50K words in 30 days

The last time I checked the word count I was just over 53,000 words into Jackson Speed at the High Tide. I might be up to about 55,000 now.

I’ve been working on this fourth novel in the Jackson Speed Memoirs for more than a year, pausing periodically to finish up other projects (including Jackson Speed on the Orange Turnpike which was published in May).

The previous three Speed novels were all between 65,000 and 70,000 words, and generally that is my target length when I’m writing. However, I believe High Tide – which takes up Jackson Speed’s involvement in the three day battle of Gettysburg – is going to turn out to be a good bit longer.

At 53,000 words, I am only up to about 3 p.m. on July 2, 1863 (the moment the second day’s fighting started). Granted, about half of what I have written so far involves the month or so leading up to the war, but I suspect I’m still at least 30,000 words from finishing, maybe more than that. It seems like there is a lot of story left to tell, and I could easily see this book approaching 100,000 words.

My intention was to have the book ready for my editor well before the end of the year (maybe by the end of October), and at my current pace I suppose that’s still possible. Because life and work and kids’ soccer games tend to get in the way, I suspect it could be next spring before I’m done.

I’ve never liked working exclusively on one project. Instead, I like having lots of irons in the fire at one time. So to keep plenty of irons heating up, today I made the decision to go ahead and start the fifth book in the Jackson Speed Memoirs in November.

Among the writing community the NaNoWriMo challenge is a pretty big deal. This is a challenge where you set a goal of writing a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. Lots of authors do it with varying degrees of success.

I’m not big on gimmicks, but if you know the story of my first Jackson Speed novel, then you know that I wrote the thing at a frantic pace. I skipped meals, wrote at work, stayed up all night writing and in 28 days I’d knocked out a 65,000 word novel.

But when I did that I’d never heard of NaNoWriMo, and I did it from mid-May to mid-June of 2012 so it didn’t count for the National Novel Writing Month.

Since first finding out about it, I’ve thought often about maybe trying to participate NaNoWriMo, and I’ve decided now that I am going to. I signed up today for NaNoWriMo 2014, and I am going to start getting some of the preliminary research done for the fifth Jackson Speed novel so that come November I can hit the ground running.

My goal is to put myself in a position where next spring I can publish back-to-back Jackson Speed novels. I’m really excited about it, and I hope it doesn’t turn into a complete disaster where I can’t get anything done – that’s as possible as being able to finish two novels at roughly the same time.

But, the challenge is made doubly difficult because all through November AMC will be airing new episodes of The Walking Dead, and obviously TWD will take precedence over Jackson Speed (or anything else).

Thrillwriting interview

I was interviewed yesterday by Fiona Quinn who runs the immensely valuable Thrillwriting blog where she helps “writers write it right.”

Fiona wanted to talk to me about being an investigative reporter, and since I’ve had some experience along those lines, I thought maybe I could provide her with some insight that might be worthwhile to novelists seeking to toss a newspaper reporter into their story.

Fiona provides all sorts of useful information to novel writers. She offers some primers on the use of weapons, she shows video of how easy it is to get out of duct tape handcuffs (if your plotline includes someone being tied up in duct tape, your plot had also better include that person freeing themselves with relative ease) and she’s even got a post about using tampons as survival tools.

She also regularly interviews experts in a variety of fields, and these folks offer insight into what their jobs are like (hence, me being interviewed about what it’s like to be an investigative reporter).

She provides a good bit of information about homicide scenes, investigative techniques from law enforcement and things of that nature.

Certainly I am no expert, but in my career I’ve been to a lot of murder scenes, covered a lot of murder trials and gone along with sheriff’s deputies, investigators and especially with Sheriff Howard Sills as they solved crimes, and I can say that everything I’ve read on Fiona’s blog corresponds accurately with the things I’ve witnessed.

She offers good information.

So, if you’re a writer of crime fiction or thrillers – or even if you just have an interest in law enforcement procedures – Thrillwriting is a great blog to bookmark and visit regularly. The information Fiona provides will keep you from looking like an idiot.

