Welcome to the (un)official site for science-fiction and fantasy writer Bryan R. Durkin!

Saturday, December 15, 2012


167,858: That's the rank "Abyss" currently enjoys in the Amazon kindle market. I'm in the top 200,000! Hey, at least it HAS a rank, right? It's out there. People are reading it. 8 of them so far. Only one of them was a family member.

Hopefully you can tell that the above is all tongue in cheek. I didn't expect my short story to become a huge seller. The hope is that I'll get my name out there, some people will read it, maybe later some more will. Eventually, if I put something significant out there (say, one of my novels), they'll recognize my name and buy it, and the fan base grows from there. That's the idea, anyway. Who knows if it'll work.

Now that "Abyss" is out there, most of my writing efforts have been concentrated on Kricket's Key. Progress is moving along nicely. I'm about one-third of the way to my word-count goal. This book is probably going to need even more rewriting and editing than the last one. I don't think I'm doing as well with describing the characters or the action. It's hard to put a lot of effort into it, when I don't even know if I'll be able to get an agent for the first one. The querying remains the most frustrating task of this whole business, the one thing that seems to be holding me up.

But...have to keep writing. It's the only way to get better, the only way to have a chance of getting published for real.

Thanks for reading my blog. And if you're one of the 8 people who've read "Abyss" and you enjoyed it, please leave a review on Amazon! That's really the only way I have to drive sales there right now. I'm still learning about marketing. More later!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

"Abyss" Published on Amazon Kindle

The time since my last post here has been busy indeed. It is with great pleasure that I announce my science fiction short story "Abyss" has been published and is now available for sale on Amazon Kindle! See the link at the bottom of this post to buy it from Amazon.

Following is a short description of the story:


"After witnessing the horrific death of her best friend in the vacuum of space, Macy Jensen is ruled unfit for duty on extra-vehicular missions. As a technician for the Accelerator Bridge--which spans a starless region known as the Abyss--this means the end of her career.

But when the Bridge suffers a catastrophic malfunction before she's shipped out, every single technician is recalled to duty. Macy is assigned to fix Accelerator Ring 7. The malfunctioning Ring has already destroyed an ammunition carrier, and next in its queue is a star liner carrying five thousand passengers.

If she wants to save all those lives, Macy will have to race against the clock, dodge unexploded ordinance...and face her fear of a cold, lonely death in the starless void."


"Abyss" is approximately 7,500 words long, and is the first of my works published on Amazon Kindle. Awesome cover art was provided by the talented Kalen O'Donnell. Hopefully, there will be more stories to follow, if this proves successful.

In addition to getting "Abyss" formatted, securing quality cover art, and publishing it on Amazon, I've also been writing steadily on Kricket's Key. Chapter Ten was finished two days ago, and I'm officially past the one-quarter mark on my way to 90,000 words. As with the book's prequel, Kricket's Song, it may run a bit longer, but shouldn't by much.

Queries for Kricket's Song continue to make the rounds. I did receive another rejection the day before yesterday. It was difficult to tell if it was a form reject or a more personalized response. The agent stated he had a full client list at the moment and was being extremely picky about new projects, so his rejection was not necessarily a statement about the saleability of my work. In other words, I just arched an eyebrow and moved on. That leave six queries still in the wind, and I'll be sending more out eventually.

And that's about all I have to report for now. Following is the link for "Abyss" on Amazon.com. If you read it and like it, please leave a review on Amazon! Thanks.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Still Alive...Still Writing

Yes, I am still here. For better or worse.

Summer proved to be pretty busy for me. I actually got to fight some fires this fire season. However, it kept me away from the internet for most of the time. I did, however, have time to do some serious editing and polishing on Kricket's Song, and I can now say with confidence that it is complete. Over the summer, I have been querying continuously for it. These efforts have largely met with rejections, with 7 queries still unanswered and in the wind. I remain convinced that this is due to my inability to write a decent query letter, despite my repeated attempts at revising and polishing the letter.

