“Peer Through Time” was released six months ago

My debut novel was released on January 20th, 2015. As I look back on these past six months, I feel a summary is in order. What have I learned?

  • The support of family, friends, and especially casual acquaintances, has been heartwarming.
    • While the support of my immediate family and close friends didn’t come as a surprise, I didn’t quite expect such overwhelming support from casual or long-forgotten acquaintances, including fellow authors. The role that social media has played in this cannot be overstated.
  • This is not a money-making venture.
    • While there has been some profit, I haven’t recouped the money I invested to have this book edited, cover-designed, published, and marketed. Nor did I expect to. While I hope to someday make a living from writing, it would be naïve to expect such a thing right away. No, this is not about money. It’s about “doing what you love” – advice I heard, and ignored, for many years before finding a way to follow it.
  • There will be more books … but patience is necessary.
    • For a long time, I truly thought I had only one book in me. Now I’m well into the second book, but it’s moving along slowly. The key words are “moving along.” I don’t always write every day. At times I get stuck, disheartened, and disinterested, but I always go back to writing.
  • Contest submissions aren’t free.
    • Some are free, but most contests require a submission fee. This makes sense to me; the people administering these contests need to get paid for the work they do. Peer Through Time did get an Honorable Mention in the 2015 San Francisco Book Festival, which was more than I hoped for. While I wonder what awards it might have won had I submitted it to more contests, I couldn’t blow my entire savings on such a gamble.
  • One person can make a difference.
    • The first time someone told me they wanted to read the next book, it was enough to motivate me to keep writing. A few more have said the same thing since, but even that one person was enough to make a huge difference. Just releasing a book into the world is a gamble. What if nobody cares? Am I the only person who could ever love this book? Am I being self-indulgent and stupid by spending my time on this, when I could be more successful as a computer programmer? The answer to all these questions has turned out to be that I made the right decision.
  • Thinking about “what might have been” is unavoidable.
    • While I refuse to wallow in regret, I can’t help but wonder how things might have been had I started my writing career a couple of decades ago, in my mid-twenties. I could have had ten or more books under my belt by now, and perhaps I could already be making a living at it. Then again, the Internet age didn’t exist then as it does now, and that has played a massively significant role in my moving forward with writing and publishing. Sure, many authors crafted their novels long before we had personal computers, technology apps, and social media … but it wasn’t my destiny to be among them. When the Internet woke up, so did I.
  • Our perception of the passage of time is a really weird phenomenon.
    • This I already knew, but 2015 has reiterated it. In one sense, I can’t believe more than half the year is gone. But when I peer back in time to my book release, I can’t believe how little time has passed. It’s only been six months? Why in the world, then, do I wrack myself with guilt over how slowly the next book is moving along?
  • This is just the beginning.


Helping Readers Choose With Book Reviews

The more I learn about Amazon book reviews, the more I have to change my tune. Recently, I claimed that a book review can be as simple as two or three sentences. While that remains true, and a simple review can certainly help the author, it isn’t the most helpful type of review for the potential reader.


In her article “What to Do When Amazon Pulls Book Reviews,” marketing expert Penny Sansevieri reveals some secrets she’s uncovered about why Amazon does, from time to time, make a book review vanish. A book’s set of reviews might be suspect if they can be linked to the author’s friends and family. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll pull those reviews, but it’s a factor that might contribute to the ultimate vanishing of those reviews.

Other factors might include reviews in which the reviewer doesn’t go into depth—or at least offer a couple of tidbits—about why they liked the book; multiple reviews coming from the same IP address; a book with only five-star reviews; and Amazon’s own constantly changing algorithms.

Book reviews exist, first and foremost, to help readers determine whether or not they should buy this particular book out of the millions available. As a newly published author, it was easy for me to lose sight of that and focus on the perspective of how reviews can help me.

It’s not about me; it’s not about the author. The idea behind customer reviews is for readers to either encourage or warn other readers about why they may or may not like a book.

The best reviews are those that are helpful to other readers—thus Amazon’s question at the bottom of each customer review, “Was this review helpful to you?”



When someone answers yes or no, those responses are counted and displayed at the top of the review.


Granted, not all review-writers use the opportunity to help others. Some simply praise the book without much explanation. Others might simply spew hatred because they’ve been given the platform to do so. Some people misunderstand the star-rating as a measure of how they personally felt about a particular aspect of the book, rather than as a measure of the author’s writing and story-telling skills.



