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?

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.

Long Novels Are Painful

I have a confession: I hate long books, particularly long novels.

When I was in college, if you couldn’t stomach a long novel then you weren’t a true Literature student. Long live Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy! And some of those masterpieces (particularly Dostoyevsky’s) were compelling enough to keep my attention.

Most of them put me to sleep, though.

A quality novel can be defined as a good and complete story, rather than some 19th century concept of word count. When a long novel is a good story, it captivates you with a compelling plot and storyline. You don’t really care about how long it is, you just want to devour it! But before that ideal state of reading pleasure, a tome is prohibitive because of assumed time demands.

Sometimes a long book is necessary. I’m a big fan of breaking up lengthy works. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings was actually one novel that the publisher divided into a trilogy. That didn’t turn out too bad!

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Long Novels in a Digital World

Things haven’t changed in the publishing business even though media has evolved. Publishers frequently push long novels.

I cannot help but turn my nose up at these wares. Unless a long book has fantastic word of mouth, I am not reading it. A good story is a brisk one, at least to my tastes. I find most of today’s writers embellish their novels with back story and details that leave me bored and disenchanted.

I remember how good Neal Stephenson used to be before 1000 pages became his average. How I long for the Diamond Age.

Currently, I am reading Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep. Great prose, fantastic start, fluid and easy to read, but pages 50-120 were slow. In my mind, they could have been 20 pages instead of 70. I began wondering if the remaining 400+ pages would be worth it. And the book didn’t strike me as long. You get my point. Fortunately, things seem to be moving along again in Doctor Sleep.

In this digital age with so many other entertainment options besides reading, will people keep tolerating books greater than 100,000 words in length? Personally, the Kindle and other eReaders makes the experience of a long book more difficult.

Frankly, I think 50-75,000 is the ideal amount. Some call the shorter side of that a novella, I call it a reasonable risk.

One more thing about shorter lengths: Great writers deliver impact with each sentence. They focus on quality, and reveal their story in a meaningful captivating fashion. When I read Philip Roth, who often (but not always) clocks in under 300 pages, I am certain that every chapter will be great. He respects the reader with a tight well written novel (or novella) everytime.

What do you think?

Featured image via Devon Fredericksen. Lord of the Rings image by Abdulla Al Muhairi.

The No Fly Zone (Except Exodus)

We are in the midst of that rare holiday season when Christmas and New Years both land on a Wednesday. People are enjoying vacations throughout the two weeks, forcing many non-retail businesses into a no fly zone. Little can be done until the new year begins and folks return to work.

Like most entrepreneurs, my business will be coasting through these weeks with one exception. I’ll be giving Exodus away for free on the Kindle from December 24 through the 28th.

Last year I gave away Twitter header images as a holiday giveaway. This year, it’s the novel.

If you haven’t picked up Exodus yet, this is your last chance to do so for free. If you bought Exodus on Kindle prior to this giveaway, you can get your money refunded, too! I hope you enjoy the book!

Downtime is Hobby Time

During the slow period, I will attend to year-end accounting, xPotomac and basic business needs, but there’s plenty of down time. So I will work on some novel promotion, and continue drafting the next novel in The Fundamentalists, The War to Persevere.

It’s funny, writing novels is definitely a hobby. They don’t pay the bills, and they certainly aren’t related to my marketing consultancy. I find myself treating my novels as a noncritical task.

Yet, they are creative fuel. I thoroughly enjoy working on them, so this is a bit of a treat to have time to work on the next one. A bit of a present, if you would.

Perhaps this is a time to count stars instead of making dollars.

During this time, I will blog on a reduced schedule (I doubled posted today, see Marketing Automation is Anything but the Machine). Expect another post on the 30th and again on the 3rd. Until then, have a Merry Christmas!

Will you be working during the holidays?

Photo by Defence Images.

Whittle: How To Write a Novel

The following is a guest post by Rob Whittle, who recently published his first novel Pointer’s War. I know Rob from the local DC marketing community (he is CEO of Williams Whittle), and the book looks awesome. Any book that features both Lucky Lucciano and Nazis has to be interesting.

Periodically, someone will ask me how to write a book, especially since publishing Exodus. So when Rob suggested this topic, I was delighted to publish his guest post. Here you go!

How To Write a Novel (Or, At Least How I Wrote One)

by Rob Whittle

My novel, Pointer’s War, was published this month. Friends are uniformly amazed, asking a) how did I find the time?; b) how did I know so much about World War II?; and c) had I always wanted to write a novel? Answers: less sleep; research; and sorta.

I write a blog on my agency website www.williamswhittle.com called “Tales of a Mad Man”. These are stories of my experiences as an ad guy and are usually only tangentially about advertising. They are more in the vein of human interest.

For example, one is called “Gore Vidal and Me” about the time I was traveling in Bangkok and was at the hotel pool reading Vidal’s latest book, Hollywood. I felt eyes on me and peered over my shades to find Gore Vidal watching me read his book. Another is about Dr. Atkins and the Atkins Diet, which was our PR client for a few years during the height of the Atkins Low Carb diet craze. It’s about how the Atkins business side tried to screw me—but I had the last laugh.

My most popular blog by far was “Mad Men Battle the Elements”, the story of my partners and me sailing through the edge of a hurricane from the Chesapeake to Bermuda. It’s a harrowing tale. My niece told me that halfway through the story she thought I was going to perish in the storm. Before she caught herself.

That got me thinking. Could the story of four guys sailing to a far off port be turned into a book? A novel?

My first idea was that the hero and his significant other would sail to Sicily as a vacation. There would be adventures along the way, but what they wouldn’t know is that the hero’s father had killed a Sicilian in WW II and the son who was a Mafiosi had gotten wind that my hero had landed in Sicily and there would be hell to pay. A real vendetta!

That idea didn’t go anywhere, but what if I combined the Sicilian Mafia with the World War II invasion of Sicily? Hadn’t I read somewhere that the infamous Lucky Luciano had helped the Allies in their invasion of Sicily? Yes! That’s it!

And so, the beginning of the story took shape. All I had to do was invent a hero, mix in real historical events, throw in some treason and a love affair, mix it up with famous people (General Patton, FDR, Wild Bill Donovan, and some bad-ass Nazis), add a dash of humor and I was off and running—or writing.

Writers will tell you that when things are going well, books “write themselves”. And that’s what happened with me.

Big plot twists seemed to suggest themselves out of nowhere. It helped that I had a real time and history arc to work with. What became Part One was all about Sicily. But I didn’t think I had a complete book, so I sent my hero to Berlin to participate in the famous Valkyrie plot to assassinate a certain Fuhrer. The plot failed so I had to figure out a suspenseful way for him and his compatriots to escape from the belly of the beast. That became the ending.

So, in less than 600 words, that’s how I wrote Pointer’s War. It’s gotten off to a very fast start, beyond my expectations. You may order it on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1492953873.