With Kricket's Song complete, I've turned much of my attention to the sequel, Kricket's Key. Even though this new book is a sequel, it's important to understand that the first book is completely standalone. Yes, it leaves things open for a continuation, but you don't need to read the second book in order for the story of the first book to be complete. In order to read the second book, it's probably advisable that you've read the first book as well, but I'm trying to make it so that's not necessary.  Kricket's Key continues with many of the same characters from the first book, including Jonah, Skip, and Mouse. There are a couple new characters (including a Guv officer) and some old characters in new forms. It will expand the world I started building in the first book, and will further explore the technologies and magics introduced earlier. The Guv gets even more brutal, and the Grounders are back to cause yet more havoc.

I've also gone back to one of my science fiction short stories, "Abyss." I actually finished it this time around, and did some serious edits to polish it up and cut out unnecessary fluff. Instead of trying to sell it to a sci-fi magazine (which I don't think my stories are really suited for, anyway), I've decided to publish it on Amazon's Kindle, and see how it fares there. Right now, the manuscript is edited, polished, and formatted for Kindle, and I'm currently working with an artist to develop a nice cover for it. When it goes live on Kindle, I'll be sure to make mention of it here. I really don't know what to expect as far as how it will perform on Kindle, but I figure it might help get my name out a bit. If it goes well, I may try to publish some other shorts. I may even end up publishing a book here, if I just can't find an agent. We'll see.

So that's where I'm at for now. I'll try to get back into regular updates on this blog, but it will depend on how much writing I can accomplish. Hopefully more than I have recently.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Jumping the Gun - Again?

I didn't post in March, pretty much because I wasn't doing any serious work on my writing projects in March. Part of this was due to an increasingly busy work schedule (almost 1,000 students on property last week alone!), and part of it was due to the fact that was worn out and depressed with the whole query letter writing debacle. You may have noted I've already received one rejection for Kricket's Song, and I have one other query still out, with a response due back any time now. That's probably not a reflection on the book itself, but rather my query letter skills, which are still fledgling, I'm sure.

One of the big issues my beta reader brought up was that I don't fully establish setting in some of the scenes, and the reader is left guessing as to what exactly the physical setting is like. I read a book on how to establish setting, and now that I better understand how important it is to a novel--even a novel where the settings are mostly made-up--I'm actually a little excited to see how I can improve my settings. The key, of course, is to not go overboard with descriptions, and to somehow incorporate a vivid setting with the flow of good writing. Kricket's Song needs some work with that, and I've already done some of that.

My beta reader also brought up another issue, mainly that some of the "bad guys" really didn't seem all that believable or scary. The consequences for the main characters in encountering these bad guys aren't all that serious, and by about a third of the way through the book, the reader didn't feel all that concerned that the good guys would come out okay. That's definitely not the track I was aiming for, and I won't go into all the reasons I think it ended up coming out that way. The point is, I agree with what the beta reader has said, and now I have to figure out how to fix that.

My solution, right now, is to go back and rewrite some of the key scenes in which the main characters encounter these bad guys, and to rework some of the results of those encounters. The bad guys are going to conduct business a bit differently, and their efforts won't be as ineffective as before. A very important character is going to end up permanently maimed, and a secondary character is going to end up dead about halfway through the book. These changes will, of course, profoundly affect everything that comes after them. However, it's almost as if this new track I'm taking was really the one I had intended all along, because as I'm working these rewrites, I'm finding that all the elements I need are already there. I just have to tweak some of the details and rearrange some of the wording. Relatively speaking, these rewrites are going to be minor, I think. I'm already about 20% of the way through them, and I just started them today. We'll see if I remain this optimistic tomorrow!

