Got to work on my WIP today - finished another chapter and added 1k words (in Ulysses!)

Felt great to make some real progress. 📝

I was honored to return to @ErasablePodcast to discuss my book, THE LIBRARY AT THE CENTER OF THE EARTH, and my writing process across various analog and digital mediums. Listen here: www.erasable.us/episode/1…

📝🎙

The Scrivener Problem

Today, there are all manner of word processing applications and hardware solutions to help you write a book. iA Writer, Ulysses, Google Docs (I won't link to it because it's trash), Microsoft Word (also trash, but not as bad as Google Docs), and portable writing machines like the Freewrite Traveler , as well as the Alphasmart from the bygone era of the 1990s (a device that has made a surprising comeback amongst writers today).

But above them all sits Scrivener from Literature & Latte.

I love Scrivener. I've used it for every single novel I've written. I don't think I'd have ever been able to finish a book without it. Among its many features, Scrivener allows you to:

  • Collect websites and other research
  • Create character and setting sheets
  • Move scenes around by drag-and-drop
  • Take snapshots of chapters before you edit them
  • and export to ePub and Kindle formats for easy self-publishing.

Seriously, it does it all, but by today's standards, that's not enough.

Scrivener's last major update came back in October of 2021. Since then, a number of competitors have either hit the market, or improved their offerings. They don't share 1-to-1 feature parity with Scrivener, but they don't have to.

Most fiction writers, I'd argue, want to be able to do three things above all else:

  1. Move their scenes/chapters around individually
  2. Export to a variety of different formats (.doc, .mobi, .epub, etc)
  3. Be able to sync their data between devices easily

It's that last one where Scrivener really shows its age. For one, the only cloud storage solution it works with is Dropbox. You can't sync over iCloud. Also, the file it stores its data in for each book is a bundle of other files, similar to a Final Cut Pro project. It's not a folder of Markdown files like iA Writer uses, which means if you want to work on your book away from your computer, you need to have Scrivener on your iPhone and/or your iPad.

Which brings us back to the sync problem. Syncing between the mobile versions of Scrivener and their desktop counterpart is rough. It tends to be a manual process, with sync needing to be initialized on one device before the changes appear on the other. Conflicts between the files occur often as well, and there have been numerous occasions in which I've had to delete older versions of a chapter, or rack my brain trying to remember which iteration is the newer one. Sync is not an automatic process the way it is with other apps and that's opens me up to troubles later on.

It means I can't trust the work I do on my phone or iPad to carry over to my Mac. And it means I live in constant fear of my files getting corrupted due to a bad sync, which has happened on occasion.

I do much of my professional and recreational writing in iA Writer, which works off of a folder of Markdown files. I can open that folder in an any other app, like Obsidian, and know that my words will look exactly how they're supposed to. There's no updating my file to work with the latest version of an app the way I have to do with Scrivener, nor do I have to wonder if the ink I spilled on my Mac will be on my iPad. I just know it will.

I don't want to tell Literature & Latte how to make its apps. Scrivener, despite its flaws, is still a powerhouse of an application. But it's also a dinosaur, limping along as the rest of the industry evolves and improves. At some point, it won't be enough for its app to be the "kitchen sink" that does it all.

Some people just want a cubby that holds a few special items they need regularly.

I want to see Scrivener get better, leaner, maybe shed some of the cruft that keeps Word-native writers from jumping over to the other side. But until it does, I'm going to start looking around at alternatives.

A book isn't the app it's written in and I've done this enough times to know I can knock a first draft out with nothing more than a handful of napkins and a dull pencil. Matt Gemmell wrote an informative blog post on how he uses Ulysses to write his novels and I think I'll explore that as an option, since I have the app on all my iOS devices.

It's scary to change a process that has been a part of my life for 12+ years. I've written six novels in Scrivener with a seventh on the way, but times are changing. Scrivener is like the town I grew up in: safe, well-known, the place where I feel most comfortable.

But there's a whole wide world with so much to offer and I think it's time for me to see what's waiting out there for me to discover.

My Current Workflow is in Flux

After going through OmniFocus, Notion, Todoist, and literally every other goddamn to-do app in existence, maybe all I really needed was just a list. A barebones list.

And on top of that, I’m trying to pare down my app usage to just what I need with a focus on cross-device compatibility. So, here’s the current rundown:

iA Writer: for Grim & Mild scripts, short stories, and posts to The Study

Scrivener: for novel writing

Drafts: for everyday notes

Craft: My one-stop-shop for everything from novel outlines, to story archives for Cabinet of Curiosities, and now my to-do lists. The Daily Note feature is exactly what I needed to keep track of my tasks each day.

