A few weeks back I gave everyone a taste of my latest project, a novel which at the time was called A Notion of Aliens.  Since then, I’ve stumbled upon a title I like better, and even commissioned a cover for that new title.

I haven’t finished the BOOK, but, you know… one thing at a time.

Here’s the cover for The Spaceship Next Door.


You can read a draft of the first chapter HERE.

For a loose timeline, I plan to have the first draft finished by the end of this week.  Hopefully, the book will be ready for you by the end of November, but I can’t promise that just yet…

ImageI have a new article up at the Huffington Post this evening.  I actually sent this in on Friday, and I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure they’d take it.  The piece I’m making fun of was also a Huffington Post article, you see.  Kudos to them, then.  Unless they don’t realize I’m making fun of one of their own articles, in which case never mind.

How many novels should you write in a year? Bad Advice for Writers has your answer!

I’m not one of those writers who shares unfinished things.

I mean, with anyone.  I have no beta readers, and it may or may not distress you to learn I haven’t worked with an editor in over a year.

I don’t like showing off things that I know are going to change, by my own hand, in my personal editing process.  Right now, for instance, I have about half of a new Fixer book written, and about a fifth of a new Immortal book, and I’m not nearly happy enough with any part of these manuscripts to want someone who isn’t me looking at them.

This new book–my latest ‘work-in-progress’ or WIP if you wish to engage in writerspeak– is one of those rare occasions when I’ve written something that feels pretty close to final-draft right away.  It’s also a situation where I’m writing something that isn’t like anything I’ve written before, and that means I have to spend a little more time getting you, the reader, ready for it.  After all, I didn’t need to do anything to get you excited about a new Fixer book or a new Immortal book other than tell you they exist.

A Notion of AliensLeonid_Meteor

That’s the working title of the new novel.  Other titles I’ve considered are “The Meteor That Took a Right Turn” and “Annie’s Idea of Aliens.”  By the time I’m done with the book, I may have come up with a title I like better than any of these, but for now “A Notion of Aliens” is it.

Here’s the first chapter.


The Fault In Our Starship

The space ship landed on a cool night in August, in a field that wasn’t being used for anything in particular.

Like most remarkable things, nobody realized it was remarkable as it happened. The ship lit up the sky above Sorrow Falls when it entered the upper atmosphere, but that was only slightly unusual in the way a meteor could be slightly unusual.

Later, eyewitness accounts would describe the evening as becoming as bright as daytime in that moment, but this was a profound exaggeration. The truth was, while the object flashed brightly, one had to already be looking skyward to see it. If one were instead looking at the road, or the television, or the ceiling, the craft would have gone unnoticed as it traveled toward that field on the edge of town.

It was also nearing Midnight, on a Tuesday.

Prior to the arrival of the space ship, Sorrow Falls was a prototypical rural mill town, which was to say there was nothing unusual or spectacular about it. Most residents were either mill employees or farmers. Nearing Midnight, on a Tuesday in August, just about everybody was sleeping.

It’s possible the sonic boom woke up one or two people, but as was the case with the supposed eyewitnesses startled by the profound brightness that didn’t happen, the boom was unlikely to have awoken anyone, as the sound made by the object was more like a pop. To those who did hear it, the volume was approximately equivalent to that of a Jake braking eighteen-wheeler two blocks away.

In other words, had the space ship arrived at the surface of the earth as the meteor it initially resembled, the number of people who claimed to have seen its passage across the sky would have dwindled significantly.

It wasn’t a meteor though, and it didn’t behave like one. Not entirely.

Meteors didn’t slow down and turn. Meteors didn’t have landing lights. And in all of history there had never been a recorded instance of a meteor hovering. These exceptions to the standard trajectory of a falling object are what convinced the handful of true witnesses that this was indeed a remarkable thing.

Someone called the police. (Two hundred and seventeen people in the town claim to have made the call; nobody knows who actually did.) At the time, the Sorrow Falls local police force consisted of twenty-two officers—two of whom were on maternity leave at the time—and seven official squad cars. Three of those cars were dispatched to locate the object.

They couldn’t find it.

In fairness to those officers, they were told to locate a brightly glowing object that had landed from space, which wasn’t a particularly accurate description once the ship touched down and turned its lights off. Also, they had every reason to believe there was no such object and somebody had been drinking.

That left the job of first contact with the alien spacecraft to a man named Billy Pederson. This was entirely due to a combination of luck and an unkind work schedule, as Billy happened to be the first person to drive down the road nearest to the unused field—or if not the first person, the first one to look to his right at the correct moment—and spot the object through an opening in the trees.

