Jul 012012

Cover for “Explorers: Beyond the Horizon”

It’s out!  The Explorers anthology is finally officially available to the public.  Woohoo!!  :party:

On September 29, 2010, I joined the Dead Robots’ Society’s forum and began listening to their writing podcast.  I spent several weeks reading through the forum and noticed in November that they were putting together an anthology.  I didn’t honestly think too much of it at the time.  They’d had the call for submissions out for several months, and I didn’t figure I had time to come up with a story idea, write it, edit it, and get it submitted to them within the month that was left until the deadline.  Besides, I assumed that they probably had so many submissions by that point that they were already awash in slush pile hell.

Then on December 13 (yep, I’m geeky enough to look up the date in my notes) a story idea came to me in a dream.  Actually, it was two stories, intertwined to form what I thought might be a pretty good entry for the anthology.  I also remember thinking that I was insane to be setting aside my other writing projects for something that was basically a whim.  There were simply too many obstacles to getting it done in time.

First of all, it was the peak of the holiday season.  There was all the shopping, wrapping, travel plans, etc.  And submission guidelines required a hard word count limit of five thousand words.  Almost all of my writing up to then was long fiction.  At that point, I was one of those writers who was more comfortable writing a novel than a short story.  Writing a short story requires a concise writing style that is in many ways more difficult than the loose boundaries afforded by writing long fiction.  And most importantly, at that point, there were less than three weeks before the deadline!  Christmas season, three week deadline, and a writing format with which I was less than comfortable?  All in all, I figured my chances of making the cut were pretty slim.  Nevertheless, when you’re trying to make it as a writer and inspiration strikes, it’s sometimes pretty difficult to quiet the inner muse.

So I dove into the story as I could, and completed my submission on December 30 – one day ahead of the deadline.  I immediately emailed them:

from:  Jeff Brackett
 to: submissions@deadrobotssociety.com
 date:  Thu, Dec 30, 2010 at 3:39 PM
 subject: Submission for “Explorers: Beyond the Horizon” – Jeff Brackett


Please find attached “The Burning Land”, my 4,989 word submission for your upcoming anthology “Explorers: Beyond the Horizon”.

“The Burning Land” is actually two intertwined stories that explore the relationships between vastly different cultures as seen from the perspectives of characters within them.

In one, Kapin Aric and his crew attempt to find a new land across an alien ocean with the aid of the holy man, Seer Uson Grogar. In the other, Captain Rayland Vaz and his First Officer, Layla Golden are forced to deal with an interstellar generation ship that is slowly falling apart after its four hundred year long journey.

I appreciate your consideration for this anthology, and I hope you enjoy “The Burning Land”. If there is anything further you need from me, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Once again, thank you for your time.


Jeff Brackett

What can I say?  I’d only been a member of the forum for a few months, and was trying to sound as professional and polished as I could.  8-)

At that point, I moved back to my other projects (namely the novel I was working on that later became Half Past Midnight).  Several weeks later, DRS announced that they hadn’t had enough submissions of a quality that they thought worthy of publication, so they were extending their deadline until June of 2011.  My heart sank.  I figured mine was one of those submissions that hadn’t made the cut.

Then on May 20th I received an email from Justin Macumber (lead Robot of the DRS):

from:  Justin Macumber
 to:  Jeff Brackett
 date:  Fri, May 20, 2011 at 6:02 PM
 subject: Re: Submission for “Explorers: Beyond the Horizon” – Jeff Brackett

 Jeff, this is Justin from the Dead Robots’ Society. I wanted to let you know that after reading your short story submission we would like to include it in our anthology, and we wanted to know if it was still available. If so, please let us know. The submission period is still open, so we’re continuing to work on putting everything together, but your story was enjoyed by the editors. Please contact us back if you’d still like to have this story included in our anthology.


Justin Macumber

Well, by then I’d interacted with Justin a bit more, as well as the other DRS members, so I was just a little more comfortable in my correspondences with them.

from:  Jeff Brackett
 to: Justin Macumber
 date: Fri, May 20, 2011 at 6:28 PM
 subject: Re: Submission for “Explorers: Beyond the Horizon” – Jeff Brackett

 Um, can I get a “Hell Yeah!”   :)

Er, I mean…

Yes sir.  “The Burning Land” is currently held specifically for your consideration and I most definitely desire to have it included your anthology.  I greatly appreciate your kind consideration and offer, and look forward to hearing back from you with further information and/or instructions.

Thank you again for your time.

