The Muddling Middle

Yesterday, I passed the 25K mark on SoulQuest, so I’ve hit the middle of my 50K goal. Crossing the 50% mark on a project is both exciting and scary and it’s when I enter what I like to call the Muddling Middle.

On every project, when I hit the 50% mark, there are two thoughts that occur to me. The first is, “wow, I’ve made it to the halfway point! This is great, I’m going to finish this thing!” And then the second thought is one of panic: “Wait…I’m only halfway through? All the work I’ve done so far and I basically have to do it all again?”

It’s more of a state of mind than anything else. The majority of my books are novellas of only around 30K, so I’d be close to the end if I were writing those. I entered the Muddling Middle on every one of those books when I reached 15K. When that didn’t happen with SoulQuest, I thought I was in the clear and on a great track…until I hit the Muddling Middle at 25K.

So like I said, it’s a state of mind. It’s even happened on short stories of only a few thousand words. It’s this whole idea of being so close to the finish, yet so far at the same time and also a sense of, “you’ve invested this much into it now, so there’s no turning back.”

And the Muddling Middle can really be the point where a project will either see fruition…or stop dead in its tracks. There have been a number of projects of mine that just stopped dead at the Muddling Middle because I didn’t know where to go. A big part of this had to do with the fact that in the past, I didn’t plan out as much. These days, I do much more planning and I’ve got everything mapped out with SoulQuest—I know where I want to go and what I want to do. I know one theory could be, “well obviously, it’s time to change the plan if you don’t like it,” except I do like the plan and I think it makes for a great story the way everything is connecting together.

So it’s more of a state of mind than anything else. Given how long I’ve lived with SoulQuest and how much effort I’ve put into it this far, I don’t think the Muddling Middle will be strong enough to cause me to drop it. Nonetheless, it’s a difficult stage to hit, and something I’m sure many writers struggle with.


Dillon and the Pirates of Xonira

Dillon and the Pirates of XoniraThey say that the only certainties in life are death and taxes, but I’ve got a third certainty: a Derrick Ferguson Dillon yarn will always be spectacular.

I’m no stranger to Ferguson’s writing or the world of Dillon. I was both fortunate and unfortunate enough to jump onboard when the first book, Dillon and the Voice of Odin, was initially released almost ten years ago. I say fortunate because I’ve gotten to spend that time with this character, reading and in some cases re-reading his adventures. I say unfortunate because that also means I’ve had to endure waiting for the next book to come out. There have been four Dillon books to date: Dillon and the Voice of Odin, Dillon and the Legend of the Golden Bell, Four Bullets For Dillon (a collection of short stories), and now Dillon and the Pirates of Xonira. Each one has been superbly written, with white-knuckle action, snappy dialogue, and witty humor.

This latest tale comes on the heels of The Legend of the Golden Bell, and just like in that book, we see Dillon returning to the fictional nation of Xonira. When I first heard that this book would take place in Xonira again, I have to admit some skepticism on my part—we just finished a tale there, so why did we need to return so soon when Dillon is a global adventurer? But my skepticism was unfounded, as Xonira feels as fresh and as intriguing a setting now as it was a few years back when it was first introduced in The Legend of the Golden Bell.

Dillon, of course, is back. Along with his frequent partner-in-crime and mentor, Eli Creed (who, despite retiring, seems to be doing a very bad job of actually staying retired, and bless him for that as he’s always a fun addition). Signing up for this mission as well is Toi Lahayne, a representative of the mysterious Braithwaite Group and Allie and Shon Pierri, a mother-and-son team of French defense agents. On the other side, we have the Pirates of Xonira, commanded by a man who has some history with Dillon.

The action moves along at a brisk pace. At a little over two hundred pages, it feels like a lot less, given how quickly you can progress through the book. Ferguson very rarely lets up on his characters, even for the briefest of moments, and there’s always something either happening or on the verge of happening (or sometimes both simultaneously).

