I Had High Hopes

Back in February, I posted about how anxious I was to get back to writing. I’d even put in some time and made some new words by then. The future looked bright and hopeful.

And then we had a global pandemic.

That sent pretty much everything into a tailspin. I kept my job and I’m fortunate enough to be able to work from home. But the disruption was so big and so total that whatever momentum I’d gained, I quickly lost. In those early days of the pandemic, learning how to work every day from home, sanitizing every piece of anything that came into our home, worrying about our toilet paper and Lysol supply, worrying about our kids’ schooling and health, and dealing with a host of other unprecedented challenges took up the bulk of my precious time and mental energy.

Then more worrying about the virus, more worrying about my job, and worry over the state of our deeply divided nation and the man chosen to lead it took up increasingly more room in my head. Add in dealing with the burden of constant pain and I saw months stretch out without a single new word written.

I’m not sure how 2021 is going to play out. I’m hopeful that the US can rejoin the global community and regain a little credibility. I’m hopeful that we’ll soon have a vaccine to combat this virus. I’m hopeful that I’ll make good on my promise of new books. I’m sure gonna try, but these days I just don’t know what life is going to throw at me. I’m apprehensive about making too many promises.

Stay tuned here for more updates. Since I haven’t produced anything new, I haven’t sent out a newsletter for a while, but I’d encourage you to sign up for it here to be the first to know about new releases and exclusive deals.

At the end of the day, I’m still here and I’m still writing. I’m not the type to give up easily.

Stay safe out there. I’ll talk to you again soon.

A Message From the Deep

Greetings from the depths of the murky abyss!

I know it’s been a while since anybody’s seen anything from me. I’ve been kind of distracted these past few months, spending my time playing guitar and rebuilding a new pedalboard.

That’s not to say I haven’t been writing. I have a new Badlands novel manuscript a quarter of the way finished and a new weird western half-baked. Plus, I have another horror novel sitting in the wings.

For my creative process, I need space in my head for a story to gestate. Unfortunately, my headspace is limited and it’s been filled up with other stuff. First it was the health issues, then it was lots of overtime at the day job. Now it’s been guitar that’s stolen my attention away.

I’m hesitant to give dates, but it’ll be very soon that I plan to get back to these stories. And it won’t be long after that that you’ll start seeing some new books coming your way. Definitely new stuff out in 2020.

For everyone who’s stuck with me over the past couple of years, I say thank you for your patience. Writing is a passion of mine, but not the only one. Sometimes I get consumed by other things, but I’ll always come back to writing. It’s in my DNA.

See you soon!

I’m Still Here and Still Writing

It’s been a while since my last update and since my last release, so I thought it was a good idea to check in and let everybody know that I’m still here and still writing. I have my recent health issues pretty much under control right now, which has allowed me to get back to focusing on writing new words again.

I’m about a quarter of the way through a weird west novella that I’m tentatively titling Carrion Canyon. It’s been going in fits and starts, but a couple of days ago I had that moment where the story just “clicks” into place. I liken it to the way a puzzle piece or a dovetail joint fits together. For me, this is the moment when I know my subconscious has finally figured out where the story needs to go. I love it when this happens; gets me excited about the book each and every time it happens.

I also have a horror novel manuscript titled Dream Eater that’s sitting at about the 1/3 mark. Once I finish Carrion Canyon up, I might jump back on that one and knock it out. We’ll see where the muse takes me when the time comes.

As for 2018, I have some idea of which projects I’d like to work on. Another Tom Miller novella is surely on the short list. And I still want to write book four in the Badlands series. I think that would be super fun. Outside of these two books, I’m hesitant to speculate. But, rest assured, I’ll be working on a bunch of new stuff and I’ll let you know the moment it’s been released.

Until next time, thanks for reading. Without you, these stories make no sound.

Horror Is Dead?

NosferatuShadowHorror is dead, some say. Many say that about horror fiction in particular.

“The market is glutted,” they say. “Nobody writes horror anymore. That went out with the 1980s.”

And yet horror movies are consistently raking in top dollar at the box office. Stephen King’s It was the number five top-grossing movie of 2017.

Clearly, plenty of folks are watching horror movies. I find it hard to believe that none of these people read.