Kindest regards,

Jeff Brackett


(See?  Sm1ley can do polite!)   }:^)

Since that time, DRS has had a few cast changes, and also learned what a hellish undertaking the publication of an anthology can be.  I’m sure they learned more than they ever wanted to know about layout and formatting for the various ebook venues, print, marketing, editing (especially when one particular contributing author kept finding mistakes in his manuscript that he should have caught MUCH earlier – and yes, I’m still REALLY sorry about that, Justin, Terry, and Eli) :-(

But it’s finally done!  The release date is today, and I can’t tell you all how excited I am about it.  I not only get to share more of my writing with you all, but I get to read some of my fellow writers’ works as well.  So please go out and purchase Explorers: Beyond the Horizon in your favorite formats via the links below.  And when you’ve read it, please take a moment and post a review.

Well, that’s all for now.  So check out the links below, and please consider buying a copy of Explorers: Beyond the Horizon.

CreateSpace Trade Paperback

Amazon.com Trade Paperback

Amazon.com Kindle eBook

Barnes & Noble Nook



Oct 162011

Well, with Half Past Midnight currently out of my control, I’ve been trying to learn about how to promote my book when it is published.  After all, it won’t do me any good to have a book published if no one knows it’s out there, will it?  Unfortunately, until I at least have a cover, I can’t do anything more than study the process and prepare (as much as I can) to hit the ground running once it’s released.

Yeah, I appear to have made a strategic mistake in not already having my cover art done at this stage of the game, because so many promotion and advertising avenues are closed to me until I have it.  For instance, I need to print business cards.  Can’t do it without a cover.  The recording I’m doing for the audio version of the book?  I can’t begin posting any episodes without a cover.  I’ve set up a Goodreads Author page, but I can’t complete that either – without a cover for my book.  Everything I am aware of that I can do to promote HPM is going to require a visual for the book.  In other words, a cover.

So, note to self – when I start the editing phase on Streets of Payne series, I need to make sure the covers get done as soon as the editing is underway.  If I wait until after editing, then I’m going to get myself in the same predicament.

And if anyone is actually out there reading this, learn from my mistake.  That’s why I’m writing this–so hopefully I can save some of you from falling into the same traps I’ve stumbled into.

Forgive me if this post seems to be a bit of a bummer, it’s just a little depressing to have come this far only to be stalled by something that I now know I should have done months ago.  At this point, my plans for having HPM selling during the holidays may be little more than a pipe dream.  I may have it available for sale, but that doesn’t mean it will be selling.  Not unless I can get the word out about it.

Ah well, enough wallowing for me. You all take care.  Keep safe, keep reading, and keep writing.

Sep 052011

Sorry folks.  This post is a little later than I wanted, but I was out of town for the Labor Day weekend.  I began writing it last Thursday, but between getting ready to go out of town, and then being in an area where there was no access to cell phones or internet, the news here is a little old by now.  But still, here it is…

I got an email from Lynn late last week indicating that we’re finally done with the heavy editing passes on Half Past Midnight.  At this point, it goes to the proofreader(s).  So now to wait for that.  Don’t misunderstand, I’m not complaining about the wait by any means.  Lynn has been great with the turnaround times.  As a matter of fact, I’m the one that has held up production on the editing process here, as you already know, if you’ve read my previous posts (1 & 2) on the subject.  And if I were going the traditional publishing route with a larger house, it takes several months to years for the process to work its way through to completion.  Besides, I still have plenty of other tasks to keep me busy.

For instance, I’m working on a companion piece for the novel.  It’s a short piece, currently entitled “The Road to Rejas“.  It’s the tale of one of the minor characters in HPM, what happened to him on D-day, and how it led him to arrive at Rejas.  I’m guess-timating it will run around eight to ten thousand words.  What’s that, a novella… novelette?  Hmmmm…. let me look that up.

Okay, according to the Hugo and Nebula awards:

  • … a “short story” is 7,500 words or less
  • … a “novelette” is 7,501 to 17,500 words
  • … a “novella” is 17,501 t0 40,000 words  AND
  • … a “novel” is 40,001 words or more

Interesting – I had wondered for a while where those numbers fell.  If anyone of the rest of you were also curious, be curious no longer!  :-)  So, if I hit my eight to ten thousand word estimate, then “The Road to Rejas” will be a novelette.  Of course, we’ll just have to see where it actually ends up.  My stories often take on personalities of their own, and sometimes don’t want to cooperate with whatever plans I have initially made for them.  Any of you who also write probably know exactly what I mean. 8-)

I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do with “Road” when it’s done.  I’m planning to release it, but how I release it is still up in the air.  Will I pay for professional editing on it?  Will I release it before or after HPM?  Will I charge for it, or release it for free as a promotion for HPM?  Will I podcast it?  If so, will that be before or after HPM?

Lots of things to consider still.

