Welcome back, everyone, to my now-annual tradition of updating my blog.

For those of you who don’t know, Jan 31, 2020 marks the 7th bookiversary of Firehurler, my first published novel. It also marks the end of Year 7 of my 5-10 Year Overnight Success Plan. My theory back when I started this new career as a novelist was that becoming an “overnight success” would take a long time, and that perspective helped me stick to the plan when books were selling like hot cocoa during a heatwave.

Let’s review the goals I set out for 2019:

  • Publish 12 more missions of Black Ocean: Mercy for Hire
  • Release a full-series audio collection for Mercy for Hire (16 missions)
  • Publish 8 more missions of Black Ocean: Astral Prime with M.A. Larkin
  • Release a full-series audio collection for Astral Prime (12 missions)
  • Keep an eye open for a screen adaptation of Black Ocean
  • Same for Robot Geneticists
  • Start writing the next set of Black Ocean spinoffs (we’ll see whether they come out this year or next)

Wow. I had some extensive plans for last year. The wins? Well, Matt Larkin and I finished up Astral Prime, and the whole series is out in ebook, paperback, and audio. Mercy for Hire lagged a little, with 4 more mission published (and recorded in audio) as real life shouldered its way into the mix.

As for seeing my books on a screen, so far we’re still limited to cover images on a Kindle. However, that doesn’t mean nothing was/is happening behind the scenes. I’ve spoken with producers and showrunners, “done lunch,” seen a couple contracts that didn’t look like they were going to do much of anything for me (including: turn anything into a real product people could see; pay me any money; allow me to keep finding people who would do either of the first two). But it’s a process. The one lesson I’ve learned in looking into Hollywood is this:

Everything is nothing until it’s something.

Talk is cheap, and there’s lots of it out there. That doesn’t mean it’s pointless or a waste of time. It’s just virtually impossible to tell what’s smoke and what’s real until someone literally sends you a contract to sign (and even then, it’s only the first concrete step of many required to actually make a film/series).

Also, there hasn’t been any writing done on additional Black Ocean spinoffs. However, that’s all still in the pipeline. Words for Mercy for Hire are well underway for the remainder of the series, and the first of the final 8 books will start come out next month with the rest to follow in an orderly fashion.

As for the real-world update that threw a wrench into 2019’s publishing schedule:

My wife and I moved cross-country.

In the middle of 2019, we began the process of selling our house and finding a new place in southern California. There were two reasons for this location. First, we’re both absolute dorks and did extensive research on weather, amenities we cared about, and a dozen other factors before deciding where we wanted to live (highlights: nearby beaches and no snow ever). The second was that we’re now an hour’s drive from Hollywood.

No, we didn’t actually move to L.A., but I’m now close enough that if anyone wants to meet face-to-face about film/TV rights for Black Ocean, Twinborn Chronicles, or Robot Geneticists (or Shadowblood Heir for whatever reason), I can just hop on the freeway.

Does any of this mean I’ve achieved the goal of my 5-10 Year Plan for Overnight Success? I’d argue not. I’m certainly doing fine—better than ever, in fact. But an overnight success has to spring up on people. Readers (or better, viewers) need to be struck by something and say “wow, this new guy is great” without realizing he’s not actually new at all. And it needs to happen on a large enough scale that that’s the common reaction, not the late-to-the-party outlier. It’s a matter of entering the popular consciousness to at least a degree.

That said, where do I go from here? What are my 2020 goals (which should look great in hindsight… and no I’m not apologizing for that pun at any point all year)?

  • Finish publishing Mercy for Hire (8 more books, including audio)
  • Write a new series starring Mort and Chuck Ramsey (Black Ocean: Mirth and Mayhem)
  • Try new ways to catch the attention of Hollywood (or alternative media outlets)
  • Attend at least one screenwriting event (convention/film festival/etc.)

It sounds like a lighter workload than I had planned for 2019, but I suspect it’s merely a more succinct way of describing a bigger endeavor. Frankly, there’s no way to know (based on past experience) just how much work it will be until I see how much work it was. But I also trust myself not to get complacent. If I find more stuff I want to try throughout the year, I won’t be afraid to cram it into my schedule.

For example, in 2019, I had no goal whatsoever to learn screenwriting. But I thought it might help my chances of being able to land a TV deal for Black Ocean if I knew how. So I tried writing a few. They all suck and will probably never see the light of day, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worthwhile getting into the process and seeing the differences between screenwriting and novels.

We also launched a storefront for Black Ocean merchandise (see the “Store” tab) called the Black Market. We’d fielded a lot of requests for various particular items, so we hired a designer to make some of those into a reality. Look for more items to get added sporadically based on either cool stuff we think of or suggestions from readers.

Here’s to hoping that 2020 holds more good surprises than bad.