I’m really grateful to Fiona for reaching out to me and giving me the opportunity to talk a little about being an investigative reporter, and I hope the information becomes useful to other writers. I believe the interview is scheduled to appear on her blog late in September.

She did ask me one question that sort of threw me during the conversation. She asked about movies I’ve seen or books I’ve read where the hero was an investigative reporter, and she wanted to know what they got right or got wrong.

I don’t watch that many movies, and I can’t remember ever reading a book where the hero was a reporter. But now that the interview is over, three movies come to my mind: Deadline – USA with Humphrey Bogart (honestly, this is how I picture myself as I go about my day); The Paper with Michael Keaton (I cannot tell you how many times I’ve wanted to stack up a couple of bundles of newspapers in my editor’s office and fire my revolver into the bundles); and finally All the President’s Men with Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Bernstein and Woodward unraveling Watergate.

In general, and forgiving the dramatic flairs necessary to make the films exciting and appealing to movie-goers, I would say that those three movies probably correspond fairly closely with the kinds of things I’ve encountered in my career.

However, I will say this, I have never once – in anything other than a joke – ever heard anyone yell, “Stop the presses!”

But I did once have an editor threaten to kill me if a city audit did not show evidence of theft of government money, and I think she was fairly serious. There are a lot of things I miss about working for Judy Bailey.

Anyway, if you’re a writer interested in using an investigative reporter in your story and you’d like to contact me and ask me questions, please feel free. I’d be happy to answer questions for anyone who has an interest.

2014 World Cup Finals predictions

From the start I’ve been predicting a final with Germany and the Netherlands, and I’ve got to say I was terribly disappointed by the Dutch performance in the semifinals game against Argentina.

Germany and Argentina make it to the final. Germany will win.

Germany and Argentina make it to the final. Germany will win.

Vlaar was so good in defending Messi, but in the attack Robben was ineffective and Robin van Persie was asleep offsides.

Both defenses played a strong game, resulting in no goals scored in 90 minutes of regulation and 30 minutes of extra time.

I was not surprised that Germany beat Brazil. I’ve felt all through the tournament that Brazil wasn’t playing that well. I never saw a 7-1 defeat, though. I thought maybe 3-0. Even with Neymar and Thiago Silva, I don’t think Brazil would have performed much better against the Germans.

So that gives us Germany and Argentina in the final and Brazil and the Netherlands playing for third place.

Brazil v. Netherlands

I’ve thought since the group stage that Brazil was not performing well in this World Cup. They’ve been lucky in some instances. Neymar carried them in others. For all the talent and passion Brazil had coming into each game, the passion seemed to carry them through while the talent let them down.

Oscar seems reluctant to take the lead on the field. Neymar is an individual threat, but without him a defense playing against Brazil is able to relax a little.

The Netherlands are the most successful country to never win a World Cup. Playing for third place means something to them. Meanwhile, for the Brazilians who have allowed emotion to overcome them, I think if they give up the first goal they will lose, possibly significantly. The Dutch may well win this thing 4-0 and send Brazil back to the drawing board.

Germany v. Argentina

I’ve been as disappointed in Argentina as I have Brazil. I have seen them possibly going out at any point in the knockout stages. But Argentina has proved me wrong each time. In every match, they’ve not been good but they’ve been good enough. Probably the best game they played was against the Netherlands.

Germany, meanwhile, have only a couple of times really played like you would expect them to, but after playing like you would expect them to against Brazil and winning 7-1, I have to think they will come into the final firing on all cylinders.

Expect a strong German team. Expect the same kind of Germany that played against Brazil.

I see Germany winning 2-0, maybe more. Because Messi is on the field, you might have to expect him to score or create a goal, so maybe it’s 3-1 to Germany. Anyway, I don’t believe Argentina will win this game.

