Tag Archives: pirates

My Annual Assessment, 2020

Well, here we are. We all know what this year was about. Political strife, a global pandemic, and seeing humanity at its worst, with glimpses of us at our best.

With the Christmas holiday, I kind of checked out. We went to our son’s and spent time with the grandkids. Our daughter was here for Christmas dinner, and we’ve been watching movies. I enjoyed myself, despite the restrictions we all face.

This is supposed to be about my annual assessment, so I’d better get on with it. Some of you are probably expecting some doom and gloom, and nobody will blame you, but that’s not how I see my year.

It all started out with such promise. 2020 was the Year of the Rat. I was born on the Year of the Rat. My first publication came out on Chinese New Year, and it features a couple of rats and the parade in San Francisco. It seemed like the table was all set.

Grinders did okay. It has some great reviews, but could use some more. Reviews seem to be harder to come by these days. I think it’s some of my best work and would like to get it to a few more readers.

Performance and reviews are kind of going to be the subject for a few paragraphs. I had an ambitious schedule and succeeded in publishing three books. The next two were continuations of series, which is something new to me.

HMS Lanternfish is book two of a trilogy. It sets up some things that will happen in the final volume, which I’m writing currently. I don’t know what it means, but HMS Lanternfish has less than half the number of reviews than Voyage of the Lanternfish.

I know Voyage has been available for a year longer, so that makes some sense. I also know that it’s a small dataset. Hard to draw conclusions with those kind of numbers.

Rumor has it that with trilogies sometimes the sales pick up after the whole trilogy is available. Some readers have been burned by authors who never finished the job. I understand that, but am working on the concluding tale.

Then there is the Ballad of Mrs. Molony. This is the third entry into the world of Lizzie and the hat. These have all been well received, but nowhere near as popular as the original volume. This is my open ended series, and I intend to keep it going for a few more years. I’m also currently working on volume four of this series.

It’s important to remember that reviews aren’t the same thing as sales. Most books sell more than what they garner in reviews and mine are no exception.

I also took most of the summer off. Three publications per year, for two consecutive years, got kind of draining.

I wanted to post at Entertaining Stories somewhere between two and three times per week. The year started off that way, but in the last month or so I’m lucky to get one weekend post put up.

I will blame some of this on Covid. My blog includes a slice of life along with the antics of Lisa Burton, or my word metrics updates. With Covid, there hasn’t been much of a life at all, let alone a slice worth sharing with the world.

Another excuse is also blog tour fatigue. When promoting three publications, there are a lot of blog tour posts. They fatigue me, and my readers. I keep every post unique, so they’re worth reading, and that is a bit draining.

The Story Empire blog is another pet project. I kept my end of the bargain and covered all my assigned days. I write this every year, but I’m wondering how much more I have to offer over there. I love helping others, and will keep chipping away at it. There comes a point where I have to rewrite and repackage some of my content. New writers are always showing up, so it kind of works. I already have my first January post written and scheduled.

To wrap all this up, I think 2020 was successful. There was a lot to overcome, and we’re all still dealing with it. However, I published three books, interacted with many of you, and met all my goals. In a different year, I might whine a little about low success, but in 2020 I’ll take it.

Once 2021 arrives, I’ll trot out a business plan and we can all converse about that.

Talk to me. How did your business year play out?

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Got a bit more accomplished

I arrived at the writing cabin in the pre-dawn hour.

Lisa let me in, and she was already in her seasonal outfit. Today she was a gingerbread girl complete with some kind of white piping sewn around the hem of her miniskirt. Candy cane striped thigh-high stockings ended just shy of her dress. “Wow! Two days in a row? It’s almost like old times.”

“Almost. I have to cut it short today, but don’t want to squander the hours I have.”

“Then you’d better get started.” She got behind me and pushed me toward the writing office.

I intended to get the ship underway, but still had a couple of loose ends to wrap up in Tusconi. I took care of those and managed to make sail before I stopped.

It only came to about 800 words today, but like I noted, there were limited hours available. The good news is that Lanternfish is finally underway.

Lisa looked over my shoulder. “I think it’s good stuff. A tearful departure and a thought toward loved ones.” She placed a little square gingerbread robot on the table before me. “Don’t run away. I baked these myself from a recipe on the Internet.”

I took a hesitant bite. “Mmm. These are good.”

“Whew! I’ve never tried anything like this before.”

“Why a robot?”

“Because robots are underrepresented in the Christmas lore. We’re starting a new tradition here. If my sculpting skills were better I would have tried some robot girls, like me.”

“Well, I think they’re delicious. You can work on it, and I’ll come back tomorrow. No writing, just a Christmas visit.”

