The Enemy Found, a Preview of Perseverance

After many iterations, the sequel to my first novel, Exodus, is being released on July 27. At 160 pages, Perseverance is either a novella or a short novel, but don’t let the length fool you—it’s non-stop action crescendoing in an epic battle. In fact, you may hate me by the end of it because I kill off some favorite characters.

“Geoff has dove into fiction writing like a dog after a bone,” said Author of Amazing Things Will Happen C.C. Chapman. “While the first book was fun, he took it up a notch with this one. The characters are more developed, the action more fierce and the story line much richer. You’ll end the last page filled with an urge to know what comes next and angry that you have to wait to find out!”

The following is Chapter Seven of the new book, “The Enemy Found.” I hope you enjoy the preview. You can also order the book on Amazon here and on the iUniverse site here.


Chapter 7: The Enemy Found


Concealed by a line of pines protecting the Cache la Poudre River, the Watchmen looked upon their enemy. The Christians still wore black tunics with white crosses, but they also had a motley collection of furs thrown
over their shoulders to keep warm. Weatherworn tents were set around the camp, and steam rose from a pot over the fire. A series of birdcages were sitting within the group of tents.

“We should all ride back now,” said George. “The Elders need to know so they can prepare the village for combat or evacuation. We may need to retreat into the mountains.”

“We’re not going anywhere this time,” said Charlie, who assumed the role of the Watch leader since Hector had become an Elder. “There is no way the village can handle another move like that. The first heavy snows
will come any day now, and we’re already scrambling to feed ourselves through the winter. We need to stay and recover now.”

“If Jason were here, he’d insist on informing the Elders immediately.”

Charlie straightened his lanky frame and glared at the Watchman.

“Aye, and he’s not one of us anymore, boy. And Hector isn’t Watch commander anymore, is he?”

Realizing that he had spoken out of turn, George nodded and left it at that.

“Okay, fellas, let’s work together here,” said Patrick, a grizzled, middleaged fisherman turned Watchman. “No one expected the Christians to follow us out here, at least not this quickly.”

“They must have had scouts following us. How else could they have Perseverance found us so fast?” Charlie scowled as he pulled out his knife and began sharpening it.

Patrick nodded. “Four tents and four men, so no one is watching us now.”

“Why would they trail us like this?” said George. “Why are we so important?”

“Ha! That’s easy. Mordecai,” said Charlie. “What else would drive an empire to trail and spy on a ragtag group like us? Who else could inspire this desire for conflict? If it was just us, they would have given up somewhere around the Mississippi. But when the former head of your church, the former number-two man in the Empire, joins up with a rebel village? You can’t let that go.”

“Oh, man.” George sighed. “How many times did he tell us about Pravus’s lust for power? He punishes anyone who stands in his way.”

“Maybe Mordecai alerted them to our location.” Charlie’s eyes burned as he challenged them to defend the priest. The accusation hung in the air.

After a period of time, George replied. “Why would he go to the trouble of saving us only to have us die by the blade? That makes no sense.”

“I can’t disagree with him, Charlie. That seems farfetched,” said Patrick. No one responded, so he continued. “Well, what should we do, gentlemen? Shall we capture them?”

“No, the risk is too high. There aren’t enough of us,” said Charlie.

“Let’s wait until dark, then we’ll get the horses and leave. We don’t want them spotting us. We’ll head back to the village, get some more men, and ambush them in the morning before they set out. I don’t want any of them escaping to warn the Empire.”

“Sounds like a plan,” said George. The three men settled in and watched the Empire scouts eat their dinner.

Writing Fiction Hurts More than Nonfiction

Successful author and friend Chris Brogan asked me to pen some thoughts the process of writing fiction works versus penning business books. My gut response was that it hurts more than nonfiction.

How can writing a book hurt you ask? I think most people who have accomplished the task will agree that it’s a laborious two-year process (give or take six months). For every accolade you get, you’ll invest hours of your time. Most authors make very little money.

After my last business book I felt a great emptiness, a lack of purpose in my writing. I needed to turn back to my heart’s desire, writing fiction (as opposed to developing books about social media and marketing).

When I published Exodus, I released a demon that had bugged me for decades. I gladly sucked it up to make the dream come true.