While some horror writers of yesteryear are denying their roots, there are some fantastic horror writers alive and well and unabashedly writing horror. Ronald Malfi, Tim Curran, Keith C. Blackmore, Joe R. Landsdale, and more.

As for me, I keep coming back to horror. Give me dark and cloudy nights, full moons, creepy shadows, walking dead, and serial killers any day. Even the crime fiction I write has a dark, dark lining.

So I’ll keep writing horror because it suits me. Unabashedly and honestly.

Count on that.



Looking Behind, Looking Ahead

Back in 2011, when I published my first book, things were easier. There were fewer books competing for readers’ attention. The Kindle was still pretty new to readers; they were hungry for new books from authors they’d never read. I had a couple of books out and they sold extremely well; better than they should have given my talent level at the time. Even better, I had to do nothing to promote them; Amazon did it for me. I sold thousands of books, positive reviews flowed in, and life was pretty good for a part-time writer.

Then, in January 2013, that all came to a screeching halt.

Literally, overnight, sales dried up. The same books that had been moving nicely through the system for the past two years suddenly went dormant. It was as if a switched had been flipped and the lights just went out. And for all I know about the black box that is Amazon, maybe that’s exactly what happened.

The era collectively known as the Kindle Gold Rush was over.

Many writers quit. I didn’t. Since the end of the Gold Rush, I’ve written an additional eight novels, another five novellas, and fourteen short stories. But no matter how many books I’ve released since the “good ol’ days”, it hasn’t had much effect. My Badlands series sells okay (for which I’m truly grateful), but the other books don’t move much, if at all.

The reasons for this are myriad and anecdotal. The market is saturated with boatloads of books for sale in the Kindle store. Kindle Unlimited has had a negative impact too, cannibalizing sales and driving down payments to authors. And those of us who opt out of exclusivity with Amazon pay dearly; KU books rank higher than non-KU books and are much more visible to customers. In other words, if a writer wants to diversify his risk and reach more readers on more platforms, then he’s gonna get dinged for it.

And don’t get me started on the scammers currently infecting Kindle Unlimited.

Since 2011, most of Amazon’s competition hasn’t really gained much ground. Sony has gotten out of the game. Diesel is gone. Barnes and Noble has pretty much dropped the ball with their Nook effort. Apple still doesn’t seem to care about selling ebooks, despite having their iBooks app on literally hundreds of millions of devices. Google doesn’t seem to care about selling ebooks any more than Apple does.

At least Kobo has upped their game a little. They at least seem like they care and are trying to sell more books and reach more readers. It seems to be working because they’re now my number one sales channel.

There’s also a lot more competition within the Kindle store; Amazon has their own publishing imprints to push now and New York publishing houses have finally digitized much of their backlist books, adding thousands more titles to the Kindle store. Last count I remember, there are something like two or three million books in the Kindle store.

To cut through the noise, it takes a lot of time, effort, and money. Advertising on platforms like Facebook and Amazon are pretty much required now if you want to sell books. And now the latest tactic is “writing to market”, an approach I’m not too keen on. Feels too much like a popularity contest, and pandering isn’t really in my veins.

The good news is that royalty rates for ebooks are still at 70% at most of the major retailers. And the gatekeepers are gone, so we’re still free to write and publish whatever we like. These two factors alone are reason enough to celebrate. If one can still manage to sell books that people want to read, the profit margin continues to favor writers. That’s a big deal.

This is just the state of publishing today, for better or worse. Some writers are killing it in this new market, many are not. It’s always been a lottery to some extent. The world doesn’t owe anybody a living, myself included. And while things might not be easy, I find it’s much better to face reality for what it truly is, not what we’d like it to be.

Every year I reassess my writing business and writing life. Since 2015 I’ve been focused primarily on production. Writing more books. Writing better books. Streamlining the revision, editing, and proofreading processes. Reducing production costs so that I can actually afford to release the books I write without losing my ass on them.

Two years later, that effort has born fruit. My writing is better. I’m WAY more productive now. My books turn a profit, albeit small. I’ve experimented with a new series and I’ve grown my most lucrative series (with more growth planned). I’ve written whatever the hell I want, depending solely on my mood at the time. That’s allowed me to try new genres and to write some books I’m pretty proud of.