“And my Christmas bonus? These gingerbread shoes aren’t cheap, you know?”

“Yeah. I’ll bring that, too.”

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Back in action

I got to the writing cabin fairly early this morning. Lisa Burton met me at the door wearing a green and white mini-dress with matching elf cap. “What are you doing here?”

“I work here from time to time, remember?”

“I though you were getting a refrigerator delivered today.”

“That’s tomorrow. Rather than squander a whole weekend, I decided I’d better accomplish something today.”

“And which project is it going to be?”

“Huh? Don’t worry about changing clothes. I like the festive look.”

“Oh, good. I was just about to use the hot glue gun to put tiny bells on these pumps.” She held up a pair of metallic green heels.

“Sounds like a plan. I’m going to launch Lanternfish if it’s the last thing I do.”

“Okay. I have to make your coffee, then I’ll bring you a cup. You might hear me jingling as I come down the hall.”

“I hope so. 2020 has been kind of a gloomy year and any little bit of cheer is welcome.” I marched to the writing office and could see my breath in the air. Lisa had already provided kindling and wood, so I made a fire in the fireplace before I got started.

I opened my chapter by sliding Lanternfish from dry dock into the water. It takes some time to outfit a ship this size and I needed to respect that. I used the time to define some relationships, mostly between James and Bonnie. They are always parted on these journeys, and that’s pretty realistic for the era. I decided to spend some time with them as a couple.

I also spent some time reintroducing a few other characters. The overall trilogy seems to have a cast of thousands, and I can’t expect readers to remember all of them. Since it’s still early, a line or two seems more helpful than not.

Lisa jangled into my office with coffee. Somewhere along the line she’d managed to accessorize with an enameled bracelet and necklace of holly leaves and berries.

“Where’d you get those?” I pointed to her wrist.

“Cute, huh? I found them on EBay for a steal. As a bonus, Bunny likes to chew up the boxes.”

“You’re a little tall for an elf, but your heart’s in the right place.”

She leaned in close. “I don’t have a heart. There is a hydroponic layer to keep my skin healthy.”

“I know that. It’s a figure of speech. Means you have the right spirit.”

“Thanks. You type away. I’m going to go do my nails. There are boards of Christmas nails all over Pinterest.”

“Have a good time.”

I pecked away at my project, and ended at 3200 words for the day. I like this chapter, but there’s nary a cannonade in sight. Plenty of time for fantasy sea monsters and naval warfare after they leave the harbor.

I also like the way that Serang has been up to her neck in warfare in the preceding chapters. I think it adds a sense of urgency that readers can pick up on, even though the Lanternfish crew has no idea.

Tonight is all about packing all our food into the tiny freezer and a group of old coolers. Hopefully, getting the new one delivered and installed won’t be an all day affair, but my experience with such things hasn’t been good. If this is all I manage to write, so be it.

In other news, I worked through all my critiques for the other story. My group really didn’t like my title, so I changed it. The book about Lizzie and the hat is now called Lunar Boogie. Probably jump to that one next go round.

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Ugh! Life gets in the way

I probably owed you guys an update yesterday, but here we are. This is my short weekend, and my wife is off, too. That doesn’t typically add up to much word count.

Today, we had to buy a new refrigerator. The old one started leaking on the inside, then freezing in the lower drawer. Before it ruins the kitchen floor we decided to bite the bullet.

My intent was to put it on my Sears card. They took our Sears store away, so that was the first obstacle. We found what we liked at Home Depot, but the card got denied.

I called Visa from Home Depot, and got some mush-mouthed guy I could barely understand. It was kind of like talking to Kevin the vampire over the phone. Eventually, we figured out that my credit limit wasn’t high enough.

It always was, but since we haven’t used it for a few years, they must have lowered it. I managed to get it sorted out and delivery is all set up.

After that, we decided to go to lunch. Old What’s Her Face and I haven’t really been out since this whole Covid mess started. We wound up at Old Chicago for pizza and beer. It was always one of our favorite places and I got to sample a couple of different holiday stouts.

Like I said, doesn’t make for much word count. I’ve been able to add minor amounts to my stories in the evenings, but have a hard time writing with noise and distractions. I’m only doing it, because there is no other option.

Right now, the story about Lizzie and the hat is further along at 24,700 words. Wreck of the Lanternfish is standing at 15,000.

I really need to nudge Lanternfish along. I tend to rush through some parts, but should detail some of the gyrations. Fantasy readers expect a bit more word count, and the environment is interesting. I’m at a point right now where I have to just write those parts and assess everything at the other end. Sometimes it’s easier to fix it than it is to fuss about how I’m going to write it.