Why Novels Are a Personal Journey

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Image of my first business book Now Is Gone by Dave Barger.

Exodus had little financial pay-off — in actuality, I published it at a loss. So today I find myself focusing on business needs first. Consequently, Exodus became my stepchild of published works. It was poorly marketed, but still moved more than 3000 units in spite of me (it’s true, I am not Stephen King).

Still, I published a novel. I finally wrote the book that I always envisioned would be my calling card as an author. No one can take that away from me.

With a successful business book there is usually some sort of a pay-off, including developing new business, introducing new ideas to the marketplace, garnering speaking gigs, or positioning yourself as a “thought leader.” These are the reasons to write a business book, in my opinion. While I am much less inclined to jump at the opportunity to write a business book these days, I probably will write a couple more before my career ends.

The pay-offs are much less obvious with novels. For most successful novelists, it takes a catalog of books before they start seeing strong financial gains. It requires real commitment, and it’s one of the reasons why I admire Brian Meeks‘ steadfast focus on his fiction career.

This lack of any significant financial gratification makes publishing a novel something you do to fulfill yourself. Most publishing houses are reticent to sign new fiction authors. These days most aspiring authors are going to have to self-publish or work with a hybrid publisher and share the financial risk.

After the First Novel

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I still want to write novels, but it’s less about fulfilling a lifelong inner need. Now it’s about being who I am, an author. In fact, I am still working on the last draft of book II, now titled Perseverance, and I believe it will be released this summer.

After Exodus was published, it became clear I had room to grow as a writer. Character development and style were all in need of mechanical improvements. So I set out to write a better novel, one that shows the lessons learned from experience. I owe it to my readers and myself to improve.

But because the pain has no obvious reward and I am not getting paid to publish the novel, I treat book two like a hobby and am taking my sweet time. Novel writing is a second tier priority compared to family and business.

This slower pace makes it less likely I will become a mainstream novelist anytime soon. That’s OK. Since I see novel writing as a personal act of art rather than a career, there is no sense of loss with that. The slower pace mitigates the pain and intensity of a major work, while allowing me to meet my responsibilities.

What are your thoughts on writing novels versus business books?

Delaying the War to Persevere

You may know that my second novel The War to Persevere is oft promised and yet to materialize. It is now almost six months delayed from my original projection for publishing. This post is a bit of an apology for those who may be expecting the novel, and an attempt to provide some transparency on why it is delayed.

I was ready to press go and publish it this winter. After another editorial review, though, I am going to delay the novel again.

The issues with the manuscript are relatively minor, yet they will require some personal rewriting and direction. They include the following:


  • A retitling from The War to Persevere to Perseverance was suggested
  • There are a few head-hopping issues in narration (point of view)
  • Some character introduction issues
  • In spite of editing, there are still typos in the manuscript

I want War or (whatever it will be called) to be a better book than Exodus. Exodus was the best first novel I could produce. Yet there were lessons learned. This time I want to do better, and not just accept a slight improvement. I want War to be a professional well-written novel that can stand on its own.

That’s going to require some more time.

Personal Projects and Time

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Complicating matters, I have a time issue right now. These days I drop off Soleil before and after pre-school, and go into Daddy daycare mode in the late afternoons. Spare hours before she wakes up and goes to bed are often dedicated to clients.

This is not to make excuses.

I have taken on too many personal projects right now, and am owning it. I made a decision to delay working on the book in an expeditious fashion in favor of producing a quality product, while meeting my primary business and family responsibilities first.

The logical conclusion is to point to ending my photography project as a possible cut to make time. Unlike my novels which tend to cost money and produce little revenue, I collected about $3000 in licensing fees from people to buy the camera and perform the project. Plus my company gets hired now and then to take photos along with our written content. So I feel obligated to make the 365 Full Frame Project my first personal project until it’s completed this July.

It took me 19 years to publish Exodus in 2013. I believe War will be published in the spring or summer of this year. The book has experienced stops and starts along the way, almost always life inspired (death in the family, Daddy daycare, etc.). In all, it will be two years between novels, perhaps this is progress in spite of the bumps in the road.

Please excuse the delays. And in the interim, I will not to take on any new personal projects.

Cheers!

