Rows to Hoe

The last six months have been a strange time for me. I won’t bore you with all the details, just take my word for it. For the literary among you, it felt like my whole life was moving in a widening gyre. The salient detail here is that I wasn’t doing much writing. Oh, I’d write that occasional blog post or chip away at a story here or there, but there was none of the sustained writing I was doing a year ago. I’m happy to report that that situation has finally started to correct itself.

I’ve been working on some new things recently. I’ve got a new Contingency Jones story in the works, along with a new Sam Branch short story and the beginning of a new Branch novel. I’ve been working on a couple of TV show ideas that might one day see the light of day. And I’ve been revisiting the machinima idea that I was working on last year. There’s been some revision to the scripts for the first five episodes. I’ve acquired a theme song for it, as well as looking around for some royalty free music to use as incidental music inside the episodes. I’ve also been doing some fresh video capture with my brother for the first episode.

I’ve also been, oh so very slowly, doing a little more work on the audiodrama idea I was working on last year. That one is harder because it isn’t just the writing. There’s a lot of moving pieces in an audiodrama that I don’t necessarily have total control over. Suffice it to say, work is happening on that.

In other news, I’ve been reading Neil Gaiman’s new book, Norse Mythology. It’s awesome and you should read it! Also, I’ve started to learn to code in JavaScript. Yeah, I knew you’d be excited about that. 😉

Eric’s Year End Report – 2014

So, it’s been an interesting year. I set some goals earlier this year. Some I achieved, in part or in full, and some I failed to achieve. And one came out of the blue and I more or less made it happen. So, here’s the report.

I set a goal to get the new Branch novel out this year and I did it. I did it by the skin of my teeth, but I did it. Speaking of which, you should go get your copy of Rises: A Samuel Branch Novel. It’s available through your friendly, neighborhood in Kindle and print editions. It will be released for Nook, as well as most other e-readers, early next year.

I set a goal of getting three short stories published in magazines this year. I fell a bit short. I placed two short stories with Stupefying Stories, which is a terrific publication that you should show some love. One of my stories appeared in the August 2014 issue, which you can get here. The second story will, most likely, appear sometime early this coming year. Still, I’ll take my two placed short stories, be happy, and aim to place twice that many next year.

I had also planned on starting a podcast. I even recorded a preliminary episode that generated some positive response from the alpha listeners I shared it with. It just never quite came together. Some of it was a time issue. There are never quite enough hours in a week. Some of it was simple concern that, however good my intentions, I just wouldn’t be able to come up with enough interesting material to sustain the podcast over the long haul. The idea isn’t dead, but I’m letting it percolate a bit more before I either move forward or scrap heap it. I’ll let everyone know where I come down on that.

Another goal I had was to put together a limited run web-series. The plan was 4 episodes running 3-5 minutes each. This one really did boil down to me not having enough time commit to the project, paired up with my uncertainty that I could get the right resources in place, at the right times, to make it happen. I still want to do the series and, if Clotho, Lechesis and Atropos see fit to consent, I’d like to be announcing that the first episode is going live sometime in April. Pester me about this folks. Shame is a powerful motivator.

A goal I hadn’t set for myself, but ultimately wound up delivering on was a pretty substantive renovation of an old house. I tore out floors clear down to the joists and, in some cases, those came out too. I installed new underlayments, sanded down hardwood, put down new finish, and even helped to cut and install some tile. It was a pretty massive project that stretched out for months, but it’s all but complete now and I’m pretty proud of what I did there.

Overall, looking back, I can’t complain about this past year. There were some pie in the sky things I either didn’t get a chance to do (visit Crater Lake), or would have liked to have done but it wasn’t realistic (finish a second novel in addition to the new Branch novel).