I doubt I’m going to get anything else done this weekend. We have a few chores set for tomorrow and those shouldn’t be put off.

My banishment for Covid is over now and I can return to the office. I had to serve my wife’s entire sentence, then another two weeks of my own. She was the one who caught it, but I had to be out longer. Doesn’t make any sense to me, but I get to go back Monday. Hope I’m not too far behind.

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Slower Going Today

I’ve been left to my own devices this weekend. Old What’s Her Face had a trip planned to Nevada, but her Covid diagnosis put that off. She went back to work and rescheduled her trip this weekend.

That leaves me and the bulldogs, who are feeling pretty needy. I didn’t do anything last night, because it was Mandalorian night. I’m loving the story, but hating the cliff-hanger.

I needed to jump back to Lanternfish, since it’s falling behind the other book. I’m struggling to get my cons enough page time. I finally decided on a path, then pushed ahead.

The Palumbos might just have to get shorter chapters. I like to keep things about the same length, but their sections don’t involve cannonades and sword fights. They put on their shows and try to influence the outcomes. After that, I don’t want them standing around for the sake of page time.

After their short chapter, I returned to Tusconi and launched the refurbished Lanternfish. I may have to make a bigger deal of it and need time to think. Right now, the main characters watched it all from a carriage on a hilltop. They are trying to keep a few secrets, so I didn’t want the queen to break a bottle over the prow, since she’s the big secret.

I’m debating what to do with Mr. McCormack. He’s a quartermaster’s mate, but Fala is the real quartermaster. He also has a girlfriend in Tusconi, and they’ve been making plans. Taking him or leaving him would be realistic, but I’ll probably take him along.

I mention this, because Lanternfish has a lot of characters. Giving them all page time could water down the story to a degree. Most of them are supporting characters, but we assume they’re rigging sails, preparing meals, or swabbing decks somewhere.

This is why I stopped where I did. Dan and Fala are married, but will both make the voyage. Mule and Yoshiko are solidly together and will make the voyage. James will leave his wife behind. I might be able to do some contrasting things about the risk or benefit of leaving your loved one behind or bringing her along. Maybe – maybe not. I need to think about it.

In a way, this book is like writing multiple books all on its own. I have Serang’s story, the Palumbo’s story, and the Lanternfish story. That won’t last, and will come together at the end. Right now, I need to move the Lanternfish part ahead and it should get a larger portion of the pages. If I have to assign page time it would be Lanternfish >Serang>the Palumbos.

Word count wasn’t great, but I still have 1600 words I didn’t have last night. I have some fun stuff planned for the root monsters after they get underway. James will also have to try out the improvements to the ship which could be fun.

For now, it’s probably time to shift back to Lizzie and the hat. They have their own issues, because any clue gathering they get only comes once per month. I nearly have that worked out in my mind. It’s about time for the December full moon.

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Not much to report, but I’ll do my best

I planned to write this weekend, but Covid changed that for me. Old What’s Her Face was scheduled to work, but that didn’t happen. Oddly enough, it sounds like they want her back for her Thanksgiving shift. It appears you either get better in ten days or you die. We kind of hoped she would at least get the holiday off.

I had to make a trip to the office to drop off projects and pick up new ones. No idea how long my work will make me quarantine, but I tested negative and have zero symptoms. I’ll figure it all out in the coming week.

I even stopped on the way home to do the shopping. I knocked it out of the park. Years ago, I did the shopping, but that’s been a long time. You kind of instinctively know what you’re running low on, like laundry soap. Thank God for lists.

As far as writing, it was catch as catch can. I never really got specific times for my projects. I added a line here and there, and jumped between books to a degree.

I wrote another action scene for Serang, but stopped before the wrap up. She still needs to assess the battle and the location of specific things near her before moving her army.

Lizzie and the hat are also proving difficult. Lizzie hasn’t figured out there is a monster in their midst, and my old cop character is having no luck with his murder investigation. I wound up writing the next murder discovery, but forgot that Lizzie and the Pythons had to play a gig before the event.

I’ve never done this before, so I blame having too much on my mind. I’ll have to back up and add that event. The danger here is overkill. This was a two night gig, and this will be the second night. I need to spread some suspicions more than have the band rock out. Don’t quite know how I’m going to pull that off, but I need to minimize it since readers attended the Friday night show.

I’ve spent a lot of time counting calendar dates and comparing them to the lunar cycle. I don’t need a specific year when I do this. I hope the stories aren’t that limited in scope and have some longevity. I learned that the last possible day Thanksgiving can happen is November 28th. If the full moon occurs the weekend after (Because of gig schedules on weekends) this would be a blue moon.

