planning on releasing the new book on December 15, 2013 … after the editing and proofreading process is complete. I know fifteen to twenty days doesn’t sound like enough time to edit and proof an entire book, but in the world of ebook publishing things can move very quickly. I have a number of beta readers already lined up who will receive advance copies and check for typos and other issues, while my editor and professional proofreader are on standby as soon as I do my last run-through of the book and email it to them. The Apex Predator should be my best-edited and proofed book. At least that’s my goal. (Of course, some things will fall through the cracks, and when this happens I hope my readers will email me with the corrections. Again with ebooks, I can make changes and upload a new version of the book in about five hours.)

Galaxy Cover60With The Apex Predator being book 2 of part two of The Human Chronicles, it will end up being the middle book of a trilogy. As such, it picks up where Cain’s Crusaders left off and sets up the reader for all the wild climax stuff that happens in the final book of the trilogy — A Galaxy to Conquer. I had the opportunity this time to essentially plot out two books at once, so the day after I send The Apex Predator to my editor, I’ll be starting to work on A Galaxy to Conquer, with the projected release date around the end of January 2014. This will the soonest I’ve released a follow-up book, so hopefully my continuing fans — plus all the new ones who come onboard during the holiday season — will find gratification sooner than others have in the past.

It appears — at least for now — that The Human Chronicles Saga will run for a total of eight books. But don’t worry, I’m sure Adam Cain will surface again in the not too distant future — he always does. However, as an author, I have a number of other projects rumbling around in my brain that I’d like to get to first. I’m not quite ready to announce these yet, since I still have two more Adam Cain novels to release. But rest assured, if you like my writing style, you will find the same in every book I complete. And no matter what the subject, they will always contain their fair share of humor, along with unfiltered realism. One thing I will never be accused of is bowing to politically-correctness!

Now, back to my poker game. I’ve got some shuffling to do!

T.R. (Tom) Harris

As always, I will be sending out broadcast emails to my registered fans announcing the release of all my books, so if you haven’t been put on the list yet, go to Contact Me at the top of this page and send me an email. Thanks.

Acquiring a Taste for Elephant

eating elephantSo I start a blog so I can keep my fans informed about my life as an author, as well as give tips to aspiring writers young and old.

But then I get bogged down eating elephants.

Yes, writing a novel is not something that can be done over a weekend, or even a week or two. Sometimes it takes months to finish the darn elephant, even taking one bite at a time. Elephants are big … and so are novels. That’s probably the reason most people who aspire to write books (estimated at 73% of the population) never do. It’s a daunting task.

Through the six books I’ve completed, I’ve found that starting the next book/elephant is the hardest part. Not because I don’t have the idea, or the story bores me, or any other such excuse. It’s simply because I know what a major undertaking it is. Once you commit to a book, it NEEDS to become all-consuming, otherwise you’ll never finish. (Or it will take you a Solar Magnetic Activity Cycle to complete. That’s eleven years if you didn’t already know.)

To help cut the elephant in the room down to size, some authors outline meticulously so they will know what each bite will consist of. Others just jump right in and start munching away. I’m kind of in the middle. I have a pretty good idea where the story’s headed, but mainly I let the characters lead me through the details.

Yet one of the most-important things I’ve learned is that you need to give yourself a lot of little victories throughout the writing process. What I mean by this is that you need to be aware of your progress as you go along, encouraged each day that you are getting ever-closer to your goal. Otherwise you’ll start believing that the task is just too big to complete.

For the most part, I accomplish this by writing most of the book out of sequence. Just as a movie is filmed as a series of out-of-sequence scenes and then edited together at the end, I take certain parts of the book that I already have worked out in my mind and just blast through these in quick order. Even though I may have to do extensive editing at the end to make everything mesh, at least I keep knocking out bite after bite of the elephant, eventually scaling the thing down the size of a small calf.

Here’s an example … sort of.

Suppose you have three main characters all doing different things throughout the book. I may write the complete story of one of the characters, even though in the finished the book we’ll be jumping back and forth between what each character is doing. If I find what this person is doing the most interesting at the time, then I write about that person. At other times, I may have a barroom fight outlined in my mind, even though it doesn’t happen for another 100 pages. But I’ll sit down and write it, and next thing you know, another 5,000 words have been chopped off the elephant. It sure beats having writer’s block. (A lot of writer’s block is a result of not knowing what comes next. Screw that! Write what you already know comes next, even if it’s the last scene in the book. Most people already have THAT worked out before they even write the first word.)

The key is to always be completing some part of the book, be it a scene, an important dialog or a chapter. Let’s face it, if you have 75% of a difficult task already done, the remaining 25% is all on the downhill slide. This remaining quarter may be the hardest part to figure out, but now we’re talking about only 25,000 words instead of 100,000. And the impetus is there to solve whatever plot issues you may be having. The book is almost done and the light can be seen at the end of the tunnel.

You will be amazed at how slowly a book begins … but how quickly it can get done once you reach this 75%/25% point. So if that’s the case, then get the 75% of the book done as quickly as possible. The rest will come naturally at the end.

The moral of the story is don’t get bogged down with writing in sequence. Write what you already have worked out. After all, these are usually the parts of the book that interest YOU the most. You might as well keep yourself interested in the story as you go along, because you’re going to be sitting at this dinner table for a very long time.

Now … back to work.

Write-on, my friends!

T.R. (Tom) Harris  

A note about my covers

Feb Legend Cover2 JPEGIt’s pretty obvious to most that there is something very similar about my book covers. If you haven’t noticed, take a moment to check them out — I’ll wait.

Now that you’ve had a chance to look them over, you’ll see that for all the books in Part One of The Human Chronicles Saga, they are all the same, expect for the book title and book number. I did this on purpose, and not just to be lazy. It was an experiment, but my reasoning was that a magazine doesn’t change it’s masthead with each new edition; instead, it remains constant, a way to make the publication stand out and to develop a brand.

I wanted to do the same with my books. When readers go on Amazon to search for new books to read, they usually encounter the thumbnail list of books within the categories they’re interested in. These lists are separated into pages of twenty books at a time. When people search the category of Galactic Empire, for example, they will see some of my books on nearly every page. The repetition of the image is hard to miss. At times, when I have a new book out for instance, I can have four or five books listed on a single search page. The constant familiarity of the covers is something that can be seen on a computer screen from across the room, which is the intent.

I’m not saying you have to use exactly the same artwork every time. A lot of very successful authors use different artwork while keeping the banner of their series constant. I’m just saying that in the competitive landscape of online book shopping, you need to be as dominant as you can, and if all five of your books have completely different covers, you can be easily lost in the mix.

In the days of paperbacks and brick and mortar bookstores, this need for cover domination wasn’t so important. But now, with online retailers presenting our books on a single page and with nineteen other competitors at a time, all trying to draw the attention of the book buyer, we need to think differently. This strategy has worked for me. Hopefully it will for you as well.