MarsEdit: for posting to micro.blog

I would love to consolidate some of my workflow into one of these. For example, doing all my blogging in either MarsEdit or iA Writer, but unfortunately MarsEdit doesn’t post to Ghost blogs (yet). I hope that changes in the future.

iA Writer does post to micro.blog, but for some reason I never think of it as the place to go when I want to write a quick update. I’ll try to shift things around so I build that muscle memory going forward.

Also, I might be able to eliminate Drafts and rely on Craft’s daily note feature for quick jots. So there are two apps down from my list of five already.

Calendaring is handled by Fantastical and email is handled by Spark. The only Balkanized part of my current setup is messaging. Texts go through Apple Messages while I also use Slack for work and Facebook Messenger for my DnD group.

There’s a new app coming called Texts.com - I’ve signed up for the beta. Hoping to get in soon. It combines a dozen different chat apps into one and maybe that’s the answer. Or maybe I can try and convince my friends to switch to something like Slack, or a group text thread.

This stuff is hard. I like using all the new shiny things, but I’ve also reached a point where my main concern isn’t new and exciting, only portable and reliable. iA Writer is great because it works off of Markdown files. I can open a folder in Obsidian or any other app and all my data is right there. I wish I could say the same for Scrivener files, or Drafts, which utilizes its own database system.

Minimalism is tough when so many of the pieces don’t cooperate with each other.

So, I’ve decided to take a short hiatus from my current adult WIP to work on a MG book idea I had a few months ago. I was watching my son play in our backyard and he’s a huge fan of the Spiderwick books. I got hit with this idea I wanted to work on after my current WIP was done, but I’ve decided to write it now.

He’s already seven. If this ever makes it to publication, it’s going to take a few years and I don’t want him to outgrow it before he has a chance to read it. I’ll let him read the final draft before I query anyway, but I want him to still be young enough to read the final books if/when they ever come out (hopefully).

Plus, this is a fraction of the length of my adult WIP, so I’ll take a month or two to write this and get it ready to query, then I’ll go back to the other book. I’m already 1400 words in. 📝

Spent the evening working on the cover for the paperback version of The Library at the Center of the Earth and holy hell Amazon’s cover uploading system is a mess. I’d also love it if Canva had a template for “paperback novel covers.” It took me about 20 attempts, but I think I got it.

Paperback is in review now…

THE LIBRARY AT THE CENTER OF THE EARTH - Chapter 1

I thought it might be fun to post the first chapter of my upcoming novel, The Library at the Center of the Earth, as a teaser for potential readers.

The book drops next Tuesday on Kindle, which you can preorder here, so if you dig this little teaser, please go ahead and get your pre-order in so you can dive right in when it’s finally released.

And if you’re into thrillers about cults, feel free to check out my previous book, The Prophet, also available on Kindle and wherever fine eBooks are sold.


Kat’s thumb scrolled along the side of the note her dad had handed her as she worked it out in the cereal aisle. The googly eyes of rabbits, leprechauns, and sea captains watched her from the shelves. Jack Krueger never wrote a simple grocery list. Items like “chicken” or “butter” were always buried within puzzles and brain teasers. Today, her supply run was halted by a particularly tough breakfast food.

What Neil Diamond might start his day with.

She scanned the aisle for something with “Caroline” or “America” in its name. Then she saw it—and rolled her eyes. Cracklin’ Oat Bran.

“Cracklin’ Rosie? Really, dad?” she muttered as a tired mom pushed past her. The woman’s screaming toddler, buckled into the seat in front of her, kicked his pasty legs into her stomach.

Kat pursed her lips and sighed. She forced attention back to the list, away from what might have been. Catching a whiff of her scrubs, she focused harder, wanting to get home quickly and squeeze in a shower while her dad prepped the meal. Her double shift at the hospital had worn her down. Though she was the one with the nursing degree, her father had the kind of illegible chicken scratch rivaled only by the penmanship of a seasoned neurosurgeon. The letters blurred under the store’s harsh, fluorescent lights. She slammed her eyes shut and opened them again. Better.

By the time Kat had filled her cart, a headache had moved itself in at the base of her skull thanks to all her squinting and eye-rolling.

What came first? Either way, you’re right. Chicken and eggs.

Seinfeld’s puffy shirt has nothing on these salty snacks. Ruffles chips.