While the roles of one of the characters seemed a bit too obvious to me at first, Ferguson flipped it on its head slightly at the end of the book. I won’t say anything more about it than that, other than it’s a very realistic thing in this situation, and serves both to give Dillon a bit more humanity by presenting him with a problem he can’t really solve as well as opening the door for a follow-up in the future. And speaking of follow-ups, the last scene hints at exactly that in a very big way.

I’m not sure when the rest of that adventure will be told, but I will be waiting for it.

Back to the well

The life cycles of my projects can be really funny sometimes, and also a bit bizarre. For example, the project that would eventually become Love & Bullets, my third novel, was actually begun before I even sat down to write my first novel, Fallen. And The Myth Hunter may actually predate both of them, it’s all kind of fuzzy. But one project, SoulQuest, might predate all those books. This project originally came about when I was soliciting artists for a comic book project. I had it narrowed down to two artists, and both of them produced awesome samples of the title character. I had to choose one over the other (who unfortunately had to quit due to a higher-profile gig), but I liked the second artist’s style a lot and wanted to do a project tailored specifically to his strengths. So I came up with SoulQuest, a concept inspired heavily by some of the RPGs I’d played when I was younger (particularly Final Fantasy VII).

The artist liked the initial script and the character concepts I came up with. He drew two initial sketches and then just disappeared. Never heard from him again, never got any e-mail responses from him, nothing. Time went on and I stumbled on the project notes about a year or two later and started soliciting for an artist again. I had a really talented guy approach me about it, but his style wasn’t really what I was looking for. As this was inspired by Final Fantasy VII, I wanted more of a manga-esque style and he definitely wasn’t that. But he asked for a shot so I said sure, sent him the notes and he came up with some absolutely amazing concept art and character designs. They were spot-on perfect. I thought I’d had finally found my guy, as he seemed just as psyched about the project as me. He came up with designs for pretty much every significant character in the series, produced about three pages for what would have been the first issue…and then vanished. I tried e-mailing him numerous times over the past five years, each time getting no response. Even when I’d decide to transform this into a novel, I asked if he’d be interested in doing the cover art on commission, but still no response.

Brief note to any artists out there: If you aren’t able to complete a project, at the very least please have the courtesy to let your partner know. Yes, sometimes things happen and you can’t respond right away. And yes, sometimes you’ll get a gig that comes along that offers higher pay or more exposure and that’s fine. But at the very least, you should let them know what’s happened and why you can’t complete the project. It’s just common courtesy, don’t leave them waiting. I’ve more or less given up on trying to put together a comic, because this has happened to me on more than a few occasions.

Anyway, back on track. A few years ago, a friend began a website for original fiction, presented in a serialized format. This caught my interest and I wanted to get a chance to put SoulQuest out there. But the site fell through as the creator became too busy to maintain it, so he told us that he’d have to bring it to an end. The image you see at the top of this page was something he threw together as a promotional image for the series, combining a bunch of images he found online that were appropriate for the series.

Once the site fell through, I put the project on the back-burner, revisiting it occasionally. Now, I’ve gone back to it once more. I looked at what I’d written before and stripped out a bunch of sections that just didn’t work, the result was that the 10,000 words I had written were reduced to about 7,000. I also broke down the story, figured out the basic outline for it and went from there. As you can see in the sidebar on my main page, I’ve managed to make up a bit of the deficit I got from that big edit and have now broken 11,000 words.

Hopefully it continues.

Monsters everywhere!

I’ve got two pieces of news for you today. The first is that Pro Se Productions has just released a new book in time for Halloween, called Monster Aces! Here is the description from Pro Se:

Having selflessly abandoned their identities, their pasts and their futures, the Monster Aces are all that stand between humanity and the fell creatures that lurk in the shadows. Four men and one woman use their amazing abilities as a team to scour the globe for monsters and bring an end to their unholy existence – whatever the danger, whatever the cost.

The book includes two stories by Jim Beard, creator of the Monster Aces. Also included are stories by Barry Reese, Van Allen Plexico, and Ron Fortier! So altogether, you’ve got some great stories by some of the best New Pulp has to offer!

And this collection was edited by yours truly, so check it out! Well worth the price of admission!