2014 World Cup goes to Germany.

US Ro16 loss is hearbreaker, but we’ll be back

The World Cup 2014 Round of 16 was the most heartbreaking thing since the World Cup 2010 Round of 16 when Ghana, in extra time, knocked the US out of the World Cup.

It was a tough game to watch on Tuesday.

Fabian Johnson went out early, forcing Klinsmann to use an early substitution. In a 120-minute game, an inability to get fresh legs on the field when your opponent does can hurt very badly.

Then there was Wondolowski’s missed opportunity.

Extra time.

De Bruyne’s goal. Rom Lukaku’s goal. It was all so bad. I was gutted. Devastated. When I chanted, “I believe that we will win!” I was serious. I did believe.

When I grow up I want to be just like Kyle Beckerman. I've already stopped washing my hair.

When I grow up I want to be just like Kyle Beckerman. I’ve already stopped washing my hair.

But then Julian Green scored one to bring us back! And everything was USA momentum! The entire game shifted as the US started to press hard. I’ve seen countless late equalizers. And if you’re Jurgen Klinsmann would you want to go to PKs against Belgium with Tim Howard having the kind of day he was having?

Of course you would!

When the fourth official held up his sign signaling 1 minute of stoppage time, Klinsmann and I both had the same reaction.

Klinsmann on the sideline could be clearly heard on ESPN all across America: “One minute? Why is one fucking minute?”

He was right, too. You’d had substitutions and injuries and we should have had a minimum of three minutes of stoppage time at the end of the second extra time. Maybe we should have had five minutes.

But it was one minute and that minute went by pretty fast.

In my alternate reality we got three minutes, scored the equalizer and Tim Howard blocked every single Belgian PK. Except Lukaku’s. In my alternate reality, Lukaku shot his over the post.

But in the real world, we beat our way out of the Group of Death and it took everything we had to do it. Did you see Clint Dempsey in the Belgium game? He looked like me after I’ve been playing for 15 minutes – exhausted. Clint didn’t have much in it.

Tim Howard had an amazing game, but Tim Howard is an amazing keeper. It’s common for him to make unbelievable saves. It’s just not common for him to have to make so many in one game.

There were other promising things you can take away from the game against Belgium: DeAndre Yedlin was great. If we’d had anybody who could have connected with his crosses we’d have won that game. People keep talking about Julian Green being the future of US soccer – and he may be – but I’d say look to Yedlin. There’s a kid who has the skill to take us far.

And hats off to Kyle Beckerman who was outstanding in this World Cup. I will forever be a Beckerman fan, and I get chills thinking about what a dream come true this was for him.

I have been a fan of Graham Zusi for a long time, and I think he did very well.

Jermaine Jones was also outstanding. DaMarcus Beasley is always, always, always solid, but in the game against Belgium he was extra special. He and Tim Howard both deserved to be rewarded with a win in that game.

Our back four have taken a lot of criticism. Geoff Cameron with the whiffed ball against Portugal, and Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez and even Beasley for allowing Belgium to take so many shots and force Howard to make so many saves.

I’ll say this about our defense: They had a good tournament. They’re not as good as some of the teams they played against, and they were forced to work very, very hard because we did not possess the ball. It’s tough playing on a defense that is constantly on its heels and getting battered. You clear the ball away and look up and it’s coming right back at you.

I know it’s hard – I’ve played in those defenses many times.

You can blame the midfield for not possessing, but the midfield is too deep because they have to come back to help the defense.

The fact is, we weren’t good enough. Germany and Belgium were both better teams. We played them hard and created chances and frustrated them, but we just simply weren’t as good as they were.


I’m bullish on the USA.

There’s a lot of talk about why the US doesn’t do well internationally in soccer. The book Soccernomics has a great section about this and, I think, is dead on right. If you’re interested, check that out.

Ultimately, though, I think you’ve got to believe that it’s coming.

I believe that we will win.

In qualifying for the World Cup, we were the best among the CONCACAF teams, winning our group with room to spare.