Read the War to Persevere Before Anyone Else

Hello there, I have great news. Over the weekend, I finished the second proof of The War to Persevere, Book II of The Fundamentalists. The book is now in its final production phase, which includes proofing and a final edit.

If you’d like to read the book before it is released at the end of the year, I am looking for readers who are willing to provide feedback. Email me at geoffliving [@] gmail.com for a copy.

The Next Book After War

Before I get into more details about the War to Persevere, I’d like to invite you to write a book with me.  I have begun the pre-production work on a third novel (my seventh book over all, god help me).  This next book is a present-day lampoon of the blogosphere. The book is under contract, and is tentatively slated for publication in the spring of 2016.

 Many of the folks I know are aspiring writers, too.  You are welcome to join me, and write along. It helps to go through the process with others.

The great bulk of this writing will begin during National Novel Writing Month or nanowrimo.  Don’t worry, NaNoWriMo is a good time to get into the discipline of writing everyday. I won’t be writing the whole book in a month, nor would I expect anyone else to.

If you are interested in writing with a group this winter, or just want updates on the novels before they are public, please consider joining my Goodreads group, “Living in Words.”

What’s The War to Persevere About?

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Some of themes in War include women’s right to fight in the military, delineating dogma from faith, and power as a corrupter.  It’s definitely a new book, and moves away from some of the themes of religion in Exodus (or more likely resolves them, separating religion from despotism).

This new book incorporates a lot of feedback that I received from readers of Exodus, including:

  • Characters you can like a bit more (as well as others you can hate!)
  • More modern language
  • Faster paced action scenes
  • More show, and less tell

In all, War is clocking in at 41,000 words. This makes it a very short novel or a long novella depending on your definition of a novel.

And that’s all the writing news I have for you. Thanks for reading along.  The floor is yours.

5 Tips to Liven Up Long Stories

We live in the tl;dr (too long; did not read) era of the Internet. How do you make traditional text stories and content succeed in an online world where attention spans are dwindling and success necessitates visual media?

Over the past year at Tenacity5, we’ve learned a few tweaks to drive more traffic to text heavy copy. Here are a five formatting methods and writing tips to liven up long stories.

1) Build Modules

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We know stand-alone long copy doesn’t perform well. Instead of writing essays, build out posts and white papers with sections or modules. In the old day this was creating subheads to break up a story. In a well engineered content piece for the current visual media era, I would say each section must be its own multimedia module.

Each module has its own mini-thesis or message and can stand alone as a small content piece on the Internet. Modules have both a visual communication of that message and supporting copy. Every module works together to tell a story or support an overarching thesis. Individually, they are unique. Together, they stand as a powerful piece.

Note the architecture of the visual in context with the text. Ideally, the picture, video or infographic can serve as the lead for the story or even tell it. They should work hand in hand. Do not make “snacks” here. There are many resources on the Internet to find free pictures.

Bleacher Report does a really nice job of building module-based feature stories.

2) Architect Visuals from the Beginning

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One of the biggest issues with content today is simply slapping on visual assets to create a multimedia or rich media post. There’s more on content strategy in point five, but when you add visuals after the fact, you are creating content that serves the words. And that may be OK if you are great photo researcher and can clearly understand your thesis and message.

However, more often than not when visuals are added after the fact, they have tangential meaning. When visuals are bolted on haphazardly, they don’t help content discovery and the overall meaning is less understandable.

When you know what you want to say, figure out what the right visual media is from the beginning and build it with the text in mind.

In some cases, you may illustrate points in the text after the fact, like Gaping Void did with Brian Solis’ What If PR Stood for People and Relationships. Nevertheless, GapingVoid was part of the content from the very beginning, and the content was created knowing that we needed sound bites that could be illustrated.

If you don’t already have a visual media library, start building one or research photo libraries for relevant images before you begin creating content. Drawing from a wide variety of assets makes life easier.

3) Use Lists

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When building modules, or at least creating subheads and sections, number and title content with a list. A list signals an easier more digestible content experience to your reader. Should every piece of content you write be a list? Probably not, but lists make long content pieces much more likely to be viewed and read

I used to sneer at list posts as the “BuzzFeedization” of the Internet. That was until I dug deeper and started re-engineering BuzzFeed posts. Then I built a few of them. I titled some with the numbers and others with a traditional headline. Then I watched the numbered post traffic go crazy.