What does all this mean to you? What does it mean to me? It means we need to try and catch ourselves when we are only considering our own perspective. Like so many other aspects of life, it means not asking ourselves, “How can I use this to my benefit?” but rather, “How can I use this to benefit others?

With that in mind, I’ll have to revisit my reviews of other authors’ books, and make sure I’m following my own advice. I’m not a prolific review writer, and maybe you aren’t either. But when we do review, the best way we can help out an author is by helping out his or her potential readers.

Publication Day

Today marks the publication of my debut novel, Peer Through Time! Below is a photo of just a few books I used while researching subject matters such as time travel; predictions for the future based on theoretical physics; artificial intelligence; and the business of writing and publishing. Not pictured is all the online research I did concerning the history of San Francisco.

Here are some of the many things I have planned today.

  • Update my website and make sure all the links work correctly.
  • Announce the release on social media, thanking everyone involved.
  • Prepare shipping labels for the 5 winners (out of 656 entrants) from my Goodreads Giveaway .
  • Avoid obsessing over sales figures – it’s only day one!
  • Step away from social media, at least occasionally, and enjoy the day in the “real” world.
  • Continue writing the next book.



Website debut and book release date!

Welcome to my website. I’m thrilled to announce my debut novel, Peer Through Time, will be available as both a paperback and Kindle ebook starting January 20, 2015. Read about it and pre-order here.

I’m compiling a mailing list for my monthly newsletter and giveaways. You may sign up here.

Coming soon, a preview of Peer Through Time— in video form. I’ll be recording a video of myself reading the novel’s opening scene. Stay tuned!
– David

PeerThroughTime - Splinters 2
Available January 20, 2015

If you see any errors on this website (typos, incorrect links, etc.), please contact me here.

Thank you for your patience

I’m still working on revising the novel I wrote between July 2012 and September 2013. It’s going more slowly than I’d like, but I write or revise at least a little something every day, so it’s always moving forward. At some point soon, I’ll stop hearing the voice in my head that says, “This is really good—but I have an idea on how make it better.”  The two-year mark is coming up and I’d like to be able to say I wrote my first final-draft novel in less than two years.

“Final-draft” novel refers to this being the second full novel I’ve written. The first is still under revision, tucked away in a drawer, as they used to say. The drawer, of course, is an electronic file in an electronic folder on my hard drive, and in the cloud. The third novel is partially written and not yet fully thought out.

Together, the three novels are a trilogy, and, if my plan goes well, can be read in any order. That’s what’s nice about time-travel stories—you can design them so that, while each is a sequel to the other and they share a common theme, each book is its own, self-contained story. Of course, there will be a preferred order, one which offers the best build-up of revelations about the overall story of the trilogy, and hopefully that order will coincide with the order in which the books are published. If I choose to self-publish, of course, there’s no hopefully about it—the books will be published in the preferred order of reading.

As an author, you need to think long-term, though. Statistics say that the first book you publish—and even the second and third—are not likely to reach a large audience. The trick is to build that audience over time—years, really—and gather more readers with your next book, and more with the next, et cetera.

Some readers will discover you by reading your seventh book, never having heard of you before. Some, your thirteenth. And some of those readers, the newbies, are gold—because they’ll want to devour everything you’ve written previously. I know this happens because as a reader, I’ve done exactly that with nearly all my favorite authors. I rarely discover them at the get-go.

With that in mind, I am trying to create a trilogy of books that, in the future, can be read in whatever order one happens upon them. In that future, I’ll have grown as a writer and I might feel a twinge of embarrassment at the primitive style of my first three novels. I don’t feel that now—not at all—but I might as time goes on. Even if I do, I’ll refrain from self-deprecation because there may be one or two new fans who—like me—are dazzled by their favorite author’s early works and don’t really want to hear anyone put it down, especially the author himself.

Another thing about this imagined future is that I’ll be working toward deadlines. I won’t have the luxury of taking my own sweet time, and if I slack off, I’ll have to answer to more than just myself. For now, I sort of enjoy that luxury; it’s part of the process. I set my own self-imposed goals and quotas, and if I fail to meet them, I simply re-design them. I’m accountable only to myself and to those few who are patiently waiting for my debut novel to be published.