Still, I did learn how inefficient I can be with my time. It’s a forgivable sin, I think. I’m certainly not alone in it. In retrospect, I can see how those inefficiencies contributed to my failing to reach certain goals (podcast, web series). So, right at the top of my list for next year’s goals is improving my time/self management. I’m going to take my cue from Lean Thinking and aim make persistent, incremental improvements. Some will be easy, some will be hard, but even small improvements often lead to big results. As I formulate some new goals for the coming year, I’ll keep you appraised.

Short Story Publication and Other Updates

photo credit: SpreadTheMagic via photopin cc

photo credit: SpreadTheMagic via photopin cc

Earlier this year, I mentioned that I’d set a goal to get three short stories published this year. I’m now one step closer to that goal. My short story, “Memory Makes Liars of Us All,” was just published in the August 2014 issue of Stupefying Stories. The issue is available over on Amazon, for Kindle, for $1.99. I also hear tell there may be a print version in the works, but I don’t have details on that. Either way, there are some great stories in that issue and you won’t want to miss it!

Getting that story picked up was especially meaningful for me. Of all the short stories I’ve written over the years, it’s one of my personal favorites. It took a long time to gestate. I wrote the first, much less sophisticated, much less polished version of that story years ago. It’s gone through a lot of drafts since that first effort. Along the way it’s lost some weight, about 3000 words worth. The original ending is gone, as is the original beginning. Also missing are so very many awkward sentences and stillborn ideas. It’s not a perfect story, no story ever is, but I’m very proud of it. I hope you enjoy it.

I also had an opinion piece that I wrote about America’s uneven response to the issue of big data collection picked up over at Global Comment. It isn’t just the NSA that engages in big data collection. We should all think hard about who we trust with our information. I’m quite proud of that piece as well and hope you’ll take a few minutes to read it.

On the Sam Branch front, my revised draft of Rises is out being looked over by my woefully underpaid, but supremely talented, volunteer editor. I’m letting Branch take a nap in my head while that happens, but the new novel is coming.

I’ve got some projects in various stages of doneness. There is a freshly minted short story in a first draft form, along with another that’s about halfway there. So, with any luck, I’ll be able to find homes for one of those. I’m still playing around with a couple of the non-Branch novel ideas I have, but I imagine that work will start on one of those very soon. I’ve also got a couple of other opinion/essay type things that I’m testing out in the uncertain world of submissions. If I get anywhere with those, I’ll let you know. Promise!

Playing Catch Up

photo credit: schani via photopin cc

photo credit: schani via photopin cc

I’ve been incredibly bad about updating this blog recently, violating one of the rules I preach about. That rule, of course, is that you should update your blog on a regular basis. So, in order to play fair, I feel like I owe everyone an explanation. I actually have been writing the posts. What I haven’t been doing is giving them proper edits and posting them. So, on the good news front, you can expect some posts over the coming weeks.

The big question anyone has the right to ask is, “why haven’t you been posting?” The answer to the question is easy, but not simple. It’s been a matter of time. I can’t rightly say that, if I looked over everything I’ve been doing over the last month, I absolutely could not have found an hour here or there to get a post knocked into shape and posted. On a day-to-day basis, though, it’s felt that way.

This week, for example, I’ve been having terrible headaches and finding it more than a little difficult to do anything beyond the bare minimum. For those of you who, like me, tend to get chronic headaches, you know that it makes every task harder and, even when you force yourself to sit down and work, everything takes longer.

I’ve also been working on the preliminary stages of a few projects that are close to my heart. One is a podcast. I recorded a short, preliminary episode and a friend of mine is in the process of writing some music for it. I’ve been brainstorming ideas for the logo, along with ideas for episodes and thematic elements I’d like to hit on.

I’ve also gotten started on an idea for a limited run web-series that I’m planning to post on YouTube. There are a lot of moving parts involved with something like that, way more than you might think, even for something that I only expect to run 5-10 minutes per episode. At this stage in the game, I’m still hashing details in my own head and will soon be hashing those details with my presumptive partner in crime for this project, who will, for the moment, only be identified as Agent X. I will tell you this much, it involves food, and nerdery, and general good fun. It will not be scripted (mostly) and it will be reality-based.