All this to say, yes, I'm still working on Kricket's Song, and I think the end result will be even better than it was before. I kind of have the hunch that these issues are all that remain in keeping it from being a publishable book. But I'm still an amateur, and it's just a hunch. Time will tell. In the meantime, I won't be sending out any queries, as I want the product to be as finished and polished as I can get it before I try to sell it. And, the query letter may well be looked at again. THAT I am NOT looking forward to.

But one thing at a time, right?

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

So What's Up? Part II

Yes, there's been a long silence from me. No, I haven't been idle. I may have been procrastinating a little. But that's beside the point.

I've compiled a big list of agents, and now I'm narrowing the list down to determine who will be my 1st, 2nd, and 3rd tier choices and so on. So far, that project is going well. It looks like I'll have somewhere over 30 agents to choose from, and a few are standing out as the ones I'd definitely like to query first. It's a tedious process, but one that I feel is necessary if I'm to set myself apart from the thousands of other would-be authors who barrage agents with tons of misguided queries every day. Hopefully, after the ill-timed fiasco that was The Serenity Solution, I've learned some valuable things that will better equip me for this particular quest.

A query letter is a BIG DEAL. Sometimes I feel like too much attention is given to it. Sometimes I see query letters that look ho-hum, and yet landed a writer a great contract. Other times I see query letters that get me all excited, and yet they've failed after the writer put a TON of effort into it. I think just about every would-be author out there has questioned the validity of a query letter and has yanked out more than a little hair over it. I know I have. But, I think that maybe, just maybe, I've finally written a query letter that isn't complete junk. It might be a little wordy. I might be approaching it wrong. I might have broken every query letter convention. I may not have sufficiently answered or focused on "Mod So-and-So's" almighty three questions. About 20,273 doubts plague me.

And yet, it's about time to press the trigger and hope my aim is good.

My synopsis probably needs work. I may entirely rewrite Chapter One of Kricket's Song because I'm not confident I've established conflict, setting, and character well enough. Etc.

And so I forge ahead, and I take a little more slack out of the trigger.

One of these days, I'll hit the target dead center.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

So What's Up?

It's been a little while since I've posted, and even though things look quiet right now, there actually has been progress on Kricket's Song. So here's what's going on.

As you know, I've completed the initial editing/polishing phase on the manuscript. It can no longer be considered a "rough draft." It's starting to take a shape resembling what it should be when you pick it up on the bookshelf in a store. But, before you (or I) start getting excited...well, there's still a really long way to go before that happens.

I've started compiling a list of agents that I might like to query. Right now, it's just a very large and general list; I'll need to narrow it down and figure out which agents would be my top picks before I start sending out query letters. And that brings me to my next point: actually writing a query letter. I've written three drafts so far, and I've been receiving critiques on it from some of my fellow writers at Absolute Write. They've brought up some very good points and made some good suggestions. The problem is, it seems like every time I address an issue, it either raises more issues, or un-fixes an issue I'd previous thought fixed.

Also, after an initially unsuccessful appeal for some beta readers, I finally did find one person who was willing to take the first chapter. Again, he made some suggestions and critiques, and it appears I still have work to do on the manuscript itself. The good news is, this wasn't unexpected. Also, the changes should be too difficult to effect. The bad news is...well, there's still more work to do!

But all in all, progress is being made, so that's good. I've also been brainstorming some more for Kricket's Key and I think I'm making some progress with that particular plot puzzle. Hopefully, as I get the kinks worked out with Kricket's Song, I'll be able to turn my focus more and more to Key, but that may yet be some time down the road.

I'll keep you updated!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

And Now, For the Scary Part

A little behind schedule, but I finally finished the Read Through/Polish of the manuscript for Kricket's Song. As I wrote the rough draft, I discovered I had a lot of bad habits when it comes to writing. I tend to use certain sentence structures way to much, and of those, a few are quite clumsy. I also have a tendency to use too many adverbs and adjectives. The polish was an attempt to get rid of as many of those errors as possible, and I think I did a good job of it.