I. Am. Iron Man. But I’m also zinc deficient. Centrum Silver.

Why couldn’t he have been a normal dad? Then again, he’d never been normal. Ever since her mother died when she was little, Jack had made life a game. A puzzle.

“The world is going to throw things at you when you grow up, Kitty Kat. You wanna be able to throw ‘em back,” he used to say.

Hence, the mind games. They’d often sit at the kitchen table together and work on different crossword puzzles, lobbing clues back and forth when the words wouldn’t come to them. On weekends, they’d sit in the living room and work on a five thousand piece puzzle of Van Gogh’s Starry Night while James Taylor played on the stereo. And every Friday, Mr. Krueger presented Kat with a list of clues for her to decipher at the grocery store after her shift.

She hurried to the checkout line and helped the clerk fill the two reusable bags she’d brought with her. Her rideshare showed up minutes later. The driver noted how pretty she was and that she should smile more. She ignored him for the duration of the trip, her jaw clenched until he’d pulled up a block from her building and let her out. As she exited the vehicle, she gave him the smile he’d wanted as well as a one-star rating. Asshole.

***

The eggs exploded out of their carton onto Kat’s scrubs with a decisive splat. Their yellow insides seeped into the cracks in the apartment floor. She hadn’t felt her fingers slipping, the paper bag’s weight pushing them farther apart until it free fell to her feet. An apple rolled away. Her body stiffened, then snapped like a bungee cord.

He didn’t look like her father at first. His body was slumped over the top of his desk, his left arm hanging over the front as though he’d been reaching for something when it happened. Kat thought he was a dummy placed there in some sort of horrifying prank. Then she saw the blood, a river whose mouth began at the pen-sized hole in his temple. She ran to him, unsure of where to place her hands. Her education and training dissipated as panic boiled inside her. Two fingers found their way to his neck. She knew what they’d find.

They came up tinged with red. The same red that had dripped onto the wheels of her father’s wheelchair. His desk was bare, save for the sea of darkness that had pooled in the corner of his blotter. A harsh right angle had been left behind where something was removed. Kat had never seen his desk so stark. He always had a changing skyline of books and papers surrounding him, a half-finished crossword in the corner, a few classic novels, maybe a book of poetry or philosophy.

“If my body is going to recover, my mind needs to stay sharp,” he’d said after returning home from the hospital.

The stroke had nearly paralyzed him two months ago, but Kat promised to escort him to and from his physical therapy classes three times a week until he no longer needed her to get around. He’d never pushed her into his interests. Puzzles and books had been left out to influence the goings on in the apartment. “Potpourri for the mind,” he’d called them. Now they sat splayed open on the floor, gruesome victims of a crime like her father.

Kat fished in her purse for her phone. Her hands trembled as she dialed. Her fingertips felt every sensation, as though the nerves beneath the skin had been shocked to life that second. The crack in the display widened under the pressure.

“H…hello? Yes, my father. He’s been shot. Or he killed himself. I don’t know.” Her words sputtered out drenched in grief.

The tinny and distant voice on the other end told her to remain calm. It asked her for her address, which Kat couldn’t remember for several seconds.

“Police were dispatched to that location two minutes ago. Did you call already?”

Kat’s chest ached. She touched his neck again. Still warm. Rigor had not set in yet. Her father had to have been dead for at least half an hour, yet the police had been called only minutes ago.

Then she saw it. The dispatcher’s voice faded in and out like an ocean tide, the comforting sound of something devoid of judgment. Metal winked at her from the floor, silver with a wooden handle. Threatening. She heaved it from the floor, as though its reputation added 10 pounds. The urge to cry left her. In its place slithered curiosity and anger. When had he bought a gun? Why did he kill himself after everything that had happened? They were going to watch a movie that night.

She turned the revolver over in her hands. The smoky burn of iron hung in the air. Its barrel had gone cold. A gun like this would’ve sounded like a bomb in their tiny apartment. Mrs. Wiley next door would’ve screamed at them to keep it down, or called the police herself. She’d perceived the purple streak in Kat’s hair as a sign of rebellion and swore she’d seen her doing drugs outside the building one time. It had been a Tic Tac. But a gun going off in this apartment with no one hearing it was impossible, so why had the cops been called only a few minutes ago?

At her father’s feet, just under the desk, Kat saw something else. She pulled out a small embroidered pillow that had been with them since before she was born. It bore the stitched image of a Dalmatian puppy with black slits for eyes, curled up on a blue blanket with the caption, Never underestimate the power of a nap. A gaping black void now occupied the space where the puppy’s face had been.

