Yeah you read that right. I didn’t get hacked, or leave this logged in at work.

Speaking of which, I went back to work today after a week’s holiday. You probably know what I do by now. If you don’t, I’m a ranger on a parkland estate in south-west England. First day back and I’m bagging up charcoal and cleaning out the kiln. Anyone who’s ever seen this or done it will know it’s seriously messy, with so much black dust that you need a mask and goggles just to do ten minutes of it. I did two hours, and then the phone goes – we’ve got a tree down. Boss has to go to a meeting at 12 and says words to the effect of ‘Grab yourself a chainsaw, it’s all yours!’

I end up going to my 2PM meeting still in my lumberjacking kit. (You sweat buckets in those Kevlar trousers when the summer heat is still on even though it’s September.) Combined with the morning’s charcoal effort, I looked something like a raccoon that just crawled out of a chimney and into a rainstorm. At least that’s what my writer-brain was telling me as I drove back to my meeting. In a tractor. Because I also needed that to pull down this great hunk of hung up oak before I could saw it up.

Welcome back to the day job!

Tonight, I’m thinking I’m more like a squirrel. No, it’s not because I’m hyper on caffeine and can’t stop twitching like one and I’m ‘climbing the walls,’ as the British say when we’re stuck in a room and want to be outside. It’s because I think the next year might just be my year of hoarding up fiction like nuts in a tree.

To explain: I hit the 140,000 word barrier with Welcome to Sentago tonight. The whole idea of this project was to write a suspense novel that was a LOT shorter than the Talent show books. Oh great, look what Tommy’s done again! The runaway freight-train wordcount.

I can’t cut a wordcount like this down to 70k, or even 90 – my original estimate for this book. The ideas that now make it work have gone past the point where I could reign them in with a red pen. So am I prepared to consider what I once said I would never do and split one book into 2?

In a word, yes. Not only does this story split nicely in the middle (it has four parts, and 1 and 2 could make a perfectly good book on their own, with one last draft to tweak them) but it also makes me do what I was already thinking of doing: letting go of the ‘Welcome to Sentago’ title and re-naming. If I’m honest with myself, WtS sounds kind of like a crime title, but not like sci-fi. My blend isn’t quite captured, but now I can have ‘Book 1’ and ‘Book 2 of Welcome to Sentago.’

I’m now looking at more marketable titles. Shape-shifters do attract a large audience, after all. Yeah it’s often to do with erotica. But hey, one of the characters in this book is a nymphomaniac. Another likes a little S&M on the quiet, with a good helping of mind powers to help. My shifter protagonist is capable of doing a very cute human when he needs to. This IS about the genetic engineering and the sci-fi, and a few serious messages and not just characters who are constantly up for it. They just add a little spice. So does the Tarantino-esque level of ring-fight violence.

Yeah, shape-shifter books do seem to be about wolves and bears a lot of the time. I have an alien whose ability centres around shifting to a human. Been done? Probably. Just not my way.

Am I *gasp* writing to market? Shit, maybe I kinda am! But nah, I’m really just refining to market. Just a little. And I still read the ‘script and think ‘Nobody would ever buy this!’ They’re probably not even reading about it right now.

Where were we? Oh yeah, titles. I’m now thinking of ‘Shifter’s Traces’ for book 1 and ‘Shifter’s Defiance’ for 2.

Let’s be clear: I know this looks like a split for the sake of two pricetags. Let’s face it: a lot of writers do that. But here’s why on this occasion I like the idea: as a reader, I would feel totally whacked over the head if I found a novel with this much suspense, and these short-length chapters, if it were the size of a small epic. Adrenaline is not meant to be taken in long bursts.

Besides, if it’s price we’re talking about, I originally had it down as a 2.99 novel. Why not have 0.99 for book 1 and 1.99 for book 2? I’ve only shorted myself 0.01. Think I can live with that. As well as it being infinitely more promotable to have a cheap book 1.

Trouble is, I’ve now given myself a 2-cover budget, as well as thinking about when I’m going to release Talent Show Book 3 next year (yeah I’m still writing it, but it’s sidelined as I race to get Sentago finished in my excitement). When are we getting a release for this lot? I honestly don’t know. I’m now in the position of impending finish with the uncertainty of release dates.

But that’s cool! How many people can go into 2017 knowing this might just be a 3 book release year because they’re already written? Okay, probably loads, but I’ve never done that before. There’s nothing like excitement to keep me working on them.

Or to keep working that day job that makes me come up with rodent metaphors in order to pay for covers and editing.