This means my next full moon would be December 29th. Between the gig I need to back up and write and the December date, the cop should be chasing a possible killer and Lizzie should be chasing a monster. (No idea if that’s a weekend or not, but I almost hope not. Lizzie and the hat will need some freedom to hunt that night.

I picked this setting for a couple of reasons. First, all of the Hat stories seem to wrap up around Halloween and I want to break the mold a little. Second, blood on snow makes for a good visual. It stays red and doesn’t dry brown like blood on leaves. It also has to be washed away, leaving an ice slick, or loaded and carted off. With multiple victims, I can do both.

I may try to hack out a couple of paragraphs to repair my story this evening. Drives me nuts to have something in a state of disrepair like that.

The scorecard:

  • Wreck of the Lanternfish = 12,571 words
  • Just Plane Wered = 9098 words

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Writing along

I looked up from my desk at the writing cabin and decided to call it a day.

Lisa Burton walked into the office in full pirate regalia. “How did it work out? Did you have a good day?”

“It really was. 2700 words I didn’t have before. Add that to the 2000 from Wednesday and things are cooking along.”

“There’s a little coffee left before you leave. Do you want it?”

“Sure. I got through my con men on Wednesday and closed the loop on three concurrent stories. Everyone is on the page now. Today, James did what he had to as far as completing the repairs on Lanternfish. She’ll be ready to launch soon.”

“Don’t you think I’d look great in period costume breaking a magnum of champagne over her prow?”

“I’m sure you would.”

“Maybe you should write that one down.”

“It’s early in the story. There could be better things coming.”

“Then you don’t have to use it, but if you write it down you won’t forget.”

“You’re a computer. You remember for me.”

“You can bet I will. So, did the queen go along with James’s scheme?”

“Shh, that’s a spoiler. You can check out the draft later.”

“What are you planning tomorrow?”

“Don’t know. Serang still has some war to wage, but she ought to gather some clues along the way. I need her to discover some old secrets, too. I might wing some of that, or take a little time to think it through.”

“You mean you’d just waste a day to think?”

“Sure. This whole country could use more thinking before writing.”

Lisa smirked. “Uh huh?”

“If it doesn’t want to come together, I can always revisit Lizzie and the hat.”

“I kind of hate it when you do this to me. I never know how to dress for the day. Am I wearing cute performance outfits or being a pirate girl?”

“How about badass monster hunter outfits?”

“I know your style. It’s too soon for those, After about ten chapters you’ll get to them. So how should I dress tomorrow?”

“I don’t know. I have to go where the Muse leads me.”

“Fine. I’m going to put on some jeans and cowboy boots, add a Smithereens tee-shirt and fashion beret, then pull the Waltus armor on over the top. Maybe I’ll even buckle on a cutlass for good measure.”

“Do it and I’ll post a picture on my blog.”

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“Of course I would.” I pointed to my head. “You don’t understand how this brain works.”

“From what I can tell, your processor runs on coffee, pumpkin beer, cheese, and crackers.”

“Actually, that’s pretty accurate. All I can tell you is that I intend to write tomorrow. If it’s Lanternfish, it’s Serang’s turn again. If not, then I’ll start the next Hat book.”

“Maybe I’ll just wear one of my polka dot dresses and some nice heels. Those make me happy.”

“There you go. I like those, too.”

“Enough to write me into another book?”

“Probably, but I’m not going to. You got a story just last year. I’m going to try revisiting Serang and see how that goes. That’s as much commitment as I can give you.”

“I’ll take it.”

“So, do we have some cheese and crackers?”

Yeah. And some dry salami. I’ll get you set up.”

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Might as well keep it going…

Since Old What’s Her Face is working today, I really didn’t have a good excuse not to write. I already uncorked this genie, so why not?

The final book in the Lanternfish trilogy almost has to be told in three parts that will merge eventually. I’ve written books like this before, so I’m used to the idea.

Yesterday, I started with Captain James and his goings on in trying to make Lanternfish seaworthy once more. It made for a neat start and included a lot of personal stress for him.

Meanwhile, a continent away, Serang and her army are in the war already. It was time to write some of that. I don’t know about you guys, but action scenes always slow me down. It doesn’t seem like that should be the case, but it is for me. They’re also where I usually need the most help from my critique partners. I’ll go over it a dozen times before I let them see it.

Serang managed to get herself blown up. Martial arts and steel are great against some enemies, but not others. It was also a nice way to remind my readers of the exploding monks and Fulminite order.