And there is still the matter of

  • writing a book blurb for HPM (shouldn’t be too difficult)
  • tweaking dedication and acknowledgements for same (almost done)
  • write my bio (which is a royal pain in the – um… back)
  • formatting HPM for e-pub
  • getting cover art and design done for HPM
  • get serious with the recording and podcasting for podiobooks.com

On the personal front, as I said above, we visited my folks this weekend for Labor Day.  It’s been a while since we’ve been able to get away for a weekend with them, so this was a real treat – and of course, the dogs loved being able to run around out there again – lots of room! My wife calls it “Dog Heaven”, and the dogs seem to agree.

The trip itself was pretty interesting.  We have two dogs, Cricket and Bella.  Cricket is a dachshund/corgi mix, and unfortunately for us, she doesn’t travel well.  She’s one of those dogs that suffers from car sickness.  We love her dearly, but travelling for any length of time in a car with her gets pretty messy at times.

This time we thought we’d be smart and got her some Dramamine.  It probably would have worked better if we’d read the directions first.  Especially, the part about giving it to them an hour before travelling. :-?  Yeah, it was messy – again.  Also, an aside for any of you thinking about trying this for the first time, there is another interesting side effect that we found.  It seems that Dramamine causes little Dorgis to lose control of their facial muscles, especially the muscles that keep the drool at bay.  Poor Cricket was a veritable fountain of staggering slobber.  Still messy, but not anywhere near as bad.

In other news –

Elder Daughter is on her own vacation right now, visiting Utah, where she lived for several years before her husband passed away last year.  They (she and our grand-daughter) are visiting friends and family she left behind when she moved to Texas.  It’s one of those happy and sad situations.  She gets to see people she hasn’t seen in about a year, including her husband’s family.  On the other hand, it will be tough being around all those reminders.

Middle child is our son.  He’s house sitting for Elder Daughter while she’s away, has a new job, is broke, and waiting on the Marine recruiters to wind through his paperwork.  He’s ultimately trying to get on a Seal team, but the Navy wants him in their nuclear program.  So he’s going the circuitous route of enlisting in the Marines and going to BUDS via the USMC.

And Baby Bird seems to be settling into college life just fine so far.  She sent us a pic of her first still life study in class.  It was a two-hour project, and at the end, she snapped a pic on her phone and sent it to us.  When I first saw it on the phone, I thought she was taking a photography class.  When she told us it was a charcoal drawing, I had to zoom in on it to tell it wasn’t a photo.  Damn, she’s good!

On another note, it seems Baby Bird drove from San Antonio to Houston over the weekend to take a friend up to visit.  They had a fun weekend, but trying to get back into Houston today they got caught in a massive traffic jam between Houston and San Antonio.  It seem there was a wildfire blocking passage from here to there, and they had to turn back.  Better that, than they become a casualty of the wildfires.

Speaking of which, if you read this near the time that it’s posted, please send your prayers or positive thoughts out for those who have lost loved ones and/or property to the fires.

That’s it for now.  Keep reading, keep writing, and stay safe.

Aug 172011

Just a short post tonight.  I’ve been working on the rewrites on Half Past Midnight for some time now.  No matter how many times I thought I would finish “any day now”, it always seemed to take longer than I anticipated. Well, as of this evening, this round of edits is complete!


I sent my revisions back to Lynn, and she will be going over them in the next week or so.  If I understand the process, what happens next depends on what she finds during her examination.  I believe the possible options are:

1. She reads it, finds something that I flubbed, and sends it back to me for more revision.


2. She reads it, finds it at least close to acceptable, and passes it on to her primary proofreader.

Then they make notes and send it back to me.  I go over their notes, accept or reject any remaining suggestions, and either go with another optional round of proofreading, or move on to the formatting stage of the process.

In the meantime, I have also contacted a graphic artist to begin exploring the costs of getting the cover done.  I have something very specific in mind for the cover, and will need someone with decent PhotoShop skills to do it.  My dad actually gave me the idea, and I’m pretty excited about it.  It is both simple, and iconic in design, and I need to get a few quotes and sample from some artists.  Once done, I anticipate that it will be a pretty unique cover that will be easily recognized.  It also presents an opportunity for me to develop a visual “style” for my covers.

So in looking at my “checklist” , here’s what I have –

  • First draft of the manuscript – Done.
  • First editing round of manuscript – Done
  • Cover for novel – In discovery phase
  • Formatting for publication – vendor chosen, waiting on cover art
  • Recording of novel for podcasting – process worked out, promo recorded, first episode recorded (but will likely redo, now that process has been refined and manuscript is through initial edits).

(Sigh)   Yeah, I still have a way to go.  But every day is a little more progress.  And as long as I keep moving forward, it is sure to eventually be completed.

Jul 262011

Yep.  I’m still at it. :?  This post could easily turn into a litany of reasons I haven’t finished the editing, but I will resist that particular temptation.  If there is anything that I’ve learned over the last fifty years, it’s that life will always give you excuses not to finish important projects.  There will always be outings with the family, overtime needed at work, or that great new book or movie to distract you.  And after enough of these distractions, you look back and realize that the progress meter on whatever project you’re tracking isn’t moving all that quickly.