But high production takes its toll. Waking up at 4:30 every weekday morning to write ain’t easy, not with a full-time career, a wife and two kids, and all the normal crap that comes with being an adult. Then working weekends on editing, proofreading, covers, and promotion…it all adds up.

Succeeding at anything requires sacrifice, and with that sacrifice, one expects to see some return. So here I am at the end of 2017, looking for a way to quantify that success. Goal-oriented people like myself are always looking for ways to measure success, to show gains, to show progress. In terms of sales, it ain’t looking good for me. But after thinking on this for a while, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve been going about the notion of success all wrong.

High sales equals popularity and people tend to gauge success through popularity. Anybody who’s been to high school knows that. And anybody who’s picked up a book and seen “New York Times Bestseller!” stamped across the cover knows it too. If something is popular, it must be good, right? And if not, it must be bad. Right?

I’m not so sure of that.

For years, I bought into using popularity as a measuring stick for my own work. I got caught up in the rat race, in the idea that validation comes from outside.

I was wrong.

As I wind down 2017, I’ve been reassessing things. Over the past six years I’ve proven a lot. I’ve proven that I can produce consistently. I’ve proven that I can write books that folks tend to like (for whatever that’s worth). I’ve proven that I can work full-time as a programmer and still crank out books at a faster rate than the pros who do nothing else but write. And while I’ve gained a lot proving all this, I’ve lost sight of why I write in the first place: to have fun.

So I’ve decided to take back control. I determine success. Nobody else. And to me, success is defined by setting goals and accomplishing them while having as much fun as I can. Success is writing books I care about, books that I think are worthwhile. Books I’d like to read myself.

And to hell with the numbers and what anybody else thinks.

2018 is gonna look a lot different for me than the past couple of years. 2018 will be all about me writing for the love of the story and nothing else. If that resonates with people, great. If not, who cares? Read it or don’t. I have a lucrative day job that I really like, and that affords me the luxury of writing whatever the hell I want, whenever I want to write it. And that truly is a luxury. I don’t have to write something I hate for money and I don’t have to chase numbers for validation. And I don’t have to crank out a novel per month unless I want to.

I’m looking forward to next year more than I have any before it. It’s a wide open road for me.

And that’s just the way I like it.

Winding Down 2017

It’s hard to believe it, but we’re heading into the sunset of yet another year. 2017 arrived with much promise and, thus far, it’s delivered as I’d hoped. But this isn’t a year-end recap; I’ll write that one in a few months. This is me checking in to let everybody know what’s going on and what to expect out of me over the next few months.

So far this year, I’ve published three books: Redemption in the BadlandsKryptos, and The Swingin’ Man. If you haven’t checked them out, head on over to my homepage and see what’s up.

A week or so ago, I finished the manuscript for my latest Badlands novella, titled Vengeance in the Badlands. It’s a complete rewrite of the novel I wrote back in 2014 and never published. It sucks to throw away an entire novel-length manuscript, but I just wasn’t happy with it as written. The new book is a little shorter, but the story more closely resembles the story I’d originally envisioned. The copy edit and proofread should be completed within the next couple of weeks, so look for that book at your favorite retailer around the end of October. If you sign up for my mailing list, you’ll be the first to know when it’s available, plus you’ll get a free book for signing up. Win-win. 🙂

I’m working on a short story that I think you’ll be interested in. It’s an “origin” story, detailing the events of the outbreak as experienced by Ed Brady and his family. That book will be free for all current and future mailing list subscribers. It’s also going to be exclusive-not sold in stores-only available by signing up.

I don’t yet have a release date for that one, but look for it before year’s end. And if you join my mailing list…well, you know the drill.

I’m taking a little time off from my production schedule to deal with some health issues (nothing life-threatening), to read and to “recharge the batteries”. I’ll still be writing, but I’m not sure what exactly. As a result, Badlands #4 (Back to the Badlands) will be pushed out a few months. I hate to delay the book, but if I’m not healthy I can’t properly write it anyway. It’s better to push the date and produce a better book than it would be to force a half-assed attempt out there. Nobody wants that.