He would say later he knew what was there was not of this world, but that wasn’t the truth. The truth (as he would admit in private to anyone who asked provided they didn’t work for a media outlet) was that his first thought was where did this house come from and how did it go up overnight?

The space ship did not look like a house, but Billy’s initial perception was understandable only because most rational people tend to go to “interstellar spacecraft” last, after exhausting other options.

It also wasn’t large enough to be a proper house. A pool house, perhaps, or a large shed.

It was a matte black vehicle resting on four squat legs, with a curved surface and with no apparent door. The sides were a warren of tubes and vents and dark round holes that looked either like a place for spotlights or—if you were in the midst of a nightmare and looking at this craft—eyeballs.

It was arguably saucer-like, and no doubt looked round from beneath or above, but from the side it looked like a tall, black, birthday cake, or an unusually thick and wide cap on a steam pipe.

The ship sat in a ring of blackened grass. Again, what Billy did next depended upon who was asking. To the many, many interviewers he sat with after the morning of first contact, he would say that he reached the edge of the landing ring (as it was soon called) and understood somehow that going any further would be dangerous, so he stopped and called the sheriff.

That wasn’t really true. He actually did step past the burnt grass ring, and got within about five or six feet of the ship before deciding he didn’t really feel like getting any closer.

When asked to elaborate on this, he couldn’t.

“I dunno, I just sort of lost interest,” he said. “Didn’t seem important any more.”

He did call the sheriff, though. Thus, the first confirmed sighting of an alien space ship on the planet was recorded in the police logs at 6:42 A.M., August 14th, as a case of possible trespassing.

*   *   *

The police came, and someone remembered the meteor hunt from the night before and connected it to the strange object in the field, and then more police came. Then the fire department, a couple of state police troopers, and an ambulance for some reason, and soon the tiny road—at the time it was called Tunney Way—was so overrun with vehicles nobody could get past.

Sometime around 10:00 A.M., the sheriff got his hands on a bullhorn and started asking if the occupants of the ship could please come out with your hands up. This sparked a minor debate as to the likelihood that anyone inside the space ship A: understood English, and B: had hands. The debate and the question were both moot, though, as nobody inside the craft responded in any obvious way. It didn’t open, or make a noise, or flash a light, or react in any real sense.

Another debate ensued regarding the legitimate alien-ness of the ship and the potential that this was only an elaborate hoax. The fire chief pointed out that the craft could easily be something constructed out of cardboard and foam, and surely if that were the case it would be light enough to be moved to the field in one evening, perhaps specifically on an evening when a meteor had also been spotted. The report could have even been a part of the hoax: perhaps there was no meteor either.

This theory gained enough traction that by 11:30, the sheriff had decided to postpone the call he’d been planning to make to the National Guard and just walk up to the ship and see what was what.

He and two of his deputies did just that, retracing the same steps Billy had taken and getting just about as far, until all three of them decided this was actually a bad idea—suffering, some said, from a sudden and inexplicable lack of fortitude—and they should try something else.

They stepped back. And when it was pointed out that by not getting any closer they had failed to resolve the question of whether or not the object was a large prank, the sheriff took out his gun, dropped to a knee, and fired two rounds at the center of the ship.

A spectacular thing—the first real spectacular thing—happened.

The bullets ceased to exist. They reached a certain point in the air beyond the skin of the ship’s hull, flashed brightly, and then were gone, much like a mosquito in a bug zapper. Their disappearance was accompanied by a deep THUD, like a thousand pianos hitting a low C at the same time. It wasn’t so much heard as felt, deep in the belly near the umbilical.

It was enough to convince the sheriff not to fire a third round.

He got to his feet and turned to the nearest deputy.

“Somebody get me the President,” he said.

Of all the embellishments surrounding the events of the morning of first contact, one thing remained true: he actually did say that.

*   *   *

Calling the President of the United States was not something the sheriff’s department of a small Massachusetts mill town could just do, it turned out. There were steps to take, and jurisdictions to consider, and people to convince.

Convincing people was a big hurdle. It didn’t much matter how sane and level-headed any one person in this chain of reportage was, the person on the other end of each link was going to begin with, no really, why are you calling? and there wasn’t much anyone could do about that.

Compounding the problem was that as far as anybody was concerned, alien space ships didn’t simply land at the edge of little towns in the Connecticut River valley, and if they did, they didn’t land only there. Admittedly, that opinion was colored by Hollywood movies and science fiction books, but those stories were further informed by actual military history and tactics. If the ship was the vanguard of an invasion, it was in the wrong place. If it was part of a fleet, there would have been other ships. If it was lost, it would have moved, or asked for directions. If it was disabled—it didn’t look disabled, but how would anybody know?—somebody would have asked for help or a wrench. Or something.