It can get depressing, and there are times when you look in the mirror and ask yourself, “who do you really think you’re kidding?”

Anyone who knows me, knows I go through occasional bouts with this feeling of malaise.  But this time I find its grip is weaker.  I’ve come to accept that it’s up to me whether or not I allow life to dissuade me from completion of my chosen task.  And I choose “not”.

So while my progress has been slow, it has nevertheless been steady.  I finished the last of my repetitive word/phrase edits this morning and I think I’m on the home stretch overall.  I’m currently working on some character enhancements, which is the last major part of my edits. (Yay me!) :)   After that, all that’s left are minor little tweaks (like adding another Century at the beginning of a chapter, where I broke a long chapter into two smaller ones).

I’m almost afraid to say anything for fear that I’ll jinx myself, but I hope to finish the last of my edits this coming weekend.  In other words, by this time next week, I should be working on the podcast version of the book – at least until Lynn goes through it again and points out everything I’ve missed.  :)   Then the next round of editing begins.

In other news…

Reading – I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m a huge fan of Nathan Lowell‘s work, both audio and written.  I’ve listened to the podiobook version of all his Solar Clipper books (twice), the Tanyth Fairport novel – Ravenwood, and South Coast.  Additionally, I’ve purchased and read the three Solar Clipper books that are currently out for Kindle, and even got my wife hooked on them.  We’re both chomping at the bit, eagerly awaiting the arrival of Double Share.  I’ve even become one of his rabid fans who listens to his daily musings on his “Talking On My Morning Walk” podcast (though I’m just now up to the early June podcasts).  I don’t necessarily recommend them to everyone, unless you want a little insight into his thoughts on writing (which I definitely do).

So imagine how tickled I was to find that he has released the first of a series of novellas set in the universe of the “Golden Age of the Solar Clipper”.  It’s called “A Light In The Dark (Tales of the Deep Dark)“, and is available for 99 cents as a Kindle download (and probably B&N or iOS as well, though I don’t know for sure).  It took me all of five seconds to click the button for that one, and I’m currently just under halfway through it.  The man is a great storyteller and writer, and an inspiration to me.  Basically, he personifies the type of writer I would like to be.  I dare you to read his stuff and not be impressed.  :)

Work – Things are exciting at work these days (think of the ancient Chinese curse when I say exciting).  We just rolled out a new ERP system to our division of the company, and as IT support supervisor for a good portion of our North and South American sites, I got to be on the front lines for problem resolution – and there have been plenty of them.  Now that the dust is beginning to settle, the company is undergoing a major re-org, and my team and I are being rolled into a new division.  Coincidentally, this new division is the next on the list to undergo the new ERP rollout. AARRRGGGHHHHH!! 

So we will once more be on the front lines, for the next phase of what (if the latest experience is any indication) will likely be another two or three-month long rollout – during which time all our other tasks will be shoved to the back burner.  The thing is – even on the back burner, some things are bound to boil over.  At this rate, we’ll NEVER get caught up.  (sigh)

Home – Baby bird is about ready to leave the nest.  Just a few more weeks, and we’ll be moving the youngest to her dorm for her first year in college.  It’s a strange feeling, actually.  All the stories you hear about how “it’s different with the youngest” appear to be true.  While the eldest daughter never went to college, neither did she let any grass grow under her feet when she graduated high school.  Within a few weeks after graduation, she had moved out and was looking for greener pastures.  Middle son spent two years in a special program for the military, attempting to get into a combat aviation program.  During his second year of college, the Navy changed their vision requirements for pilots, and he was suddenly ineligible.  He then tried for a spot in a Marine Officer candidate training program and was doing well when his recruiter was found to be falsifying records.  She was court marshalled, and since there was no way to determine what records had been tampered with, and which ones hadn’t, all records of all candidates were thrown out, and he was right back to square one.  He’s now working on a plain enlistment, but on his own terms.  On the one hand, I REALLY sympathize with his situation.  On the other, he REALLY needs to get out on his own.  :)

I guess the point I was trying to make was that both of the older kids were ready to get out on their own, and we were ready to help them do so.  Baby bird is actually a bit more difficult.  While academically she is the most well-rounded of the kids, she is also the only one that seems to be almost afraid to leave the nest.  That makes it harder for us, too.  Still, she’s an amazingly talented artist (spoken as a proud parent – no prejudice here at all :) ) and is pursuing her dream, going for her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.  As a matter of fact, I am hoping to get her to do the artwork for my book cover.

So that’s it for now.  Time to get back to work.

Ack!  On second thought it looks like it’s time to get to bed.  I’ll work on the edits again tomorrow.

Wish me luck.