She placed the gun back where she’d found it, fearing any sudden movement might stir it into another murderous frenzy. Her calves burned from resting on them and when she stood, she kept her eyes down and away from her father’s body. She stole glances with her peripheral vision, half-expecting him to get up like some undead killer in a horror movie. Her finger traced the edges of the L-shaped space left in the blood and tried to recall what might’ve occupied it. A book, she thought, but which one?

Stray tears gave way to flowing streams. Her legs betrayed her and she collapsed, her back to the desk, her fists clenched white around the pillow. Her father’s fingers hung to the side, a lifeless, fleshy spider. She screamed.

A knock at the door thundered behind her. She dropped the pillow.

“NYPD. Open up,” said a man on the other side.

Kat’s voice called out like an echo off a distant mountain. Her feet grew long, thick roots that held her firm. There was a bang and then the door swung open. Wood splintered and flurried from the jamb. Officers flooded the apartment, guns drawn, blue soldiers all in a row. The illusion of her isolation shattered. Kat checked her phone: the dispatcher had disconnected. The police yelled for her to place her hands on her head, but the words hit her like barks from a watch dog chasing an intruder, abrasive and disorienting.

Her hands eventually found their way to the back of her head. The world around her moved in slow motion. “Don’t shoot,” was all she could say as two officers approached her and asked her a barrage of questions. What’s your name? Do you live here? Do you know the victim?

An officer placed two fingers on Kat’s father’s neck for sign of a pulse. She shook her head to her colleague in the doorway. Crime Scene Investigators arrived clad in plastic suits, shoe coverings, and face masks so as not to contaminate the scene. One carried a large camera she had to hold with two hands, topped with a flash like a spotlight. Each picture she took lit up the room with a pop of light and a loud chunk.

After the officers had declared the scene a suicide, they escorted Kat to the bedroom where she was told to wait. Detectives would be arriving soon to ask some follow up questions. She sat for an hour clutching a mug of water she never drank. Her eyes stung when she forgot to blink for too long.

Kat knew the sense of grief building inside her. She’d felt it before so many times. It made the back of her neck hot and her ears red. It tightened itself into a small, hard ball in her heart and refused to budge. It was a tumor. Her body fought to reject it with convulsions and tears, but she couldn’t shake it. The shock of her discovery had worn off. She gripped the mug tighter and fell over her knees in an ugly cry. A female officer placed a blanket over her.

Two homicide detectives entered the apartment. They introduced themselves to Kat, but their names slipped away before she could catch them. They tried to talk to her, ask her questions as the officers had done earlier, but she didn’t respond. Detective Smalls, white with a thick mustache, swore under his breath and whispered to his partner. Kat caught words like “cuff” and “questioning.” Something about a murder weapon, a victim, and the suspect all in the same room. Her chest tightened.

Detective Toliver, a bald, muscular Black man in a navy suit and thin goatee, gestured with his open hand for Smalls to calm down. He offered to take Kat away from here, to a quiet room far from the crime scene where she might feel more relaxed. Kat gave him an almost imperceptible nod.

Toliver escorted her out of the apartment. As she shuffled toward the front door she caught a glimpse of a man in coveralls zipping up a black bag. Her gaze fell upon a lock of hair, black with streaks of gray, swallowed as the bag’s mouth closed around it. She said a silent goodbye to her father and another tear fell. Toliver helped her into the backseat of the cruiser. Swirling red and blue beacons around them beckoned neighbors Pied Piper-like to their windows. Kat felt their eyes—Mrs. Wiley’s eyes—watching her as the detectives dropped into their seats. Smalls started the engine and the car took her away from a thousand broken pieces she needed to put back together.

Pre-order THE LIBRARY AT THE CENTER OF THE EARTH Now!

The day has finally arrived - my latest novel, The Library At the Center of the Earth is available for pre-order on the Kindle Store. It launches officially next Tuesday, May 31, 2022.

For fans of the National Treasure films, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, and life-threatening scavenger hunts rooted in American history, this is the story for you.

Kat Krueger has just come home to find her father murdered — and she is the prime suspect. When a stranger who knows who killed him — and why — rescues her, Kat is thrust into a cross-country hunt for the entrance to a top secret facility where dedicated researchers are making revolutionary discoveries while preserving and studying history’s greatest treasures. Kat must solve 400 years’ worth of clues to find the door her father died protecting before his killer does, save the people working behind it, and stop a vengeful murderer from destroying humanity’s greatest secret living right underneath our feet.