In other words, once past the whole space ship thing, the hardest part about getting the right people to believe that this remarkable event had happened in Sorrow Falls was that the space ship hadn’t done anything.

It just sat there. Sure, it could make bullets disappear, but someone had to shoot the gun. That wasn’t so much a thing it did, as it was a thing it did in response to someone else doing a thing. It was not in any real sense—after landing—a proactive space ship.

Still, the President was eventually notified. It happened about two weeks after the ship landed and approximately six hours before the media was to go live with the story. By the time of the media announcement, the army had already cordoned off the field and taken over about a third of the town. (In fairness, this was not a lot of space in terms of pure acreage, and the actual land was fallow farmland, and the army was, on the whole, extremely polite about the entire thing.)

That evening, the President held a press conference confirming that our planet had been visited by aliens, and Sorrow Falls became the most talked about place in the world.

That was three years ago.


ImageHi everyone!  I have a new article up at the Huffington Post:

The Self Published Authors Standing On Your Lawn

Self-published authors, we are led to believe, are scheming “writers” who aren’t good enough to land an agent or a publisher, have no interest in improving the craft–and show no respect for that craft–eschew editing they are badly in need of, and, in short, don’t deserve to be published, period.

In contrast, traditional big market publishers are producers of high quality curated works that have been thoroughly edited and expertly marketed, and are in every sense superior for it.

There are a lot of problems with both of these concepts, and we’ll be touching on them, but first I want to point out that these two aren’t even remotely like one another.

You can read the entire article here.

GeneDoucette_Eve1400The latest book in the Immortal universe is available now!

Did you want to know more about the mysterious red-haired woman?  I did too!  That’s why Immortal Stories: Eve now exists.  Pick up a copy, post a review, let me know what you think!

Buy it here

GeneDoucette_Eve1400First things first: I just finalized the last draft of Immortal Stories: Eve, more or less on schedule.  It’s done and submitted and I love it and you’ll forgive me if I don’t want to look at it again for a long time, because that’s how self-editing works.

You can pre-order it from Amazon by following the link above, and expect it to be delivered in all its glory on July 14th.

In a day or two–because I just submitted that final draft–Amazon should enable the ‘look inside’ functionality, so you can check out the first few pages ahead of time, if you’re so inclined.

Now, let’s talk about availability.

Actually, let me back up.  A lot has happened.

Kindle Select

You are probably not a self-publishing author, so it’s likely this information is either not important or not interesting, except that it involves a lot people saying bad things loudly about Amazon, which may interest you and might be something you’ve caught snippets of already.

First, I’d like to discuss my business plan up to this point, as it pertained to my self-published series The Immortal Chronicles:

  1. Publish book exclusively in Kindle Select for the first 90 days
  2. Release book ‘wide’ at the end of that 90 days

To you, the not-a-self-publishing-author, this may raise questions, such as: Why exclusively?  Or perhaps, What on Earth is Kindle Select?Kindle-icon

Amazon offers a subscription service called Kindle Unlimited, which is $9.99 a month to borrow as many books as you want. (It’s up to ten books at once before a user has to return one to borrow another, but they can do this as often as they feel like it.)  However, the only books available to users of this service are the books that are in Kindle Select.

What books are in Kindle Select?  Mostly, books by authors who have agreed to put their books there.

There are benefits to doing so, which I’ll get to in a second.  First, understand that in order to get one’s books in Kindle Select, one has to agree not to sell them anywhere else while the book is enrolled.  The minimum enrollment period is 90 days.

Why would anyone do that?

Here’s where things start to get complicated.

Amazon pays the author for each borrow a book receives, provided the renter reads at least 10% of the book.  The amount they pay has varied from month to month. (Payout is based on money earned from the total number of subscribers in Kindle Unlimited in a month, plus whatever additional money Amazon feels like throwing into the pot, divided by the total number of books borrowed.  It is, in other words, a number arrived at by arbitrary manipulation of already self-reported sales numbers.  The number is whatever Amazon wants it to be.)  The figure per-book has come in around $1.35.

All of my books in The Immortal Chronicles are priced at $2.99.  A sale nets between 60%-70% domestically, depending on the vendor, so, about $2.00 a pop.  The difference between this and the borrow payout is not huge, so these numbers make sense to me, especially when considering these points:

  1. A borrow is not necessarily a lost sale
  2. a reader who finds one of my books via Kindle Unlimited may be someone who would never have discovered my work otherwise
  3. that reader may like what he/she has read enough to go find my other books, which are not in Select, and have to be purchased

images-3Add all that up and the fact that I can see the borrows for my books start to peter out after 90 days, and the whole plan makes decent sense.  By day 91, I’m making sales on other vendor sites that earn more than what I was getting from borrows at the tail end of the book’s time in Select.  (For the record, my best non-Amazon sales are from, in order: Nook, iBooks, Smashwords, Kobo, Google Books.  If you’re alarmed that Smashwords outsells Kobo and Google, so am I.)