In total, I eliminated almost 2,400 words from the manuscript that served no purpose whatsoever, other than to clutter things up. The current word count now totals just over 95K, and I think it's ready to go out to beta readers. So, tomorrow, I'll be contacting the two people who've already volunteered, and I'll be looking for others as well. While the beta readers have it, I'll be working on creating a query letter and a synopsis for the book. I'll also be researching agents I'd like to query. Hopefully I can get that process rolling very soon! It'd be nice to have an agent before summer, so that he/she can be working on selling it to a publisher while I'm wandering around the woods firefighting.

I'll also be working on getting a more concrete plot outline and character sheets drawn up for the next book, tentatively titled Kricket's Key. I've had enough ideas trickling in over the past couple months that it shouldn't be too hard, and most of my characters are drawn up already. Just need to change their motivations and goals for this new book. There will, however, be some other characters entering the equation.

That's about all for now; I hope to have more updates on the process soon!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Momentum, or Lack Thereof

Momentum is one of a writer's best allies. When you're making good, consistent progress, you can see your goal drawing closer. This provides motivation, which produces more progress, which continues to build the momentum and, therefore, the motivation. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true. When there's very little progress, there's less motivation to continue with the process, even when the next step of that process is relatively easy.

In this case, the process involves going through my manuscript chapter by chapter, polishing up the writing and eliminating as many unnecessary words as possible, clarifying things, and generally trying to make it professional without making it come across as "writerly." So far, I've eliminated almost 1,000 unnecessary words from the manuscript, and I'm not even halfway through it yet. I'm sure my beta readers, when they get it, will point out a lot more to me.

Getting the ball rolling again after the holidays was more difficult than I'd hoped. After I got back from visiting my parents, I went right into a six-day work week. Immediately after that, I traveled back home to pick up something I ordered in Oregon before Christmas, but didn't come in before I had to get back to work. Tomorrow, I'll be making my way back to Nevada again--which means no writing will get done until Thursday at the earliest. And then, you guessed it, I'm back to work again! I got some polishing done today, but it's slow going. I'm about 38% of the way through the manuscript, and I hope to have it done before January is over, but we'll see.

Meanwhile, ideas and inspiration continues to develop for the next Kricket book, as well as ideas for the overall story arc that may end up taking three or even four books to completely play out. The challenge will be keeping these books complete in their own right so that I don't fall into the trap of being a new writer trying to market a series. But, as they say, "Write what you want and worry about the rest later." And right now, what I want to write is Kricket.


Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year!

So yeah, I know it's a couple days late, bu whatever. I've had more important things to do. Like prepping for the zombie apocalypse. And attending a wedding in the Arizona. And...stuff. But, Happy New Year to everyone, most especially the plethora of my faithful readers!

This is going to be a short post. I finally got started on the final read-through of Kricket's Song, albeit a week or so later than I might have liked. I don't think it's going to take me very long, but it's certainly going to require me to pay close attention to what I'm doing. I'm just trying to polish it, working to get rid of excessive words, make things that are unclear more clear, and essentially trying not to look like an amateur with the writing.

There's a particular document I've found very helpful at this stage of the project, entitled "Hunting Down the Pleonasms" by Allen Guthrie. You can find a reproduction of the document here. It's been reproduced with permission, and I think just about any writer will find it immensely helpful. A lot of it is stuff that we already "know," but that we seem to forget when we get into the heat of writing. I even went so far as to take the advice of printing it out and taping it on the wall next to my computer. I read through it every now and then, usually before I start a writing session, and it's started to get ingrained in my brain--which can only help my writing! I'll also put this link as a permanent one on the right side of my blog.

So anyway, that's where I'm at with Kricket's Song. Once I've finished this polishing session, it will be ready for beta readers. I've already had a couple members from the Absolute Write Water Cooler volunteer to read it for me, so I'm very excited about that. Victims are good, but victims who volunteer are even better! Oh, did I say that out loud...?