And then there’s that half-finished horror novel manuscript I still have floating around…

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

So…there you have it. Look for Vengeance and Outbreak coming your way sooner than later, with more books to follow later than sooner. And remember; it’s tough out there for a playa these days, so if you like my work tell your friends, tell your family, maybe even write a review. And I’ll do you a solid and keep the books coming your way. 🙂

Summertime News

It seems like forever since I’ve updated, although my last post was back in April. I just finished a project, so it seemed a good time to provide an update on what’s been happening and what’s to come.

I’m about halfway through a novel I’ve named Dream Eater. Progress has been good, but with the distraction of a new job and all the summertime activities with my family, I took a break from it to write a few short stories.

As such, I now have a collection of twelve short stories collected over the past year, mostly stuff written between novels. It’s been fun just jumping into a new world every few days, compared to spending two months on a single novel. Now that I have enough short stories for a collection, I’ll be getting these copy edited and hopefully published by the end of July. If you want to be the first to know when it comes out, sign up for my mailing list. You’ll also receive a free book for signing up.

I’ve gone through some pretty upsetting job changes over the past year, so focusing on the writing has been a little challenging. But I’ve been at my new job for two months now and I’m loving it. The mental stability this provides will allow me to focus better when writing longer novels and novellas, so look for a few more books later this year.

I’ve written about 100,000 words this year and we’re halfway through it, so I’m a little behind on my goal of writing 300,000 words. But I’ve published two books so far with a third on the way. I think I can still get three more books out before year end. I plan to finish Dream Eater this year, but beyond that, I’m not sure what I’ll be working on. We’ll see where the muse takes me, I suppose. No matter what, 2017 has been SO much better than 2016 was. I had high hopes for this year, and so far I haven’t been let down.

Before I go, I’ll pimp my most recent releases, Kryptos and Redemption In the Badlands. Kryptos is a “creature feature”, chock-full of monsters and folks struggling to stay alive. Redemption brings us back to the Badlands world, catching up with Pastor Dan after Ed and Jasper left for Kansas City. Reviews have been good and it was a lot of fun to write. If you dug my other Badlands books, I think you’ll like this one too. While you’re at it, you can check out all my other books here.

Until next time, take it easy.

March Update

Lots going on here at Brian J. Jarrett HQ, so I thought I’d take a moment to catch you guys up on things (nearly) completed and what’s coming down the pike over the next few months.

Firstly, I’ve finished the manuscripts and copy edit for my novel Kryptos. I still have to give it a final read through to ensure I catch as many pesky typos as I can, but my goal is to have that completed either this weekend or next. Preferably by Sunday, but you know how these things go.

Redemption In the Badlands, a novella set within my Badlands universe starring Pastor Dan Owens. You might remember him as the level-headed preacher from book #2 in the series, Beyond the Badlands. I’m super excited about this book; I think it turned out great. Plans are for an April release, once all the post-production work is complete. If you haven’t signed up for my mailing list, do that now. You’ll be the first to know when my new books are published.

Monday I’ll be starting a new book, but I’m keeping the details secret for now. Let’s call it an “experiment”. I’ll be tied up with that book for a couple of months, but after it’s complete I’ll start on another new book. I’m not sure which one just yet, but it might be a novella called Dream Eater.

The writing has been going well, so I expect to hit my goal of at least six books published in 2017. I’ll keep you all posted here as the year progresses. Thanks for reading!

2016 Year End Wrap-Up

Well, it’s that time of year again, the time to look back on what’s done and look forward to the year to come. Poetic enough, I suppose, although 2016 was anything but pretty.

Looking back at my year-end post from 2015, I had high hopes for 2016. I’d planned on writing a half-million words, but instead I came up short at just over a quarter million. All in all, not a bad way to fail, but that’s still only 50% of my goal.

What happened? The first distraction came with my day job. The company I worked for was sold and that didn’t work out well for me, so I found myself back on the job market for the first time in nine years. It was a lot of stress and a big distraction. I have a new job now that’s going pretty well, so that distraction is gone.

The second problem was not having a good system in place to edit and proofread the work after I completed a first draft. After adopting Chris Fox’s sprinting technique, I started producing new words faster than I could proof them. As a result, I got way behind and sacrificed a lot of time writing new words in order to get caught up. I now have a good end-to-end system in place for proofing and publishing those manuscripts, so that bottleneck is gone too.

