Goodbye 2017!

Here we are at the end of 2017. Looking back, it’s been a long and strange journey, and while that is true of most years, this one had some transcendent moments and a lot of challenges.

When I started the year, I hoped to publish Freedom Squad, because way back in 1990, when I ran Champions adventures at American University, I set the world of Freedom Squad in the near future, 2017, to be exact. My friends and I had a wonderful year of superheroic gaming, and it seemed appropriate that Freedom Squad would enter the world of literature this year, but it wasn’t meant to be. That’s okay, because when the three and a half plus Freedom Squad novels are ready, I want to make sure they release the right way.

In 2017, I’ve struggled with blood sugar issues, and I’m feeling the impacts of my lack of exercise and the extra pounds I carry. It’s definitely impacted the writing, basically because I’ve been tired all year. For 2018, I encourage everyone to take little steps (or big ones) toward taking care of themselves. We live in a stressful world, and it’s easy to stop taking care of yourself.

Enough about the challenges, time for some positives about the year. First, beyond any of the writing, the highlight of the year was the eclipse. Viewing the total eclipse in Grand Island, Nebraska was worth every hour that I spent driving from Virginia to see it, and even the multiple hours of the return trip that day to Iowa City, which was probably the worst driving day of my life with standstill traffic and multiple accidents. I posted about it on Jack Heckel’s blog here. It was the closest that I believe I will ever come to feeling like I was on another planet. It reminded me that there is a vast and wonderful cosmos out there with forces at work far greater that we can conceive. I found it remarkably peaceful, and I enjoyed sharing the sense of wonder with everyone around us. There will be another total eclipse in the United States in 2024, and I strongly encourage everyone to see a total eclipse if they have the opportunity.

Made it to #1!

On to writing, this was the year of The Darker Lord, the sequel to the The Dark Lord. John Peck and I received a contract for that book and the third in the trilogy, The Darkest Lord. We spent the first half of the year writing it and are currently working on editing. Reflecting back over the year, I realize that we should have spent more time promoting The Dark Lord, but we were fortunate enough to have the book made an Amazon Deal of the Day on Kindle. On May 26, The Dark Lord hit # 1 in Epic Fantasy on the Kindle store, so as Jack Heckel, I can legitimately say I’m a bestselling author.

I did some work in the world of miniatures as well, working for CMON on their Dark Age Miniatures Skarrd book. Unlike my PG-rated Jack Heckel stuff, this was decidedly darker, as I was writing about cybernetic cannibalistic mutants and their horrible practices. It brought me back to my White Wolf personal horror roleplaying writing.  I had fun writing about the Skarrd, and even had extra work added where I was able to write about a group in the game called the Blood Cult. They ended up being some of my favorites, and CMON liked my works, so I should be doing more work for them next year. The game has an extremely passionate fan base, and some of the best game mechanics for any game I’ve played. Dark Age is worth a look for anyone who is interested in a brutal sci-fi universe with solid skirmish plus battles. The book was released at GenCon 50, so although I wasn’t able to attend, I felt that I had a presence at the convention. GenCon has always has a special place in my heart as a roleplayer. One of my goals is to return in the next few years.

In the category of the totally unexpected, I was invited via Bishop O’Connell to participate in a faerie romance anthology. Although I was concerned about the impending edits for The Darker Lord, John and I agreed to write a novella. Invoking the power of Jack Heckel, we wrote The Holly and the Ivy for A Very Faerie Christmas. I was extremely pleased with how it came out as both of us stretched our writing muscles. It was similar to writing a novel, but in a couple of weeks instead of months. We survived our clashes of ideas, found our synergies and created something magical. In the anthology, we are joined by Bishop and five other amazing authors, all of who wrote PG-rated, Christmas romance stories with faeries and uplifting endings. The sum of the stories surpassed my expectations and reached many readers, achieving #1 on Kindle in Fantasy Anthologies. Two best-sellers in a year! It is now available in print as well as being an ebook and it should stay on sale until February. A beautiful and fun collection, it has made people laugh and cry and has enough variety to appeal to many different tastes. I’m hoping that its print run gets extended.

November marked my tenth year of trying to complete National Novel Writing Month. It started out miserably, and I had barely any words after the first week. I had tried to add to a previous project, Son of Helios, but despite wanting to write about the ancient world, I couldn’t find my muse. Events at work were stressful, and I had my fatigue issues, so I considered giving up. At some point, I thought I had accepted that this year wasn’t going to happen. However, I hadn’t counted on a team of real life superheroes. A good friend of mine at work talked to me about my situation. I explained to him that I couldn’t figure out what to write. He simply told me to write Freedom Squad and stop agonizing. He knew that at any day, at any time, I could always write about superheroes. (Thank you, Terry!) Another friend started texting to check up on me, and let me know that she believed in me. My daughter and my wife also agreed that I would succeed, especially since Nano had a superhero theme. In the end, Freedom Squad: Uprising reached 50,000 words. Rigel, you deserved it, and thank you, my friends and family. Next year I’ll attempt ten years in a row of success completing Nano. I’m going to try and plan in advance so I don’t have to play catch-up. And Freedom Squad, I’ll do my best to get you into print this year.

My last project of this year also caught me from out of the blue. One of my all-time favorite miniature games is Wargods of Aegyptus. I love the world, I love the miniatures, the game mechanics are great, and the owner of the company is a fantastic guy. It hits my love of pulp fantasy, my history degree with a specialization in ancient studies and my love of painting miniatures. When I was asked to write for Wargods of Olympus, I wasn’t sure how I would find the time with my other commitments, but for me, this was a necessity, a dream come true. I’m glad to say that I was able to add to the Antediluvian Age, and I hope to get some chances to do more in the future. My Beloved of Sobek sat on my computer to inspire me, and I’m very happy about the results. If you love ancient miniatures and fantasy, please check out Crocodile games.

I have some great memories on the writing front from 2017. At RavenCon 2017, I met one of my heroes, the incomparable author of the Valdemar series (and so much more), Mercedes Lackey and her husband, fantasy artist and author, Larry Dixon. They were both remarkable people, and I only regret that a mix of promises and social anxiety prevented me from spending more time with them. I participated in a James River Writers Writing Show. They are an amazingly supportive group, and I hope to do more with them next year. My first ConCarolinas was amazing. I had such a fantastic time, and I definitely want to go back. Finally, Richmond Young Writers invited me to teach a number of aspiring authors about fairy tales in July. I found the experience absolutely wonderful. There were so many talented young people in that room. I’m looking forward to reading all of your novels in the future. I also met another young aspiring author at a work gathering this year, and if she’s reading this, keep writing.

As for today, I’m back to working on The Darker Lord. Hopefully, John and I can guide Avery Stewart through the dangers of Mysterium University and introduce a new villain or two to the series. I’m planning on revisiting the Hawks, Krueger, and Freedom Squad this year, and I haven’t forgotten Charming or my epic fantasy, The Lantern. Perhaps 2018 will be the year that I finally find an agent. I’ll be giving a seminar on fantasy at the Agile Writer’s Conference on January 27th, and I’m looking forward to the Hanover Book Festival in April. I’m sure there will be so much more.

Happy New Year to everyone! And thank you, 2017!








Posted on December 31, 2017, in NaNoWriMo, Publishing, The Dark Lord, Writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Happy 2018! Good luck with your resolutions!

  2. The Count Gustaf

    hope you find an agent 🙂

  3. I enjoyed meeting you again at RavenCon!! My son especially loved his autographed copy of your books!! Here’s hoping 2018 is a banner year for you, and you end up with the accolades you deserve!

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