Latest Novel—In the Can!

RosesI’ve finally put my latest novel, The Rose Garden Atena Incident to bed. It took two recent and very long redrafts (one for content, the other for style), but I think it was well worth it. Yet another long book, Rose Garden clocks in at 180,000 words. That’s a lot of words. But there was a lot of story to tell.

The book has no fewer than thirteen point of view characters, and all of their plotlines bounce and bang off one another like that silver sphere and the pinball bumpers. When I first wrote the book twelve years ago, everyone I let read it, hated it.

But I knew the idea was right. I had just executed it wrong.

So, back then, I rewrote it completely from scratch, the new word count topping out at 140,000.

A while ago, I let my agent read it and she suggested it might be a good book from my back catalog of unpublished novels (of which, I have many) to run with next. She also gave me a stack of notes.

They were pretty awesome notes. Those sort of “smack yourself on the head how could I have been so dumb as to not see that” kind of notes.

So I made another run through it and brought the word count to 170,000. Another 10,000 came out in the polish draft when I realized I had completely forgotten to close two character arcs. This is why you want to avoid writing books with thirteen POV characters 🙂

Several people have now read it and everyone thinks it’s my best work to date. What do I think? I have no clue—I’m still way too close to it to be at all objective.

I’m hopin’, though.

For the time being, I am now going to spend a few months honing my craft while writing some short stories. Doing lots of reading about writing, and lots of breaking down of stories I like by authors I love.

Hopefully it will make me better.

After that? Another novel. No idea yet, what, though. Only one thing I know for sure: whatever it is, it will come on well under 100,000 words.

 

Michael out.

VIP Section Added!

backstagepassI’ve finally added the VIP section into the site. Basically, it’s a section that has no links pointing to it, so the only way to get there is to know the URL. And the only way to know the URL, is to sign up for my Super Sonic, All Kinds of Awesome VIP List. It’s pretty easy to do. There’s a green box to the right at the top of every page. I’m sure you’ve seen it. It’s got a big ol’ arrow pointing to a box where you just type in your email and hit the “Subscribe” button. That’s all I want. I don’t need your name, or your children’s names, or how many dogs and cats you have or any visa or mastercard numbers, just your email. Oh, and you can unsubscribe anytime.

There’s already some pretty cool perks available and more will be coming soon. For the most part, everything’s free, but VIP members will also be eligible for certain deals and prices down the road.

And don’t worry, I’m not going to spam you or anything. I have barely enough time to read my own email, never mind trying to come up with stuff to pummel you with. I would be surprised if this results in more than one email going out a month. Currently, I believe it also sends out an email when I write a blog post. As most of you know, that will amount to about four emails a decade. But, on the off chance I happen to actually put my plan to work and write more blog posts it could get annoying. Please tell me if it does and I’ll stop sending those out. Don’t just take yourself off the VIP list. It’s going to be cool. Give it a chance. 🙂

At any rate, I would love feedback on this and, by all means, tell me the kinds of things you’d like to see.

Thankee-sai,

Michael out.

Zeitgeist

Roses

Well, it’s been a while since I posted. I know, I’ve probably lost even the few followers of this blog I have. I really need to rethink my social media strategy. Problem is, even something like that takes time, and I have been super busy actually writing.What have I been writing? Well, the latest news is that I rewrote a novel I originally drafted probably six years ago called The Rose Garden Arena Incident. It was good then, it’s great now. I have completely rewritten this book from scratch now three times. The first time it came out at 95,000 words. The second time, 140,000 (my biggest to date at that point). This time around, I just third drafted to 177,000 words, making it currently the second longest novel I’ve ever written.

My agent, along with a few other people who’ve read the now finished book, say it’s far and away my best work to date. I think so, too.

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So what’s the biggest book I’ve written to date? Well, coincidentally, that leads right into the next little factotum. My latest Alvin book, Sticks and Stones will be coming out at the end of June. That book third drafted to 185,000 words and then, after my editor found fourteen superfulous pages, wound up at 181,000 words. I am excited about this release–of all the Alvin books, this one’s the most “grown up.” Leah and Dan’s relationship, Abe and Dewey, Caroline and Jonathon–everyone’s grown and I think I’m finally really nailing my stride with these novels. I’ve figured out “what they are,” and what I want them to be.

I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

Cover shot of the mass market paperback edition of Dream with Little Angels

On other fronts, the first book of my Alvin series, Dream with Little Angels is being released in Mass Market Paperback at the end of April. This is a good chance for anyone who hasn’t started the series to jump in. Also, for the month of April, the ebook version of the second title in the series, Close to the Broken Hearted goes on sale for $2.99.

That’s about it for now. I will post again, soon. Promise.

Journeys under the Moon cover

I will have upcoming information about a reboot of my writing book Shadows under the Moon: Writing the Hero’s Quest that will hopefully be flanked with a series of webinars. The ebook version will be much better this time around and I will make sure all of you who purchased it the first time around get updates for free. More on all that in the coming weeks.