I was not planning on releasing Eve by following the above plan.  Eve is longer than the Chronicle stories and is priced at $3.99, so that gap between per-borrow and per-sale is more daunting.  Also, I’m trying to encourage those other vendors to sell my books a little bit more aggressively, and releasing wide from day one is a way to do that.

But then Amazon went and changed everything.

The madness of crowds

You may have heard about this.

GeneDoucette_RegencyImmortal1400Amazon recently announced a change in the way they pay contributors to Kindle Select.  Whereas before–as described above–an amount was arrived at based on blah-blah-Amazon-Math divided by books borrowed and read up to 10%, they were going to pay based on pages read, full stop.

in other words, take that big pool of money Amazon invents using some sort of internal back-of-the-napkin arithmetic, then divide it by the number of pages read, total, for the month, by Kindle Unlimited subscribers.  If that number is, say, two cents a page, pay each author by # of pages read in their books X $0.02.

This has, predictably, caused the entire industry to lose its goddamn mind.

Part of the problem is nobody knows what the per-page payout is going to be until Amazon provides the figure for the first month (July) which will be around August 15th.  This means a lot of people have a lot of time to bounce around incredibly low-sounding numbers like less-than-a-penny-per-page.  Amazon did not help matters at all when they gave an example in their announcement that was $0.10 a page, which is simply way too high to be believable.

Part of the problem is a whole lot of people hate Amazon and/or don’t understand the difference between Kindle Direct Publishing (a service all self-published authors have to use to release books through Amazon) and Kindle Select (an entirely voluntary program).  This led to a number of hysterical articles declaring that Amazon is paying ALL authors by the page.  This one is my personal favorite.

In my mind, the biggest problem is that nobody knows what their read-through actually is.  I would like to think the people who have picked up my books have finished them, but I don’t actually know this.  In Select, all I know is if they’ve read up to 10%.  Outside of Select, I can only speak to the rate of returns (if a book is bought but returned unread) which is low enough–one or two a month–to be ignored.

Reader engagement

The new Amazon approach is rewarding authors who engage readers, and I like to think I’m one of those authors.

Assuming that:

  • people read my books all the way through
  • the per-page payout is at least $0.02*
  • the readers in Kindle Unlimited are (again) not people who would otherwise purchase the book outright

…I should make out nicely.

Those are a lot of assumptions.  But here’s one more point:

  • the new Amazon payment plan is really, really interesting and I really want to see how it will play out

I can’t resist following my curiosity and seeing what happens.

So I owe some of you readers an apology, because a little while ago I said I would be releasing Immortal Stories: Eve wide on July 14th.  I’m going to back away from that promise to give this new Kindle Select a try.  The book will still be released wide after ninety days, but at first it will be exclusive to Amazon, just as the Chronicle books that came before.

I’ll let you all know how it goes.

*   *   *

*UPDATE: Since the day this column went live, Amazon has supplied more information.  Two bits are of particular interest.

  1. Using the June KDP pool provided by Amazon and the total pages read in June also supplied by Amazon, intrepid persons with calculators have come up with a figure of $0.0057 per page.  This is considerably less than the $0.02 I hoped for above.
  2. July 1 also dawned, which was day one of the new program, and the first day anyone had a chance to see what Amazon considered a ‘page’.  Generally speaking, the Kindle Edition Normal Pages calculation is worked based very short pages.  It also appears to favor books with chapter breaks.

My hope for two cents per page was based on an understanding of a page count about three times smaller than the page count Amazon is using.  I don’t know what their page count for Eve is going to be right now–I may not know until it goes live, which is really annoying–but I’m still more interested in staying in and seeing what happens than I am in watching from the outside.

The newest Immortal book, Eve, is now available on Amazon for pre-ordering!GeneDoucette_Eve1400

Place your order here!

Immortal Stories

You will note the full title of the new book is Immortal Stories: Eve.  The title is there to distinguish this story from The Immortal Chronicles, which–like the full length novels–rely upon Adam as narrator.  Eve is a little different because the story isn’t in first-person narration (it’s in what I would call close third).  The story is also longer than any of the Chronicles, which is why it’s priced a little higher.

You will also see this identified as “book one” because I’m optimistic that I may want to write another book about another character in this universe sometime, without bothering Adam to narrate it.  If you have any characters you’d like to see a story about someday, let me know.

Eve will be available on July 14th, and it will be published wide, so expect it to appear for pre-order on other sites in the coming weeks.


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