It will happen. These things take time, and I’m taking my time because I won’t be prepared to send it out into the world until I know it’s as good as I can make it. It won’t be perfect—if I waited for perfection, it would never be released—but it will be better than it is now. So to those who have expressed their anticipation, and to myself, I say: thank you for your patience.



NaNoWriMo 2013 reflection

From Wikipedia: National Novel Writing Month, shortened as NaNoWriMo, is an annual internet-based creative writing project that takes place every November, challenging participants to write 50,000 words of a new novel between November 1 and 30.

At the beginning of November, my plan was to complete 50,000 words (translation: approximately half of novel) by the end of the month. This was a brand new novel, a sequel to a previous one, but one I hadn’t yet started writing. I had most of my characters conceived, and a very rough idea of the plot, so I dove in. My plan was to write every day, at least 1667 words per day, to reach the 50K mark by month’s end.

At the end of day one, I had written 1,900 words, leaving me optimistic about reaching my goal. On day two, I wrote zero words for my novel—but I did start a draft blog entry about how I had failed NaNoWriMo. On day three, I wrote about half my daily quota, and on day four, my daily word count soared to 3,000.

The rest of the month went something like those first four days: very up and down. I did reach my goal of 50,000 words, but it will be some time before I can assess how much of it is usable story material and how much of it is pure drivel. There is certainly both. There were times when I just didn’t feel like working—if this was a job for which someone was paying me, I’d have called in sick—but in the spirit of the project, I plowed ahead anyway, even when I felt as though I was writing like a four-year-old. See Spot run.

The half-manuscript I vomited out during November has so many characters, and so much going on, that I lost my navigation of the main plot and sub-plots. But that navigation isn’t what NaNoWriMo is about—it’s simply about getting the words down.

Will I participate again next year? It depends—on the above-mentioned assessment, and on what else is going on at the time—and I probably won’t decide until next October. But whether I do or not, here are the top 7 things I learned about myself as a writer.

  1. I’m not a write-every-day author. While many authors write every day and feel that’s necessary to keep their momentum going, I’m going to need to take at least one day a week off from writing. I’ll still be writing “in my mind”—thinking about my characters and what they’ll do next, coming up with many different plot ideas so I can pick the best one—but for at least one day each week, the extent of my actual writing will be limited to social media interactions.
  2. I’m a plotter. I knew this already, but more times than ever during November, I cursed my October self for not preparing enough. He provided me with some great characters and settings, but didn’t give me enough plot points to work toward.
  3. My writer’s block is best overcome by writing pure dialogue. I have sat before the computer numerous times, stuck as to what to write next, staring at a blank screen. I try to describe the surroundings, or what a character is doing, and it takes me an hour to write a paragraph. But if I just stick to dialogue, writing only what the characters are saying to each other, the words flow. I can turn it into a scene later, adding in description and action during revisions. A lot of this dialogue will be cut—these characters do tend to ramble on—but at least I’ll have a frame around which to build a scene.
  4. I must look back before moving forward. The idea behind NaNoWriMo is to only move forward and not review what you’ve already written. However, my memory just isn’t that good. Half of what I wrote the day before was done in a sort of trance, so I don’t even know what’s happened in the story unless I review it. At the very least, after each chapter or scene I must write a brief summary of who was involved and what happened, and over time this becomes my “map” for the novel. The trick here is to resist the temptation to revise and restructure—save it for later.
  5. Writing hurts. I mean it physically hurts, sitting in a chair for hours. I must get up and stretch. I must take the laptop off the desk and move it to another location and then write some more. This is something else I already knew, but it’s very difficult to put into practice when you’re in the trance. It’s similar to surfing on the Internet—before you know it, three hours have gone by and your shoulder is sore from the cumulative tiny movements it takes to click on the mouse or reach for the keyboard. And stop slouching!
  6. I can do this. I honestly didn’t know whether or not I had it in me to complete half of a first draft of a novel in one month’s time. Mentally, I was 50% prepared for failure, and I was OK with that. Three weeks into the month, the best NaNoWriMo advice I read was from a person nearly one-quarter my age. More on that below.
  7. I am not an overachiever. If I set a goal for myself, I will reach that goal, but just barely. At times I will fall behind my goal, wallow in self-pity and doubt, and later pick myself up and do just enough work to get back on track. If I do get ahead, it won’t last long. The beauty in this is that I can set whatever goal I want for myself, and keep increasing it little by little.