Then, of course, there is the new Sam Branch novel, which I have continued to edit, one chapter at a time. Unlike the first two Branch novels, I am doing a hard edit on paper. Editing on paper is a very different process than editing on screen. The upshot is that I’m catching a ton of errors I would have missed on screen. So, you can all look forward to much a cleaner read with far fewer typos.

The downside is that editing on paper is a slower process, in part because it is just inherently slower, but also because I have to make the edits in the Word document after I do them down on paper. Then there is the fact that this novel is significantly longer. More good news, though. I am approximately 25-30% done. At this pace, the novel will go live sometime this summer.

I’ve also been hashing out the details for a crowdfunded project that is much, much closer to going live than anything else I’ve been working on. I’ve got some video work left that I need to get done, but that project is likely to go live in the next few weeks. Once it’s a little closer, I’ll talk about it so much that it will make you hate me a little. I don’t want to give away too much, but I’ll say this much. I’ve written a fair bit of fiction in the last year or so that isn’t Sam Branch-based and this project is all about providing you a way to get your hands on that fiction. So keep your eyes open for updates.

Then, of course, there is the regular old, run-of-the-mill work that keeps me fed and caffeinated. It’s not always interesting, but it’s always necessary. That eats a lot of time too.

So, like I said, the answer is easy, but not simple. I’ve been writing, a lot, and with any luck some of it will be in your hands very soon. I’ve been chipping away at projects, which I’m hoping will see the light of day this year. I haven’t given up on the blog, not by any stretch, and I’ve got some good ones coming your way over the next two to three weeks. So keeping tuning in.

A Pre-Release Marketing Mistake

photo credit: ktpupp via photopin cc

photo credit: ktpupp via photopin cc

Timing is everything, so the saying goes, and I’ve learned that lesson recently in the pre-release phase of my new novel.

A while back, I promised a short story/prelude to the novel around the end of February/early March. Just as importantly, I delivered. What I wasn’t anticipating is that the short story ramped up some serious excitement among some Sam Branch fans.

Here’s the problem…that excitement, while terrific, came too soon.

The novel isn’t ready for release. It’s not even close to ready for release. I’m just about ready to start on my first serious post-writing read through. As other novelists know, that is a time-intensive process that can take weeks, if the novel is really clean, and months, if the novel needs a lot work. Even in an ideal situation, the new novel probably won’t go live until sometime in May or June.

So, while I felt personally good about releasing that short story when I did, because I said I was going to, it was a mistake from a marketing standpoint. I should have waited until I was no more than a month out from publication to release the story. If I had, it would have whetted the appetites of the fans and helped to build momentum for when the book does go live.

Instead, I’ve run the risk of annoying those fans with a long wait until they can read the book. As mistakes go, it’s probably minor, but it’s a still a mistake that I intend to learn from and one I hope you avoid.

New & Free & Here- A Samuel Branch Short Story

I know it’s been ages and ages, more than a year, since you guys have seen any new fiction from me. Well, as promised earlier this week, I’m about to change that. Please find below, the all new Sam Branch short story, Becoming. Enjoy!

For Kindle users: Becoming (mobi)

For pretty much all other Ereaders: Becoming (ePub)

For those without an Ereader: Becoming (PDF)

The Periodic Update Thing that I Do

photo credit: Daniel*1977 via photopin cc

photo credit: Daniel*1977 via photopin cc

Since I always have a lot of irons in the fire at any given time, some of which I mention on here or on other social media, some of which I don’t, it becomes necessary to provide the occasional update on my various and sundry projects. To that end, here are the updates:

The Big Project

Okay, the big project, the one I get asked about a lot, is the new Sam Branch novel. The novel is not dead and not even close to dead. It’s just taking a lot more time and gestation that I ever imagined it would. It is long ladies and gents. I mean it’s really long. Like 400 typewritten pages long and growing. Fortunately, I have a pretty clear sense now of what needs to happen to finish it, which I was still pretty hazy about 50 pages ago. I swear I’m closing in on done.