I was little disappointed in this, but the fact of the matter is we are living in the tl;dr era. Breaking up long content into digestible lists and bullets just makes it easier. Or, you can run the gauntlet and try to architect the perfect long business essay that will actually be read.

(Original image by Ian Muttoo)

4) Write Ad Copy

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A writer with advertising training will fare better in the current content environment than a PR or literary writer. Ad writers focus on tight punchy headlines, snappy subheads (or module titles), and short compelling short body text.

If you go my the maxim, “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter” then your copy is going to fail more often than not. People don’t have time for long blathering posts. Write short, tight compelling copy.

When I analyzed Buzzfeed’s style, more than anything it read to me like ad copy. In that regard, it is concise and brilliant.

In the same vein, do your readers a favor and edit the bejesus out of sections. Make all copy as tight as possible.

5) Composition

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Last but not least, composition is becoming a critical focus for communications, in my opinion. Some would say it always has been. In large part this is because of data. We have so much data, we are either lost in it and don’t know what to communicate or we are over-informed by it, allowing our communications to become scientific and lifeless.

When we have more data — or even better — precise data, we can inform composition. Creativity infused outreach provides the opportunity to wow people. Or we can fail, amused with our data-inspired bells and whistles. Let me give you a photographic example.

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I liked the above photo when I took it. I thought it was so cool to get all of the Cleveland Flats industrial grid iron works AND also include the bright fountain, too. After all, people love bright colorful lights in night settings.

Except one thing: Though it hit all of the data points that I know people love in night shots — long exposure, color, industrial details, bright luminescent orange fountain, etc. — the composition sucked. The fountain overtakes the rest of the photograph, and because the fountain is not well placed in the image, it doesn’t work. The composition failed in spite of the elements.

We cannot fly blind with our communications just because we know people like certain aspects of them or because we satisfy some data requirement or messaging requirement. Any communication — written or visual — must have meaning. That is why we must be intentional about composition.

What is the thesis — the message — of the conent? What are we trying to achieve with our outreach? How are we accomplishing that goal? Does the data we have support that the approach will work? Does the approach inspire our intended recipient? Composition is an area that can always evolve and improve.

What tips would you add?

Other posts you might like:
4 Storytelling Methods
12 Ways to Boost Your Visual Media Performance

Remain Teachable

This weekend I attended the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference in New York City. What would a four-time author have to learn at an event like this? Quite a lot apparently. It was a worthwhile experience, one that I am glad I approached with an open mind.

I learned more about book publishing in one day than I had in the past eight months. From the rise of new hybrid publishers to independendent book marketing jujitsu, I gleaned many insights.

More than anything, in this day and age of super pundits it is so important to remain teachable. There are so many experts who sit atop their pedastals, and point out the Way it Should Be. We see fewer and fewer posts about how people learned and grew.

Point being is that everything changes. To stay ahead — or really to just keep pace — you have to remain open to evolutionary shifts. Things change so quickly that if you don’t, you will be made a novice again, like it or not. So it’s remain teachable or get lapped.

If I attended the conference as a know it all writer who had published four books, then I would have denied myself a great experience. For example, I did not know how powerful GoodReads Groups could be (I started on called Living in Words, please join us!), or that most Kickstarter campaigns succeed (80% to be exact) if they reach 20% of their funding. I learned a whole bunch about how authors are building value for their readers, keeping them interested beyond launch periods.

One thing that became clear at the conference (at least in my mind) is the day of a blogger launching a book to their social media community is not a sustainable model. Hustling book sales by posting ceaselessly online is coming to an end. People want valuable content and insights from authors, not personal branding or self-aggrandizing chest beating.

These are just a few of the insights I picked up this weekend.

Methods to Keep Growing

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Overall, the weekend got me thinking about remaining teachable. The ceiling for growth really lies within. Deciding how much one is willing to continue learning depends on how open-minded one is. Can we keep challenging our existing ideas and appraoches?

Here is a list of ways to exercise one’s mind:

  • Attend an industry conference
  • Take a class
  • Learn a new, but related sister skill
  • Read a book by a leading competitor
  • Travel to a different country and study a different culture
  • Use new tools to perform your work

These are just some of the ways I challenge myself. How do you push your own limits? Or do you settle for status quo?