Throughout the month, the NaNoWriMo community was full of pep talks, and my favorite of these came from a 12-year-old (!!) from Oakland, CA, who is working on his 2nd novel (!!!). Tai Reichle had this to say:

“If at the end of this month, you find you haven’t written a novel (as I will probably find), and have that “Shucks, I didn’t write a novel” feeling: laugh at yourself. Seriously, think about it: you just got a little angry at yourself because you didn’t write a novel. In a month. Ha! I would have never guessed I’d ever think that. Let alone complain about it. So instead think this: ‘Shucks. I didn’t write a novel. Neither did about seven billion other people. But I tried. So there.'”

Even though I did reach the 50K-word goal, by no means do I have a new novel, or even half a novel. But I have something, and it’s a hell of a lot more than I had at the beginning of the month. Now I’m looking forward to setting it aside—probably for several months or longer—while I concentrate on whipping my first two novels into publishable shape.

On becoming a writer: update – October 2013

Several weeks ago, I quit my job in order to write full-time. This is a temporary arrangement. I’m living off some meager savings, borrowing against my own future for this very scary experiment. My partner’s income doesn’t cover our expenses, but the emotional support provided is at least as—if not more—important.

I do not have any paid writing gigs, nor do I suffer from the delusion that my writing will provide financial support any time in the near future. For a man of no faith—in the religious sense of the word—I’ve taken a huge leap of faith.

My first novel—a science-fiction tale of time travel and murder—took me 19 years just to write the first draft. I wrote only when inspiration hit me, taking months or years off at a time, and there was little story planning involved. It was then that I began studying the craft of writing, specifically novel-writing. The biggest eye-opener? Successful novelists don’t wait for their muse to come to them—they treat their writing like a job, pushing through even when they don’t feel like it, and allowing themselves to write badly, with the idea that they will later be able to turn it into something coherent and intriguing.

My second novel—a sequel, picking up 20 years after the first one ends—was drafted in 10 months. I had transformed myself from a “pantser” (as in, writing by the seat of your pants, with little strategy) into a “planner.”  I had the major plot points of my story mapped out, so all I had to do was bridge the gaps in between.  Once the first draft was complete, I began what would become the first five months of revisions.

Half-way through this revision period, I could no longer deny the thought that kept creeping into my head, louder and more persistent each time: This is what I want to do. I was so sick of sitting down early in the morning—or late in the evening, or on the weekend—planning to write for an hour or two, only to get interrupted by incoming work.

My job in electronic data management was rarely bounded by the typical workday of 9 to 6. My clients were attorneys, searching for information relevant to whatever upcoming lawsuit we were working on. Usually it was patent infringement—they stole my stuff—and my job was to sift out all the garbage among millions of electronic documents, so that the attorneys and paralegals would have a smaller mountain of potentially relevant documents to examine.  

I was working for, and with, workaholics. They often worked until midnight, started up again before sunrise, and had little reverence for the restoration that a Saturday or Sunday off might provide. That our clients were all over the globe was another factor: if it was the middle of the day to them, then we should be working, no matter where we were located, and whether or not we had personal lives to attend to. It’s Sunday and you’re in the park with your kids? Who cares? We’ve got a client call scheduled—last-minute, of course—so get on it.

I don’t have kids, but witnessing others suffer this type of treatment was getting me down. Way, way down. I know there are much worse stories—horror stories—of how some employees are treated, but telling myself “you could have it worse” wasn’t doing much to improve my attitude.  I just wanted to write my book, and—just as important—to know when I would have time to write it. Ten minutes here, fifteen minutes there—some authors do write like that, and out of necessity I will likely have to do so in the future, but I wanted to know what it would be like to be able to schedule that time myself. Would I stick to it? Could I possibly be disciplined enough to crank out at least twice as much writing as I had while working a more-than-full-time job? Would it be worth it?

No, I haven’t spent as much time devoted to writing as I had imagined I would. But yes, I’ve been disciplined enough to have made a big difference in where I am now vs. where I would be if I’d still been working that job.