The Website

Many months ago, I proclaimed that the Sam Branch website was going to get updated. I meant it, despite no visible evidence that it was happening. There was stuff and things and life that got in the way. The death of a web designer’s computer, for example, and me working on the new novel and painting the new cover and the work that pays the bills. You know, life and stuff and things. The moment is upon us, however. I got the new files and installed them on the server. There is still one or two glitches to work out, but you can go and see the almost finished, shiny new version of the site here.


I also mentioned, a very long time ago, that I was recording an audiobook version of the first Sam Branch novel, Falls. The project is not dead, either, I simply refer you back to the aforementioned life and stuff and things. It will happen. The notion has taken hold in my brain again and I’ll be making a concerted effort to record 1-2 chapters a week until it’s done. I may even post a few preview chapters for your listening pleasure, so keep your eyes open.

Short Stories

As I mentioned in a previous post about fiction and voice, I’ve been working on some short fiction. One of my goals for 2014 is to place 3 short stories in magazines. To that end, when my brain needs a break from novel writing, I work on short stories. Some of them are partially written. Some of them are finished, but not edited. Some of them are out for submission. There is one, however, that will be coming to you very soon. It’s a little prequel to the new Sam Branch novel and I’m expecting to make it available to you all around the end of the February.

So there you have it, some of the bigger things I’ve got going on. Now, as a little treat, I give you a link to Neil Gaiman reading Green Eggs and Ham. Why? Because it’s Neil Gaiman reading Green Eggs and Ham. Seriously, do you need a better reason?

Official Reveal – Cover Art for the New Sam Branch Novel

I’m going to take a quick break from the usual today for something near and dear to my heart. As many of you know, I’m in the midst of writing the third book in my Samuel Branch series of novels. As I wind down into the final stretch of the first draft, I decided it was time to paint/develop the new cover art, both as a practical concern and as a way to reward my patient readers. So, without further ado, I present you with the cover for “Rises: A Samuel Branch Novel.”

Copyright 2014 Eric Dontigney

Copyright 2014 Eric Dontigney

For those of you not familiar with my Samuel Branch books, check out my books page or find them over on Amazon here and here.

Changes, They Are a Coming

World on Fire

Image courtesy of chrisroll/

For the last several years this blog has been proudly attached to the Samuel Branch website. When I first started it, the idea was to use the blog as means for delivering updates on the Samuel Branch series of novels that I’m still hard at work on. It was also there for the occasional foray into book and movie reviews, some thoughts on writing and a bit of social commentary.

As we draw toward the end of 2013, and thanks to a salient comment on Twitter, I’ve been giving some thought to the future of this blog. In the last year and a half, give or take, this blog has evolved away from its original purpose and taken on a different kind of life. While I certainly intend to keep my readers abreast about my various writing ventures, this blog now serve primarily as platform devoted to the professional side of writing and, to some extent, the particular challenges facing indie authors. As such, I believe it’s time for a change.

In the next month or so, this blog will transition to a new URL:, specifically. (For the curious: At the moment, there isn’t anything to see on the new site, but there will be soon.)This move will come as part of a consolidation of some of my varied projects and the new site will, with any luck, serve as central hub for those interested in just what it is I do and what I write. Transitioning the blog is the first step in that process.

What you won’t see is any major changes in the appearance of the blog, though a new header that includes a decent picture of me is almost certainly in order. When the blog makes the transition, I will leave a redirect page in place at its old location. If I do this correctly, old links should automatically redirect to their corresponding post at the new URL location. If I don’t do this correctly…well, here’s hoping I do it correctly.

I will keep you updated on this process and make sure to announce it before the transition goes into full effect.

Branch Novel Update

For those of you who come here mainly to find out about Sam Branch related news, I have some. I have recently crossed the 80,000 word mark on the third Sam Branch novel (Rises). With hope, and some luck, I’m aiming to finish the first draft by Christmas.