I’ve had a tumultuous year as a teacher of behaviorally challenged high schoolers. (“A story for which,” as Holmes said of The Giant Rat of Sumatra, “the world is not yet prepared.”)

Giant Rat of Sumatra

I did manage in the past 14 months to write two novels in first draft, about 150,000 words in all—but they're not yet prepared for the world. And they’re in wildly different genres. (Oh, I was betwixt and between.) I just reread them both. One’s in my cozy abode of sci-fi-cum-technothrillers. It’s a a sequel to The Eldridge Conspiracy, with a complex plot, familiar characters grown older and villains recast. The other novel’s edgy and drawn from life. It’ll be the one I finish first, hopefully this summer, a completion inspired by Amazon.

As I was writing and teaching, I watched my ebook sales decline in tandem with the spread of Amazon’s Kindle Select (KDP Select) program, even as some of my book reviews vanished. After a while, the decline became as predictable as the spread of the Black Death: first the US sales headed down as KPS tightened its grip on the Homeland, then UK sales followed the same path, Kindle Select creeping like a miasma across the Pond and into the Old Country. Sales leveled out when my monthly


royalties sank from enough for a wagonload of decent cognac to somewhat less. (Amazon prefers its authors discuss their royalties in terms of cognac.)

Hennessy Barrelsminature cognac bottle

Some writers have done well with KDP Select. (Cheers!) I did too, until the law of diminishing returns kicked in after multiple free giveaways. (#piggy) It became obvious that eating your seed corn isn’t viable over the long term—unless you’ve many sacks of seed corn in the form of a big back list. And are always writing—and quickly, too. I’ve only a modest back list, and as for always writing—been there, done that. No more: life is short, death is long. (Cat’s in the cradle.) Not a total autotelic, I’d someday like my barrels back, please, refilled with that vanished amber gold.

For now, though, as Nero Wolf would say, “Pfui.” No longer feeling pressed to finish that sequel, I’m spending the summer writing in the realm of contemporary fiction. I’ll later come home to speculative fiction. I’m merely on sabbatical, and strangely grateful to Amazon for making it possible.