After two weeks of freedom, I had revised the second half of my novel. I had completed in two weeks what had previously taken me two and a half months to accomplish. Not a bad improvement—I was liking these numbers. Over the next several weeks, I went through another round of revisions, wrote a synopsis, rounded up some “beta readers,” and hired an editor to do some substantive (not just copy) editing.

Now that my second, more polished, novel was in the hands of others, I figuratively dusted off the manuscript of my first novel and started planning a complete structural overhaul. I would keep the basic storyline the same, but aside from laying out the general idea and introducing characters, my manuscript was a mess. It contained long passages of characters’ thoughts, without any scenes moving the story forward. There were pages and pages without conflict. There were three protagonists and it was unclear exactly whose story I was telling.

The remedy was not easy to come by. I brainstormed, coming up with ridiculous ideas that no one will ever read. I couldn’t make it work. I had quit my job for nothing. At times, I was stressed and despondent and ashamed—but at least I had time to keep at it.

I kept trying different ideas of how to make the story work—how to make it more compelling, how to take the idea of it in my head and turn that into a reality. What finally kick-started the re-write was fairly simple in retrospect: I switched the point of view of two characters, so that the one written in first-person (originally written in third-person) was now my main protagonist. Secrets that had been kept until the middle of the book were now laid bare right up front, forcing me to come up with new secrets, new twists in the storyline to keep it interesting and moving forward.

Within three weeks, I had reached the one-quarter mark. Three weeks after that, I was halfway done with the first draft of my major re-write. I had done in six weeks what had previously taken me over a decade. It wasn’t purely self-discipline that got me there—I had, little by little, begun immersing myself in the writing life.

I’m not a joiner. It is a major effort to get myself to participate in social activities where I don’t already know someone. But they say you have to find a writing group. Well, you don’t have to—but so many authors have credited their writing groups, at least partially, for their stories’ improvements. It makes perfect sense. I would do it.

So I forced myself to join a writing group—it was a no pressure, come one time if you want, stay as long as you want sort of deal—and it wasn’t terrible. But it wasn’t great. It was, as they say … meh. I did get some writing done that day, in addition to discovering that a café I usually pass by has some great sandwiches and friendly service. And it’s a quiet café where a lot of people come to write. So maybe I did get something out of trying to find a writing group. I’ll keep trying.

The third week of October brought LitQuake, San Francisco’s annual literary festival. There are multiple gatherings throughout the week, many consisting of authors reading excerpts of their work. I went to a few of these events and started seeing some of the same faces in attendance.  One author, when asked about inspiration, said that NaNoWriMo was very inspirational.

National Novel Writing Month—NaNoWriMo—occurs each November. It’s a community of writers whose goal is to write 50,000 words during the month of November. It’s quantity over quality, with the idea of fixing it up later. That many words would normally take me several months, but I’m committing myself to the challenge for NaNoWriMo. You’re supposed to start with a brand new book, so I’ll set books 1 and 2 aside and start on book 3, which will complete my trilogy.

So by the end of November, I should have: (a) the first half of my book 1 revision drafted; (b) feedback to start what will hopefully be my final revisions on book 2; and (c) the first half of my book 3 drafted.  

Looking back, that’s a lot accomplished in a short amount of time. I couldn’t have done it while still tied to the demands of my former job. I certainly don’t advocate quitting one’s job to follow one’s dream—”don’t quit your day job” is a common warning among authors—and yet that’s exactly what I did. I wish I could travel to the future for a few moments, like some of my characters do, and see what’s become of my future self.

In a way, there is a method for predicting the future, one that we all possess: you create it yourself. You lay out a plan, saying “first I’ll do this, which will lead to that,” etc. You may not have the timeline down, and you have to be flexible, but as the saying goes, the best way to predict the future is to create it.

Writing about Writing

As I gradually wade into the waters of the writing life, each step becomes less timid and more confident than the last. I look back at those few baby steps behind me, barely making an imprint in the sand, and I wonder–now that I’m ankle-deep—-if the arm floats I’m wearing will turn into iron shackles when I submerge myself further. I see a raft in the distance, beckoning me with its promises. When you’re ready to discard the last of your computer software chains, I imagine it saying, I’ll be here, waiting for you to embark on a ride through uncharted waters. But I won’t let you fall.  