And thirdly, I let self-doubt cloud my creativity and I floundered for a while trying to get inspired to work on projects. Combined with the work problems, this stopped me cold.

Combined, these distractions cost me about a quarter million words.

That said, I did use this down time to work on other book-related tasks. I created paperback editions for all my novels, something I’d been way behind on. Now all my novels in eBook format also have paperback counterparts. In doing so, I streamlined the process, allowing me to release books in both paper and eBook at the same time going forward.

I also revamped my website, brianjjarrett.com, improving the aesthetics, simplifying the navigation, and reorganizing the content. It’s much improved now and I’m very proud of it.

So while I might have missed out on getting a few new books to market, at least I didn’t let the time go to to waste. I have something tangible to show for those hours and my business is further ahead than it was last year.

I published five new books this year so far, with one more coming out at the end of this month. I’m ecstatic about that. I completed all the major projects I’d planned on. So while a lot of bad things happened in 2016, I still came out of it with something to show for it.

So what’s in store for 2017?

I have a half-finished “creature feature” novel called Kryptos that should see the light of day next year.

I also have a completed Badlands novel manuscript written and in need of only an edit. I plan to release that one before 2017 year’s end. Speaking of Badlands, I think there’s more to come in this story world. I plan to flesh out some of those ideas by the end of next year. Stay tuned.

I started a few projects in 2016 that I plan to finish up next year: a crime novel, a short story collection, and a zombie book. Look for at least one more Tom Miller book too.

I have a vague idea for a book centered around dreams and perceptions of reality. I feel like that one will make it into the 2017 release schedule.

And then there’s a secret project that I’m not ready to talk about yet.

Ambitious? Sure, but doable, I think. Mostly because I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work and how to avoid the latter while focusing on the former. Will I hit a half-million words in 2017? Hard to say, but I feel more prepared this time around.

Either way, I’m glad 2016 is nearly behind me. I’m super excited about 2017. I feel like it’s going to be a fantastic year. I hope you guys come along for the ride.

November Has Promise

At the end of September, I thought I’d be super productive in October.

Turns out, not so much.

I suppose I might have been a little too optimistic. I hadn’t even really started the new job (meaning I hadn’t been deployed to the client site) and, frankly, I was still upset over what happened to cause me to leave my old job.

In other words, I wasn’t ready.

But now here I am, more than a month on-site at the client and a month further removed from the turmoil of work. The new gig isn’t bad so far and is starting to feel kinda familiar. It’s stable, so that’s helped me get into the right headspace, I think.

Toward the end of October, I buckled down and got myself back into the writing routine. My optimism is better and with the distractions mostly gone, I started pumping out some words. I found myself disinterested in the novel I was writing, so I put it on hold. I’ll finish Kryptos next year (I haven’t abandoned the novel and still want to finish it), but for now, I felt like I needed something different on which to focus my attention.

Around this time last year, I finished a book called Yesterday In Black. It was the first book in a planned novella series about a man who lost his family to a serial killer and sort of stumbles into a new line of work as a private eye, hunting down killers. Each book would feature Tom searching for a killer, all the while hunting for the man who killed his family.

I dug the book and it’s gotten good feedback from those who’ve read it, but sales were lackluster. I suppose I took that as a sign the series wasn’t worth my focus, so I put the second book on hold.

Now, however, I think that a series needs to have my buy-in before readers feel confident buying-in themselves. In other words, if I can’t write three or four of these then why is a reader going to think that I’ll ever finish the series? One of the worst things about a series is when it never resolves due to a premature end (remember Deadwood?)

So…I’ve been working every morning on the new book since the first of the month, and it’s coming along nicely (sitting at around 10% complete right now). It’s called I Am the Darkness and I’m on track to finish the manuscript by the end of November. That means it’s possible that I could publish it before Christmas. We’ll see how that goes. Either way, I’m planning on writing at least two or three more of these books to prove my commitment to the series and to give it a solid base on which to grow. Since these books are shorter (half the size of a novel), I can turn them around a lot faster than a novel. I can sell them a little cheaper too.

Now that I’m “back in the saddle”, so to speak, I have a lot of plans for 2017. More Tom Miller books, more horror, some crime thrillers, and possibly more Badlands books. Ambitious, maybe, but I’m looking forward to telling more stories. Stay tuned.