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Oh, yeah, almost forgot. I think I’ve mentioned on here before about my upcoming new short story collections, Unbroken Horses and Sneakers. I had originally hoped those would be released this spring but, alas, it looks like they’re going to be pushed back a year. I will be releasing those and also rereleasing my current collection, Sometimes the Angels Weep with new and updated content, probably staggering them a month or two apart. They will be available as trade paperbacks and ebooks. Like SHADOWS, I’ll have more information about these in the coming months. Right now, they are being copyedited by the incomparable Teri McKee.

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And I do plan to blog more. Maybe as I put together the SHADOWS reboot I can talk about the individual topics while I rewrite. My philosophy toward writing has changed somewhat since I first wrote that book and there are some outright errors in it. There will be lots of additions and lots of little changes. And the ebook will be much closer to the print version this time around. The ebook was terrible with the first printing. Again, everyone who bought it will get the new version for free (providing they have that option turned on in their Amazon Device Settings).

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After all of that, there’s the question of where do we go from here? Well, I am right now fleshing out the idea for the next Alvin book which I will be proposing to Kensington as soon as I have my head around the whole story, and I also have plans for a new one shot. Hopefully something a little shorter than 180,000 words. These big books are killer. Every draft is like a marathon. The good part? Going back to 100,000 words should be a breeze.

Happy end of February.

Michael Out.

Dream with Little Angels MMP

Cover shot of the mass market paperback edition of Dream with Little Angels

In May 2016, Kensington will be releasing the mass market paperback edition of Dream with Little Angels. That’s a month before the fourth book, Sticks and Stones will hit bookstore shelves. At the back of the Dream paperback, one will find the first three chapters of Sticks.

Exciting stuff!

For anyone who hasn’t yet read Dream or seen the book, here’s the backside copy:

“Michael Hiebert’s aremarkable debut novel tells the riveting story of a small southern town haunted by tragedy, one brave woman’s struggle to put a troubling mystery to rest—and its impact on the sensitive boy who comes of age in the midst of it all…

You can find the rest of the plot summary all over this site 🙂 Just go hunting and I’m sure you’ll stumble over it. The links on the right are a good place to start 🙂

Michael out.

Sticks & Stones – The Draft that Never Ends

sticks_and_stones (Small)

Some of you know about this. Others may not.

For the past year, I have been working on the fourth Alvin, Alabama book, called STICKS AND STONES. in a way, it kind of resembles A THORN AMONG THE LILIES a bit. It’s about a serial killer called The Stickman who was active fifteen years before the story opens—before detective Leah Teal was ever even a part of the Alvin Police force.

Here’s a quick little synopsis:

The case was headed up by Leah’s daddy, Joe Fowler, the then detective of the Alvin Police. Fowler became the public face of the entire Stickman taskforce and, as he did with all his cases, he took this one personally. After some time, it even got more personal as The Stickman kicked things up a notch.

The MO was strange but very consistent.

The nine victims whose lives were taken by The Stickman showed no pattern. Black and white, male and female, they were all between the ages of twenty-three and forty-five. Their bodies, all found around Alvin between the years of 1973 and 1974, were always “presented” to the police a peculiar way. They were hogtied backwards, so their chest and abdomen stuck out rather gruesomely and their ankles and wrists were all bound together behind them. Each one was shirtless when discovered. At the scene, the victim was found with a wooden stake driven through his or her chest into the ground, or tree root, or whatever worked. At the end of the stake was attached a piece of paper, and on that paper was a drawing of a stickman in black, felt marker. In the cases where the victims were women, the stickman had one line of hair on its head, ending at her ears with little tips, and two circles drawn on the chest, denoting breasts.

But the stake wasn’t what killed them.

Each victim disappeared anywhere from a handful of days to hours before their bodies turned up. During that time forensics speculated they were kept bound and shirtless until The Stickman killed them with a .38 Special round to the back of their skull. So the shot was what took their lives, not the stake. The victims were dead before ever getting to the place their bodies turned up.

Fowler didn’t find evidence against Stork until after victim nine&$8212;a year and a half after the first victim was found. When Fowler had enough for a warrant, police kicked his house. Stork wasn’t there, but they did find the murder weapon verified by forensics from the two slugs the medical examiner happened to find lodged in the skulls of two victims.

After his house was raided Stork went into hiding.

A month later, based on an anonymous tip, police were led to an abandoned shotgun shack where Harry Stork was holed up. He doesn’t give up and the situation evolves into a Mexican standoff: Stork against Fowler. Stork wouldn’t drop his gun, so Fowler did the only thing he could do. He shot Stork. This particular shot sparked some controversy.