This led to a recovery scene, and the story needed one after all that. Time for a little recon and planning.

My next section has to be the cons, Camila and Diego Palumbo. I’m a little nervous about their sections. I need to keep them tense and interesting, and trickle out bits of the main story. It’s a bit different than relying on root monsters or martial arts to carry these sections.

I’m committed and maybe I’ll learn some new tricks about holding things back and keeping it interesting all at the same time.

The story has a title and has had for several months. I’m almost loathe to share it before publication, but what the hell. I’m calling it “Wreck of the Lanternfish.” It’s going to be pertinent to the main story, and I can’t imagine calling it anything else. It also might not be quite what you think.

Because today involved an action scene I only hit 2500 words. That’s still a pretty good day in my book. Chapter two isn’t too soon for explosive action, is it?

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It’s been too long

I got to the writing cabin relatively early this morning. Lisa Burton met me at the door. She wore a tight knee-length khaki dress and a matching envelope cap.

“What’s with the outfit,” I asked.

“Veteran’s Day is next on the calendar. Things are still kind of boring out there, so I try to celebrate everything at home. You haven’t been out here in a while. What’s the occasion?”

“Nothing special. Just trying to keep the boredom away. I’ve been doing some storyboarding and looking for graphics. I have a lot of cool poster ideas for you as I write the next few books.”

“I’d love to go over your ideas. Maybe I can get some outfits ordered.”

I headed toward my office and turned on the lights. Lisa had placed sheets over everything, so I pulled them away and piled them in the corner. “Problem is that all the cool ideas are several books away from the ones I’m writing next. Things will have to come to me as I write those.”

“I’m sure you’ll come up with something. Maybe I can help.”

I walked down the hall to the paranormal office and threw the switch. A spark and hum revealed the same slip covers over all the furniture.

I thought as I pulled them all back. “I might be able to use that garrison cap in a story. Hang on to it.”

“For the hat?” she asked.

“Yeah, why not. I have a mission in a future story that will require him to be flat. Lizzie might come up with a performance outfit using it, too.”

“That seems worthy. I’ll keep it within easy reach. What are you working on today?”

“Nothing in particular, but I’m getting close.”

Lisa pushed me back to the main office and my desk chair. She moved the iPad in front of me. “I’ll get you some coffee. Maybe just relax and enjoy a fresh cup. See where it takes you.”

I sipped my coffee, then opened a new folder, created a blank document. A little copy and paste, and I’d created a title page and copyright data. I wrote one sentence, then another.

I knew in broad strokes what has to happen, but didn’t really plan a way to execute that. I worked on some dialog and it led toward the planned event. Might as well execute the plan and see what happens.

I dabbled, and backspaced my way along, not really expecting much. When I glanced down at the bottom of my document I’d written 3000 words. My jaw fell open.

Lisa had her own cup of coffee. She held it toward me. “Take all you can…”

I clinked her cup. “Give nothing back.”

Lisa snapped an open palm salute. “I I I I.”

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Kicking it into Overdrive

It’s September now. The best month of the year is just over the horizon. I can taste the pumpkin spice in my beer, and detect the crispness of the occasional morning. We’ll still dabble with the occasional 100 degree temperature, but October will be here before we know it.

It’s been my favorite since I was a small child. All the spooky Halloween oriented things. The changing colors, I love all of it.

Late summer was busy. It seems like Lanternfish sailed all over the world in the last month. We visited a lot of old friends and managed to get Lisa Burton out of the writing cabin. I’m hoping that my free promotion of the first book will walk some new readers into this series. It’s time to send the ship to dry dock now. She has holes to patch and barnacles to scrape before I take her back out for her last cruise.

I’m going to be popping up here and there this month to promote Murder They Wrote. This is an anthology of seven different short stories with a theme of murder. My character, Jason Fogg, is a private detective on the trail in my story.

I’ll be on the lookout for review posts. With Lanternfish’s free days, plus the new book, plus the anthology, one or two could pop up. If I find them, I’l try to share them here.

You might be thinking, Craig’s had a busy year. He’s probably going to relax for a while. That’s just not the case this year. I try to have a Halloween themed promo of some kind every year, and 2020 be damned, I’m doing it this year, too. I have another book I hope to release on October first. I only have part of my promotional artwork, but I have a cool cover. I’m sure the rest of the art will arrive in time. I don’t even have the formatted MS back, but it will be here.

I decided to post some teasers this month. Simple, visual and auditory at the same time. With this post, I’ve officially promoted three new books in one week. Take that 2020. Check it out. Are you teased? Are you intrigued?

Lisa Burton

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