I’ve recently discovered that my writing goes more smoothly when I have several projects going simultaneously. If only I had learned that years ago! Here’s what I have in the works:

I completed the first draft of my first novel, The Cornflake Girl (still a tentative title for reasons I’ll explain), in May 2012. The second draft was completed three months later. Only then, in my backwards way of doing things, did I begin studying the craft of writing and the business of publishing. I quickly learned that my novel breaks all kinds of rules. There are three protagonists, one of whose likeability is questionable, and there is no tangible antagonist. There are parts of the story that I think are well-written and thoughtful but don’t necessarily move the story along. The title character is only one of the protagonists and for the first one-third of the book, she is only seen by another character, rather than being part of the action. It’s about so many different things that I’ve had a hard time explaining to people what it’s about. So it definitely needs an overhaul. All of these facets, combined with a common piece of writing advice, add up to my decision to shelve it – for now. The aforementioned advice, which I’ve read from several accomplished authors, is that if your first novel breaks a lot of rules, you should consider not submitting it for publication until you have some credits under your belt.

I began my second novel, Peer through Time, in June 2012. It’s a sequel to the first book so it shares the same predicament, but I’m early enough in the process that it should be salvageable. I’ve learned that it’s not unheard of for the second book in a series to be released prior to its prequel. This story is about a woman who grew up during the latter part of the 21st century and is sent back in time to the early 20th century where she must learn to live without all the technology she’s come to rely on. Meanwhile, back in her own time – the future – acquaintances of her adoptive mother are dying from what appear to be mysterious freak accidents. It’s all connected but I’m still working out the details.

In an effort to get some necessary publishing credits on my resume, I’ve taken the advice of my favorite science fiction author, Robert J. Sawyer, and started submitting short stories to magazines. The first one is titled Inauguration of the Hillbot, written during September and October 2012. It’s a near-future tale about a new mode of urban transportation that might endanger its passengers due to faulty testing procedures. It features a minor character from my novels-in-progress, who has a secret about this standalone event that takes place between books 1 and 2. I’ve submitted it to some magazines and I am currently waiting out the average response time, which is five weeks to three months. I know to expect rejection and will continue to submit to other publications.

My second short story was begun in late October 2012. Loneliness in the Late 21st Century examines whether technological advances that keep us connected to each other will evolve so much that loneliness is eradicated, becoming a notion from the past. Inspiration can come from unlikely sources: I was reading a thriller that had little to do with anything I was writing, but one sentence about someone being lonely sparked the idea. I’ve always written in the past tense and have been irked by stories written in the present tense: ‘he says’ instead of ‘he said.’ But it’s a grievance without rationale, so I’m challenging myself to write this one in the present tense. It’s working and I’m less bothered by it now.

Another short-story idea is tumbling around in my head; this one has to do with memory loss. As a society, we are already storing information in computers (or the cloud) that we formerly stored in our heads: phone numbers, for instance. As technology advances to the point where we can back up our memories, perhaps it won’t be a pill that solves Alzheimer’s disease and other types of memory loss. Maybe it will resolve itself as a by-product of the technology we’re developing for other reasons.

Then there’s my blog: the one you’re reading. An author’s blog ideally has a central theme. In my “weblog for miscellaneous thoughts,” each topic is different from the previous one. Another rule-breaker. But this is not my author blog, which doesn’t yet exist; it’s just my first attempt at an outlet for some writings that don’t have a home elsewhere. My mildly rebellious literary nature might be the very thing that prevents my initial success—-but might later prove valuable for its non-typicality. I can hope.

Many times I’ve been very close to giving up and relegating this dream to the archives along with so many other roads started but ultimately not taken: architecture; gymnastics; and computer programming, to name a few. But one of the most common pieces of author advice I’ve come across is this, or its many variations: Don’t give up. Keep going. The only way to guarantee your failure is to give up. It’s true: I guaranteed my failure in those other endeavors by not following through with them, continually dropping one interest in pursuit of another.

I take one more step into the water and my fear of drowning decreases just a little bit. The raft is waiting. Where it will take me, I have no idea. I don’t even know with certainty that I’ll reach it. Perhaps it looks sturdy but is really just a cheap, thin rectangle of plastic from the dollar store, its promises nothing more than imaginary. But I won’t know until I take several more steps; until the ground beneath me retreats and I risk sinking while envisioning the potential rewards brought forth by swimming.