Year 7 of My 5-10 Year Overnight Success Plan

by | Jan 31, 2020 | Checking in | 9 comments

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.


  1. Kevin Stump

    Thanks for the update Jeff! You certainly have your hands full over there. I hope you attain your goals and dreams and I’ll support you in any way. You keep writing, I’ll keep listening. I’m impatiently waiting for the rest of Mercy for Hire. For now, I’ll go back to Galaxy Outlaws and listen again. Maybe I missed something while I was asleep on a flight. Keep up the good fight and follow your dreams and you’ll see success.

  2. John Pruitt

    The only part of your update that made me wince was when you said “hop on the freeway” lol. An hour outside of Hollywood is only two blocks at 5PM. When Black Ocean makes the big screen, I hope Mikael plays Mort. It wouldn’t be the same with that voice changed out 🙂 . I remain as I’ve always been, your loudmouthed and opinionated reader who loves your creations.

  3. Michael

    Great to hear the update! Keep up the awesome work! I hope someone takes you up on a black ocean tv show. I can’t wait to read all the new stuff! Or that is to say listen to. Thank you for taking the time to post this!

  4. Jason Pennock

    Thanks for the update Jeff, appreciate your time in letting us know about all you have achieved and the upcoming plans. Congrats on 7yrs of writing to, that is quite an achievement, considering the quality of the work you have put out.
    Every book you have released has been brilliant, and there are not many Authors that can sit back and say that ‘Every’ book they have released has been outstanding. You and Matt make a good team 🙂
    I am looking forward to the continuation of Mercy for Hire, and to see what else you have in store for us in the coming year.
    I really hope that Black Ocean gets picked up for TV, with all the crap that is streaming now, you think someone would leap on Black Ocean with all its stories, the Characters (Maybe you need a Baby Yoda? A Baby Mordecai just wouldn’t be the same though would it?? *GRIN*), But seriously, Black Ocean would be amazing as a series, I’ll keep things crossed for you!!
    Well all the best to you (And Super Kristin in the background!!), hope this year is easier on you without the move, and look forward to more Morin Magic 🙂
    Jas P

    • Chris carrero

      All progress no matter how small is progress. I’m glad to see you are making it.
      Check out Syd field, the foundations of screenplay writing. Remember just like regular writing it will take years of practice to become ok at it. Even at that point someone will still hate it….

      Good luck!!
      Thanks for all the fish…

  5. Darren Price

    Keep up the good work can’t wait for more mercy for hire ( love Esper and Kubu)

  6. Colum Mckenna

    As you know from my previous emails to you (if you remember them:D), I think you are amazing! I REALLY need to catch up on some reading, I absolutely adore Black Ocean and try and pitch it to literally anyone I think will enjoy it.

    You are in my list of top five favourite authors (You, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Robert Jordan, Steven Erikson and Mark Chadbourn), and I genuinely look forward to reading everything with your name attached to it.

    Keep up the amazing work, I really hope a screen deal for the Black Ocean series can materialize, as that would be EPIC, and oh, you inspired me to get off my butt and finish a novel of my own, so thank you for that!

  7. Tina Thompson

    Good to know you are settled in and doing well. Last year was a year of big changes. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for BO to get picked up by someone. I would LOVE to see any of your stories on the screen! I’m so looking forward to more Mercy For Hire. I have missed Esper, Wes, and Kubu terribly. It’s going to be a great year!

  8. Judy Robinson

    As always, I enjoyed this installment of your overnight success plan! I’m currently listening to the Astral Prime series and loving it! Like all of your fans, I’d love to see your books on screen. All the best for the coming year!


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