It may take another four years or eight years, but soccer players in America are getting better. Right now we are developing top players, and with the MLS continuing to grow, they are getting more opportunities to play at a high level. I think we’ve passed the time when top American players had to look overseas for opportunities.

Yedlin plays for the Sounders. Zusi and Besler both play for Sporting Kansas City. Omar Gonzalez is at LA Galaxy. Beckerman is at Real Salt Lake. Brad Davis is at the Houston Dynamo. Wondo is at the Earthquakes.

These MLS guys played against some of the best players in the world the past couple of weeks. They took Belgium to extra time, held Germany to a single goal, tied a game with Portugal that we should have won and beat an African powerhouse that we have never beaten before.

For the past five Gold Cups, the USMNT has either won or come in second.

I’m a fan of the USMNT. I watch most all of their games – friendlies and CONCACAF and qualifiers. I love the USMNT, and I think Klinsmann (whose contract takes him through the next World Cup) is doing great things with this team.

Our time will come.


I believe

I believe that

I believe that we

I believe that we will win!

I’m big in Macao

I don’t keep track of book sales on a regular basis. I’ll check sometimes once a week and sometimes once a month. Sometimes I go for longer stretches.

I’ve been pretty up front that sales – someone dropping $3 on one of my Kindle books – don’t happen that often. I’ve gone whole months without selling any books.

So checking sales figures can get to be a pretty depressing sort of thing.

I expect when I make it to England for a book signing tour the crowds at Trafalgar Square queuing up to get an autographed Jackson Speed book will look something like this.

I expect when I make it to England for a book signing tour the crowds at Trafalgar Square queuing up to get an autographed Jackson Speed book will look something like this.

Lately, however, my sales have been more consistent. Even before Jackson Speed on the Orange Turnpike was published I was seeing an up-tick of sales of the first and second books. In fact, there were times when I could see what appeared to be direct correlations of sales of Jackson Speed and the Blood Tubs (Volume II of the Jackson Speed Memoirs) two or three weeks after sales of Jackson Speed: The Hero of El Teneria (Volume I of the Jackson Speed Memoirs).

That’s great fun for me. If the conclusions I’m drawing are correct (and I’ll tell myself they are) then it indicates that someone enjoyed the first book enough to get the second book.

June was a great month for book sales, though. Usually I’ll see a spike in sales after I publish a new book, but I saw that spike in May when Jackson Speed on the Orange Turnpike was published at the first of the month. I expected things to slow down considerably in June.

But they didn’t. By my standards, I sold a lot of books in June.

I was interested, so I got deeper into my numbers, and I realized more than half the books I sold in June were sold in the United Kingdom. All three volumes of the Jackson Speed books had (for me) significant sales in the UK during the month of June.

This was a trend I saw a couple of months ago, too, where a large percentage of my sales were coming out of the United Kingdom, and several of the Kindle copies of Orange Turnpike that sold last month sold in the UK. In fact, someone in the UK bought the very first paperback of Jackson Speed on the Orange Turnpike.

Again, we’re talking about handfuls of books here, not boxes of books. I’m not getting on any NYT lists with my sales.

Nevertheless, I’m starting to wonder if I’m not destined for international stardom.

While I don’t look at my book sales regularly, I do look at my blog stats two or three times a week. I’ve posted a couple of times about the World Cup, and my hits from all over the world are unreal.

In the last 30 days, my blog has been visited by people in Brazil, Australia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Ecuador, Canada, Romania, Bangladesh, Iceland, India, Colombia, Germany, Slovakia, Morocco and Macao.

I’m starting to feel like the old joke they used to say about celebrities whose stars had faded and who looked overseas to revive their careers.

“What’s Rob Peecher doing these days?”

“I hear he’s big in Macao.”

I’m not exactly sure what any of this means or how it becomes useful for introducing more people to my novels (since, ultimately, that’s the only reason I write a blog), so I’m just going to file all of this under the category: The internets is super cool. It just boggles my mind that I am able to write novels about a 19th Century American scoundrel that people in England are interested in buying or that I’m able to make predictions about the World Cup that are read by people in Slovakia.

