Posts Tagged thriller
Since I love teaching and lecturing, I think it is fitting that the first review of my novel Counting from Zero should come from the Science Editor at Washington University where I teach. My favorite part of the review is this quote:
My first experience of teaching was as a grad student at Lehigh University. I was a teaching assistant or TA throughout the four years I worked on my PhD. I didn’t actually teach classes, but I ran tutorials and labs. I enjoyed it a lot and found I was kind of good at it. I used to enjoy the student reviews at the end of each semester. My favorite comment from one student was: “Alan is a chill guy.”
Later in my career, I got involved with Voice over IP or VoIP and Session Initiation Protocol or SIP. As this was a new technology, I needed to help train other engineers at my company. I started running sessions for 25, 50, and even 100 engineers at a time, teaching SIP. My books on SIP came out of this experience.
About this same time, I contacted Washington University in St. Louis and asked if they wanted to hear the latest about SIP and VoIP. I met Professor Paul Min who was in charge of running seminars for the Electrical Engineering Department. Soon, I gave the seminar and started meeting the staff. I did some teaching for other professors when they were out of town. Next thing I knew, they asked if I wanted to teach an evening class the next fall. I said yes!
That was 10 years ago. I have taught a variety of classes but found my home in the Joint Engineering Program with UMSL, the University of Missouri St. Louis. I particularly enjoy teaching in this program because most students have jobs and practical experience. One highlight was developing and teaching a class in Internet Communications. My text book: one of my SIP books!
My teaching style is fairly traditional – I like writing on the blackboard. I’ve also experimented with newer technologies such as Google Wave. My least favorite part is marking HW and assigning grades.
So thank you to Washington University and UMSL, my colleagues and students. Perhaps one day I can teach an Internet security class and use Counting from Zero as the textbook – that would be fun!
First, I needed feedback from readers, so I enlisted various friends and family, some in the publishing industry, some not. My brother Chris was an early reviewer and gave me good feedback on the part on the water. (I’m being deliberately vague for to-be readers who haven’t yet read the book!) I made quite a few tweaks and changes, and fixed seemingly a million typos and nits. I probably went through four major drafts over a period of about eight months. Fortunately, I had my IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) standards writing experience behind me, which had taught me how many revisions are sometimes needed before something is ready for publication. I often describe IETF standards work as the ultimate peer reviewed documents. For example, one of the documents I co-authored underwent 21 revisions over 9 years before it was finalized and published as an RFC document! (Here is only the latter part of the journey!)
Once I felt I had the manuscript ready, I had it copyedited and proofread. I then wrote a one page ‘query letter’ to literary agents and began sending it all over. I was shocked at how many agents will not accept a query from email! They actually require you to kill a tree, pay money to the postal service, and have it delivered as snail mail – just so they can read it on a piece of paper! I didn’t query any of those agents – if they are so last century in their business methods, would they even appreciate my high tech thriller? Not likely! I probably sent out about 120 queries in total. I ended up getting about a dozen requests for a partial or full manuscript. Then I waited… and waited… and waited.
Then the whole Wikileaks Internet wars started. I knew something amazing was happening when I saw a USA Today headline that mentioned botnets! The timing was right, and I could not wait forever (or more than 8 weeks) for someone to skim a manuscript. I did eventually talk to one helpful agent that was interested, but she warned me that it would be about 6 months before she could get to work on it, and then it would likely take 12 months to land a publisher, and then it would likely be 12-18 months of publisher rewrites, edits, and process delays before it would be published! And I thought the 6-8 month times I have had with my technical book publishers, Artech House and Wiley, was a long time! For technology topics, these timelines are outrageously long!
So, I decided to take the plunge and self-publish. It was not as difficult as it might seem, although writing the promotional material was really, really hard. I had some help from friends in the industry, but that was definitely the hardest part. I used an app from Amazon called ‘kindlegen’ which worked pretty well to product a .mobi file from a .html source file. I was also pleased to be given the opportunity to sell my work the Amazon Kindle store without any DRM (Digital Rights Management), but that is a topic for another day…
I used the excellent online tools at Smashwords (great name!) to generate the other eBook formats, and I was quite happy with the results there, although there are a few font issues that I wasn’t able to fully resolve in all formats. The community at Smashwords seems really great as well, and I look forward to getting involved there.
For me, the two best things about self publishing are that I kept creative control of the book (there isn’t anything in there I didn’t want) and that I published on my timeline, not anyone else’s.
So right now I am quite happy with the experience, and getting feedback from friends, family, and people I don’t know about my book is just the best! Next time I’ll share some thoughts about my experiences using social media to promote self-published eBooks.
I started writing Counting from Zero about a year ago on a high speed train heading out of Tokyo – sound familiar?
The book was really born much earlier. I had previously written four technical books and enjoyed the experience greatly. But the subject matter, Session Initiation Protocol or SIP, was extremely narrow and technical, and so not of interest to very many people. I had been thinking for a while about writing a book for a wider audience, and I was thinking along the lines of Internet security. Then I got the idea of trying to incorporate some useful technical information into a work of fiction.
I had written various pieces of fiction over the years, but just for my family and friends. (There are a few Star Trek fanfic stories out there that hopefully will never find their way to the Internet!) Instead of thinking about the plot, I first thought about the characters. This was a lot of fun! Once I felt like I knew Mick, Kat, Lars, Gunter, and Liz, I started getting ideas about situations I wanted to put them in, and the plot began to take shape. I re-read some of my favorite authors such as Jane Austen, Neal Stephenson, and Mark Twain for inspiration. At the suggestion of my best friend from high school, Steve George, I added the Security and Other Lies blog chapter interludes. The book slowly took shape.
I wrote most of the book while traveling: on airplanes, in hotel rooms, in airports, and on trains. I have spent time in nearly every setting of the book.
Then, I reached that place of decision: what to do with the Counting from Zero manuscript once I had a draft complete. Next time I’ll talk about how I became an eBook publisher.