Claiming he was aiming for the man’s gun arm, Fowler said he must’ve overcompensated slightly. Because, instead of hitting Stork’s arm, Fowler shot a round right into his heart, killing Harry Stork instantly. They’d only been thirty feet apart when it happened.

Some people talked about Joe Fowler being a pretty damn good shot and wondered where his intentions really were. But, The Stickman killings came to an end, so nobody took the issue any further. Joe Fowler became a hero. Newspapers all around the state had him on their covers. He was The Man Who Saved Alvin.

Except, Fowler never let the case go. Something about it never gave him closure. Even after leaving the force a few years later to spend his remaining days at home with his family, that Stickman case wouldn’t leave him alone.

He died of cancer eventually, but not before putting his daughter Leah on the Alvin Police force.

The story opens fifteen years later and Leah Teal’s pa has been in the ground for ten of them. She is still detective of Alvin and a disturbing thing happens.

After all these years a new body turns up on the bank of Leeland Swamp in northwestern Alvin. But it’s not just that there’s a dead body in her town that concerns Leah. It’s the way that body looks when police find her.

Shirtless, and backwardly hogtied, Abilene Williams is found staked to the moor on the edge of that swamp, and on that stake was attached a picture of a female Stickman. Cause of death is determined to be a nine millimeter round to the back of the head before being brought to the swamp. The MO matches the original Stickman killings perfectly. Only thing different is the gun, but of course the original gun’s still in evidence.

It all sends chills through Leah just thinking about it. She’d already lived the original Stickman murders vicariously through her pa fifteen years ago for the whole year and a half it took him to solve it.

Now it’s Leah’s turn to tackle the Stickman. Except it can’t be the real Stickman. Her pa shot that one. He’s dead and the dead don’t come back.

Or do they?

The Stickman case was her pa’s legacy. Some consider it the high point in his long career as a cop. Could it be that way back then somehow he’d shot the wrong guy? Leah doesn’t even consider that idea. She wouldn’t be able to deal with finding out her pa had been wrong.

So it’s up to Leah to uncover the truth and hopefully manage to do so before this new Stickman takes any more lives. Only trouble is, finding the truth may involve her destroying the legacy of a man she respected more than any other she’s ever known in this world.

This book has been an arduous struggle for me (but a work of love, of course). It is twice as thick as all the other books have been. They’ve all fallen between 85,000 and 100,000 words. As of yesterday, STICKS crossed the 180,000 word mark. It’s sitting at 715 manuscript pages and I still have an entire scene to finish before I complete my third draft. And I have cut a lot. I don’t think there’s much left that can be taken out, so hopefully everyone likes long books. When I hit 115,000 words I asked my editor if I should be concerned. His response: “Go as big as you want.” I don’t think he expected this. I don’t think I expected this.

I wish I could explain why it’s so big. It’s got a huge, complex plot that really has some nice payoffs in the end. Many dramatic questions are raised in the book that, once things start getting figured out, they all fall into place like dominoes during the resolution. Until then, the questions all seem to contradict each other.

I’ve got eight percent more of the book to get through before draft three is done. Draft four will be my polish draft. I’ve never been this much up against a deadline. It’s scary.

I think it’s a solid book and quite possibly not just the best Alvin book to date, but the best novel I’ve ever written. There’s some surprising twists, and one that I don’t think anybody will see coming.

Anyway, that’s the end of my status update.

One more, sort of unrelated thing. Most of you have heard me go on about Story Bibles and how indespensible they are, especially when writing a series. My bible contains all sorts of character information and details, places in my mythological town of Alvin, along with their addresses, multiple maps of the town, demographics, literally anything I make up for one of the books has to be recorded so I stay consistent if I reference it in future books. So far, every knew book has added to my town because I needed new places for things to happen, and my population keeps growing.

Anyway, until now, I’d used a very cave-man way of storing this info. It’s written across multiple documents in a folder on my computer called Alvin Bible and I print them all out and have them in a binder that is near to bursting. Because I can’t quickly search or cross-reference anything, using it is cumbersome.

So, to revamp my technology, I have begun setting up AlvinWiki, a wiki that will have everything it that currently resides in my Bible. Well, here’s some good news if you’re a fan of my books. I’m going to make this wiki publicly accessible from my website so anyone can look at the information. In fact, I will appreciate it if astute readers happen to pick up on details facts or anything I may have missed while going through the books. Also, it would look nice if I had something to place as a picture for the major characters (who will all have their own page). So if any of you fans are artsy at all, pop me an email and maybe you can provide some art for it.

Because I’m still actively third drafting it will be a while before the wiki contains enough info to bother with putting it live. Oh, and another thing it will contain will be multiple maps of the town that allow you to zoom in for a more detailed view. Not quite like Google maps, but I’ll see what I can do.

That about wraps it up for this post. Nice to be back in the saddle. Feel like I haven’t blogged for years.

Michael Out.