The book is only available on Kindle for the first month due to its inclusion in the Kindle Unlimited program. After that, you’ll be able to find it on Nook, Kobo, and Apple Books.

Pre-order today for only $2.99.

Green and Purple Science Fiction Book Cover

It’s done. THE LIBRARY AT THE CENTER OF THE EARTH is complete. Front matter, acknowledgements, and bio are written. All that’s left is to format and compile. It’ll be good to see this out in the world finally. 📝

Green and Purple Science Fiction Book Cover

Two more chapters and then we’re ready to compile the final version for release… 📝

Not gonna lie - I hate Amazon, but it is kinda cool to see my mug on there as an author, even if I was the one who put me there…

CleanShot 2022 05 13 at 22 26 12

THE PROPHET Now Available on the Kindle Store

I didn’t want to do it. I held out for a long time, but I needed to boost revenue and visibility, so I’ve listed my first book, The Prophet, for sale on Amazon’s Kindle store. It’s $2.99 and every purchase goes to helping me pay down my student loans. Plus, you get a pretty sweet book out of the deal.

And if you do buy and read, please leave a review!

In the meantime, I’m polishing up my next release The Library at the Center of the Earth, coming very soon.

I've Got a New Book Coming Soon

Given the turmoil going on in my professional life and my need to pay down as much debt as possible, I’ve decided to self-publish another one of my books. I didn’t want to - I’d hoped this would be my professional debut with a real publisher, but life had other plans.

I love this book and the few who’ve read it already really enjoyed it as well. I whipped up a cover tonight and I’ve been going through the manuscript one last time to get it ready. I’d forgotten how exciting it is. For those interested in learning more about it, I’ve pasted the back cover blurb below, as well as the cover design.

I really hope people like it. It’s one of my favorite things I’ve written.

Kat Krueger has just come home to find her father murdered — and she is the prime suspect. When a stranger who knows who killed him — and why — rescues her, Kat is thrust into a cross-country hunt for the entrance to a top secret facility where dedicated researchers are making revolutionary discoveries while preserving and studying history’s greatest treasures. Kat must solve 400 years’ worth of clues to find the door her father died protecting before his killer does, save the people working behind it, and stop a vengeful murderer from destroying humanity’s greatest secret living right underneath our feet.

THE LIBRARY AT THE CENTER OF THE EARTH blends the fun and intrigue of NATIONAL TREASURE with MR. PENUMBRA’S 24-HOUR BOOKSTORE.

Green and Purple Science Fiction Book Cover

Sent out some subs for a flash fiction piece I’ve been trying to place. It was accepted once, but the mag shut down before it could be published. I’ve been trying to find it a home ever since. 📝

Added another 500 words to the WIP tonight. At this rate it’ll be done in 2030. 📝

Had a really nice conversation with some fellow Grim & Mild writers today about starting a support group for the next NaNoWriMo. Also, we’re moving NaNo to January because November is a stupid month for writing a book. 📝

THE PROPHET, a thriller by Harry Marks

Hey all,

If you didn’t know, I’m an author and I have a book out right now called THE PROPHET. Description and links below:

“Marked by gritty action, a weaving of complex narratives and- most notably- brave characters facing hard choices, Harry Marks’s new thriller, The Prophet, delivers it all.” - Steph Post, author of MIRACULUM and HOLDING SMOKE

Twelve year-old Callie Rich wouldn’t know what a normal childhood looks like. She and her family have been a part of the Lambs of Zion church their entire lives, existing in a well-guarded pocket of the American southwest where modernity and independence are shunned. When their leader, the Prophet, excommunicates her father—one of his closest advisors—and takes Callie to be his next bride, it has to be a mistake.

One town over, private detective Max Barker is well aware of the polygamist cult on the Arizona-Utah border, but he keeps his distance like everyone else until Callie’s father shows up on his doorstep begging for help. His family is in danger and he has the proof that could bring the whole organization—and its leader—crashing to the ground. Max, hoping to make good on a promise he’d kept to a former Lamb, decides to help.

Unaware of her father’s plan, Callie joins up with a group of other wives looking to escape, but someone inside the church knows what they’re up to. While Max and Callie’s father work to infiltrate the church for evidence, Callie and the other women of the LoZ must hurry and leave before the Prophet takes drastic action to keep his church, his family, and his legacy intact.

Buy Now for $2.99

📝📚

Time to get some writing done tonight. 700 word goal before bed. #writing 📝