The other piece of news I have is Mark Bousquet, writer of Gunfighter Gothic and Dreamer’s Syndrome, recently reviewed Dragon Kings of the Orient! Here’s a bit of what he had to say about it:

Percival Constantine sets his own course in DRAGON KINGS and Elisa is her own woman. Where this novel shines are the moments when Elisa finds herself, in the same instance, fighting both moral and physical quandaries. Her willingness to work with previous combatants when the situation calls for it, even if she doesn’t want to do it, makes her seem like a very real, very practical character. Which is important when you’ve got fox spirits and Dragon Kings running around with magical swords.

Head on over to Atomic Anxiety to check out the rest of Mark’s review! While you’re there, check out some of his work. And if you haven’t read Dragon Kings of the Orient yet, what are you waiting for? Jump over to the Novels section to see how to get yourself a copy!

The Myth Hunter Saga

Lost continents, ancient artifacts, strange creatures…for all these myths and legends, and more, there is an element of truth in them. Throughout the centuries, there have been myth hunters, people who seek out these legends. And they still exist to this day.

There are some, like Elisa Hill, who seek them out for knowledge and a better understanding of the world, as well as standing as a safeguard against those forces which would threaten humanity. But then there are mercenary myth hunters, out only for personal profit. And then there are those like the Order, which have a hidden agenda that bodes ill for all mankind.

Raised by myth hunters herself, Elisa grew up being prepared for this life, but in her early adulthood, she became a mercenary for hire. Eventually seeing the error of her ways, Elisa now works with her former mentor and family friend as well as other associates, including a Japanese changeling and a representative of a secret society.

The first book in the series, The Myth Hunter, focuses on Elisa as she takes on a legend that plagued her parents for most of their careers—the lost continent of Lemuria. When new evidence hints to its location, Elisa and her allies travel from the waters of the Caribbean to the temples of India and the Ryukyu Islands of Japan in search of the lost continent. All the while, they’re in a race against time against the mysterious organization called the Order, who have hired Elisa’s former partner, mercenary Lucas Davalos. And also in the wind is another myth hunter, a vicious and cold-blooded assassin known only as Seth.

Buy in print from CreateSpace or buy a digital copy from Smashwords!

The second book, Dragon Kings of the Orient, sees Elisa accepting a job from Asami, the Japanese changeling she met in The Myth Hunter. This time around, Elisa travels to China, where Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, has been released from centuries of imprisonment, and he desires deadly retribution against the beings who trapped him—the four mythical Dragon Kings. But if the Dragon Kings die, all of Asia could be plunged into the oceans. Elisa and her allies have to face up against gods and demons in order to save the lives of billions!

Buy in print from CreateSpace or buy a digital copy from Smashwords!

Both books are also available from other online retailers, in both print and digital, such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and others.

Ron Fortier Reviews Dragon Kings of the Orient!

Just as he’s reviewed all my other New Pulp offerings, from Love & Bullets to Outlaw Blues, Ron Fortier has now kindly offered his thoughts on the latest installment in the fascinating and bizarre life of myth hunter Elisa Hill.

Here’s just a bit of what Ron had to say:

In this age of the popular urban fantasy genre, we seem to be inundated with more and more series featuring sparkly vampires, sexy witches and zombie private eyes.  Enough for this reader to yell, “Uncle!”  Contantine’s Dragon Kings of the Orient, packs more wall-to-wall action than any of ten of those other wimpy titles combined.  Being an American teacher in Japan, he has a unique, personal perspective on the Far East and its culture and uses it to great advantage in this rousing adventure tale. 
In the past, he has offered us other series but none of them can hold a candle to this one. Elisa Hill is a truly original, fun character and I hope we get to read many more of he exploits along with those of her truly remarkable supporting cast.  People, this book is a solid must read!

As always, Ron, thanks for the kind words! You can check out the rest of this review, as well as Ron’s other reviews, at Pulp Fiction Reviews. Once you’ve done that, why not swing on over to Airship 27, Ron’s own New Pulp publisher?

You can find both print and digital copies of Dragon Kings of the Orient available in any number of online booksellers. Check out the Novels link on the menu bar for more information!