It’s a weird, wonderful world we’re walking upon.

Initial thoughts on World Cup 2014

Now that we’ve seen everyone play at least one game, I’m making some World Cup observations and predictions. As I told my son last week, I’m not a fookin’ fortune teller, so don’t come yapping at me if I am completely wrong. I will know that I was wrong, I won’t need you to point that out to me, and I really won’t be interested in how you knew all along who was going to make it to the finals.

Clint Dempsey might carry the US all the way to the final ... even with a broken nose.

Clint Dempsey might carry the US all the way to the final … even with a broken nose.


Group A: Bra, Mex, Cro, Cam

Mexico and Brazil will advance, but neither team has been convincing. Mexico has bounced back from a terrible run of form over the past several months and seems to be firing on all cylinders again, but I do not see either of these teams beating their rivals in Group B.


Group B: Nth, Chile, Aus, Esp

Netherlands and Chile have both looked outstanding. I could see either team going to the final.


Group C: Col, Ivry Cst, Jap, Gre

Don’t be too impressed with Colombia – they have little competition in their group.

They will line up in the knockout stages against one of the top two teams in Group D. Potentially, I suppose, if Colombia face Italy they could advance out of the Round of 16, but I do not see Colombia beating Uruguay if that’s how it shakes out.


Group D: Costa Rica, Ita, Ugy, Eng

Costa Rica has been a surprise. I believe they are capable of beating either of the Group C teams they might face in the first round of the knockout stage.

With Suarez back it’s hard to see how Uruguay can be stopped from scoring, but whether or not Suarez has a complete enough team around him to keep from getting beat remains to be seen. England did not play a particularly good game against Uruguay and better opponents may expose weaknesses.

It’s possible that Costa Rica and Uruguay advance and leave two more European powerhouses not advancing out of group.


Group E: Fra, Swz, Ecuador, Hon
France looked very good in their first game (and as I write this just scored the opening goal in their second game against Switzerland). France could do something in this World Cup. I expect Switzerland will advance out of group with France, but I do not see Switzerland going beyond the Round of 16.


Group F: Arg, Ira, Nig, Bosnia Hrzg

Let’s see Argentina in the Round of 16, then we can figure out what they’re playing with. This group is a snooze fest. Anyway, Messi is always fun to watch.


Group G (The group of Death!): Ger, USA, Gha, Port

Yes. Germany. I can easily see Germany winning World Cup 2014. They are such a strong side.

The US has a big test on Sunday. If we beat Portugal and lose to Germany we probably play Belgium in the first game of the knockout stage. Having only seen Belgium play one game it’s tough to judge, but I think it’s certainly possible that the US could beat a very talented but young Belgium side.

It’s hard for me not to believe in the USMNT.

If we come out second in group, we probably play Belgium in the Round of 16. And if we advance there, it potentially is Argentina. Honestly, I think Belgium is tougher than Argentina and with some grit and determination, I think we can beat both teams.


Group H: Blgm, SKor, Russia, Alg

Belgium. Everyone else is uninteresting to me, but I love all my Russian followers on Twitter. Seriously. I do.


Prediction for the final:

I can see the US making it to the semifinals where we would likely face the Netherlands, and my expectation is that the Netherlands will go on to face Germany in the final.

Here’s my disclaimer: Anything can happen. That’s why we play the games.

With a couple of upsets, maybe Costa Rica faces Germany or maybe Chile faces Netherlands.

Maybe Brazil starts playing better and meets Germany in the semi finals, but I still don’t see how any teams beat either Germany or the Netherlands.

I expect the Netherlands, having been there and lost once, will fight pretty hard not to lose another final.

So while some of Europe’s top teams fall out of group stage, I do see two European teams in the final.

But, if the United States can topple the Netherlands in a massive upset, Germany can’t stop our momentum. Ultimately, it seems obvious that the USMNT should win.

Celebrating a milestone!


It’s been a pretty good month for Jackson Speed and his editor (me).

Last month I published the third book in the Jackson Speed series and (for the first time) I spent some time creating a spread sheet with all of my Amazon.com sales (to include paperbacks and Kindle downloads, paid and free).

As May came to a close and June started, I realized that I was just eight books away from hitting my first big milestone. I had already distributed 992 books (that’s a combination of all four of my books) through Amazon.

I posted it on Facebook and a few of my friends were kind enough to drop $3 (or in a couple of cases, $12 plus shipping) to push me over the edge.

I’ve now distributed 1,000 books through Amazon.

These people are not celebrating the World Cup being in Brazil, they are celebrating 1000 copies of Jackson Speed novels going out through Amazon.

These people are not celebrating the World Cup being in Brazil, they are celebrating 1000 copies of Jackson Speed novels going out through Amazon.

I know what you’re thinking: “Wow! A thousand books! This dude must be a millionaire!”

That’s what I was thinking, too!

But I’ve run the math with a calculator (twice) and I’m not a millionaire. If 1000 book sales were going to make me a millionaire, I’d have to be selling my books for $1000 a piece.

Besides, most of those 1000 books that I’ve distributed through Amazon were on free Kindle days where people were able to download the book for free. So I haven’t sold 1000 books through Amazon, but I’ve distributed 1000 books through Amazon.

Anyway … it’s a milestone all the same.

The hope is that the people who download the book for free will enjoy it and maybe come back for more. The truth is, most of the people who download the book for free haven’t read it and never will. When people see free books that interest them, they’ll frequently download the book but never come back to it (I’ve done it myself).

However … I have heard from a handful of readers who did download a book for free and enjoyed it, and that’s the neatest thing to me – being able to connect with people who like my books and are literally all over the world.

At some point, I gave up on marketing my books. I decided the more important thing for me was to write more. Book marketing becomes a full time job if you let it, and I have a full time job. I had to either market my one book or write more books. So I decided to write.

The extent of my marketing scheme now is that I post on Facebook sometimes, tweet links to my blog or books on Twitter once in a while, and I update my blog periodically.

The fact that I’ve had 1000 people get copies of my books with little marketing from me is a true blessing.

I’m still writing and still not marketing (though at some point I do plan to really start pushing the marketing), so 2000 books through Amazon may still be a year or two away. But that’s okay. I’m loving writing, I’m enjoying connecting with readers, and I’m having a great time making spread sheets that show that in one month there were 46 people who downloaded El Teneria for free and in the following two months 14 people bought Blood Tubs, the sequel to El Teneria.

Anyway … if you can count yourself among the 1,000 people who have gotten my book through Amazon, I honestly, truly, sincerely am grateful to you.

And if you’re one of the people who has sent me an email or a message on Facebook or a comment through my blog or if you’ve come to a book signing or posted a reader review on Amazon or in any way expressed to me that you enjoyed my book – again, thank you so much. I don’t have the words to tell you how much it means to me.

When you write and publish books, you take a huge part of yourself and put it on display for other people to see. When you read a book, you get a glimpse into the mind of the author – his thoughts and imagination are on display.

It’s a terrifying and embarrassing thing to expose yourself like that.

But … if you’re among those 1000, I appreciate what you’ve done to help make it a little less terrifying and embarrassing. I guess the real joy isn’t whether or not I’m making millions of dollars with my writing (although I am considering pricing Jackson Speed at the High Tide at $1000 when it comes out), but the real joy is having people respond favorably to the things I’ve written. Thank you so much for making these last couple of years writing about Jackson Speed a real joy!

* I should note that I’ve sold or given away many, many paperbacks, too (I don’t have good numbers on that, but somewhere approaching or maybe just over 200). So if you’re a Jackson Speed fan but you’ve never bought a novel through Amazon, I’m also grateful to you!