Four books for the price of three!

Amazon has a new promotion going on right now, where if you purchase select items, you can get four books for the price of three. This only applies to paperback books, not Kindle versions.

Here are the details from Amazon’s site:

To take advantage of this 4-for-3 promotion, follow these steps:

  1. Add at least 4 eligible items to your Shopping Cart. Eligible items will have a message such as “This item is eligible for our 4-for-3 promotion.” on the product detail page. Eligible products include select books and Home & Garden items. You may include items from different product categories in a single order to qualify–for example, you can order an eligible book and an eligible kitchen item.
  2. Proceed to checkout. When you’re done shopping on our site, click the “Proceed to checkout” button in the Shopping Cart. Your shopping cart should include at least four qualifying items during the checkout process to qualify for this promotion. Additional conditions are listed below.
  3. On the final checkout page, we will discount the lowest-priced item. A promotion credit for the amount of the lowest-priced item will appear in the upper right corner of your Order Summary during the checkout process. If you use 1-click ordering, the promotion will be automatically applied.

I went ahead and checked, and all my books are included in this promotion! That means you can pick up both books which comprise The Myth Hunter series and both books which comprise Infernum! So if you go to Amazon right now and buy Love & BulletsOutlaw BluesThe Myth Hunter, and Dragon Kings of the Orient, then the lowest priced book (in this case, Dragon Kings of the Orient) will be yours for free! 

So what are you waiting for? Head on over to Amazon and pick up these books!

Outlaw Blues is now on Kindle!

In addition to other digital versions distributed through Smashwords, Kindle users can now get their own copy of Outlaw Blues directly from the Amazon Kindle store! Just like with the editions found through Smashwords and their associates, Outlaw Blues is available for $0.99 on the Kindle!

Also, another reminder to pick up your free copy of Love & Bullets from Smashwords! You’ve only got until the end of January!

Outlaw Blues now available for sale!

Outlaw Blues, the second book in the Infernum series, is now available for sale!

Infernum. A shadowy, globe-spanning network of operatives run by the mysterious power broker known only as Dante. They hold allegiance to no one, existing as rogues on the fringes of society.

Carl Flint was once an assassin, until a mistake on the job led to disastrous consequences. Years later, he’s a broken man, living out his days playing music in a dive bar. He’s convinced by Dante to come out of retirement to kill one more person — Agency operative Christian Pierce.

Now on the run from Pierce’s former partner, Flint has to flee what’s left of his former life. But in his quest to find peace, he’ll have to face off with a Colombian drug cartel. Is this the redemption he’s been searching for, or the final nail in his coffin?

Outlaw Blues is available in print for $8.95 at my Amazon store or at CreateSpace. You can also buy the e-book from Smashwords for only $0.99!

Also, until the end of January, you can pick up Love & Bullets from Smashwords for free!

A free book for the holidays!

We are just a few weeks away from the release of Outlaw Blues, which is the second book in the Infernum series! In this tale, we follow the path of another of Dante’s operatives, an aging gunman named Carl Flint, whose path intersects with Angela Lockhart and Christian Pierce (the protagonists of the first book, Love & Bullets) as well as Christian’s partner, Julie Kim.

If you haven’t read Love & Bullets, then there’s no need to worry. Because from now until the end of January, you will be able to get the ebook of Love & Bullets for free if you download it from Smashwords! While this won’t be reflected on Amazon, Smashwords offers the book in a variety of formats to fit whatever device you prefer to read books on!

Here’s the description of the book:

Beautiful. Cunning. Deadly. These are just a few of the words that describe Angela Lockhart, former operative of the mysterious Agency. Now working as an assassin for an international syndicate called Infernum, led by a mysterious power broker known only as Dante, Lockhart has become the ‘Most Wanted’ for every major law enforcement agency in the world. But when Agency operative Christian Pierce begins a dangerous game of deception to try and bring her back into the fold, Angela will find herself torn between her old life and her new one…

From Pulp Ark Award-nominated author Percival Constantine comes the first action-packed title in the Infernum series!

Don’t miss out on this first chapter in a growing series! Download your free copy right now!