Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Wild Month Begins

I won't be posting on a writing topic today, and I need to take at least the week off.  There's been a new edition in the Meyer household, and I need to devote all of my time to them for the moment.  I promise to return to my usual schedule starting on Monday, May 6th.
(The Meyer girls - two of a kind)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Why is This So Hard?

I've struggled to finish the final part of my new novel.  This has been especially difficult on me because the first three acts came out so quickly and with almost no stress.  However, in the final act, I've become lethargic and unmotivated in just getting to the end.  As a result, I've had to work very hard to ensure that the quality doesn't suffer and I can provide a satisfying ending.

Maybe part of it is the initial length.  I've written just over 144,000 words in under four months.  It's been an exhausting schedule to keep, and my goal has always been around 2,000 words a day(which gives me leeway to be finished with each act before the end of the month I started it in).  Looking back, it has dawned on me just how extensive 144,000 words really is, and I expect there to be between 10,000 and 12,000 more to go before I'm finished.  And being so lethargic has led me to average barely more than 1,000 words a day right now.

Don't worry - this isn't the final length, which I expect to come in closer to 120,000 once everything is edited, but I intentionally let everything flow freely during the first draft.  That means there are a lot of extraneous words that don't belong, and those will have to be cut.  There are also a number of rambling passages that will have to be rewritten, but I can't let that distract from the creative process in the initial outing.

I think that another reason this one has been more challenging is that it was always the most nebulous of what I'd envisioned.  The first three acts had a definite starting point and ending, so I just had to fill in the middle.  However, Act Four was something I knew I had to figure out a resolution to without knowing what that resolution would be.  Brainstorming in my notebook has been frustrating as I played with various scenarios, each one seeming more unrealistic to me than the last.

However, I think I finally have an ending point, and it has meant that I've written close to the edge of my outline the whole month.  This may allow the writing to be more spontaneous and float off in unexpected directions, but it has also caused me some stress as I got close to the end of the page.

Now that I'm close, I don't think I'm going to hit the original goal of having this done by the end of April.  That's okay, since I always said that the end of May was the drop dead time to be done, and that won't be any problem, but other events are going to intercede this weekend to force at least a few days break before I can pick back up.

When this is done, I'm going to need a break from writing novels.  I don't plan to start my next one until at least the middle of July, mostly because I need to decompress.  My next work won't be anywhere close to as hefty as this one, nor as mentally exhausting(it's more a fun romp through Sci-Fi).  I'll probably write a few short stories during the time, and there are a couple of contests I intend to enter, but full length novels will take a break for a little bit.

Oh, and I might have to take a break for next week.  If I manage the timing right, I'm hoping to make an announcement on Monday as to the reason for the break.  However, there are some things that are more important than blogging, and an event scheduled for this weekend is one of them.  It might involve enough time next week to disrupt the cycle.  But please don't worry - I'll return as soon as I'm able.  I'm hoping that's sometime next week, but I just don't know.
(Can you figure out the reason for my absence?)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Short Story Background

(What's the story behind this scene?)
All writers have fantasy worlds they live in from time to time.  For example, there are at least a dozen alternate worlds I daydream about when I'm exercising or taking a long drive.  Some turn into books, and some don't, but I've discovered that all have provided me with ample material.

In addition to the novels I've worked on, I've done several short stories that I plan on one day turning into a collection I'll sell.  Most of those stories don't exist as a completely separate entity, but rather as a subset of one of those fantasy worlds I've created.  I'm sure I could make up a couple of short stories out of thin air, but why?  The worlds I've created are ones I'm already familiar with, and that makes writing stories within those worlds much easier.
(Familiarity with what you're writing is the key)
Within these fantasy worlds, I already know the base setting of the world, and even some of the characters.  I don't have to create a whole new world out of nothing.  There's also an element of fun in going back to revisit a world you used to know as opposed to making a new one.  It's like going back to your old high school after you graduate, only this time you have a sense of accomplishment, and even arrogance, about how far removed you are now.

I've done short stories off of Salvation Day and Akeldama, well as a couple of novels that will never see the light of day but continue to provide material for reference in the future.  I think it'll keep me going strong off of those worlds for several years, even if I tweak some things and the settings aren't exactly what they were originally.  If nothing else, it eases the burden on my mind so I can fill it with new worlds for full length novels...thus leading to new worlds for more short stories.  Everybody wins!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Blog Commenting

I follow lots of different blogs, as evidenced by the blogroll on the right.  Due to my hectic schedule, I can't read every one I like every day, but I try to look at them all before they go on to their next topic.  And when time permits, I also try to get involved in the conversation(for those that allow comments).  I sometimes can't because I've missed the boat and there are somewhere around 300 comments, so my getting involved too late would make me look like a douche, but if the time exists, which is becoming a more rare commodity of mine, I still try to enter the fray.

However, that begs the question about how to shape one's comments.  There are plenty of aggressive blogs out there, mostly political, that encourage sharp rhetoric, and I can play rough with the best of them.  However, I find that you always have to consider your audience(that is, the target audience of the blog).  Not every site is up for a nuclear war over some small point, so you have to gage whether you're on the right forum.

I've spoken before about the crystal-like egos of many writers.  Lots of people see any kind of criticism of their position as being akin to shooting their dog.  I used to wonder why that was until I realized that it was mostly an insecurity issue - if someone disagrees, the writer might not have everything figured out, and that could cause their world view to shatter.

When I comment on most blogs, I try to do so in a way that brings out a previously non-discussed point or to make an observation that might help lead the discussion in one way or the other.  On the other hand, one thing I simply can't abide is when people get matters of fact, not opinion, wrong.  Misstating these facts is usually tied to how much one is tied to a particular view of the world, and it drives me up the wall.  Hold any opinion you want, but don't make shit up just to support it - it makes the writer of the comment look like an idiot.

On various blogs, I've called out a few writers for this, and I try to do it in a respectful fashion...right up until that person gets snarky.  I go from 0 to the atom bomb pretty fast, and I can sling mud with the best of them.  I've had to take a deep breath on more than one occasion to keep from going nuclear on someone who got their feelings hurt.

Why?  Mostly because I try to remember the community I'm responding in.  I could make some people look like fools in what they comment on, but does that do more than make me feel good?  Although I won't back down - I've done this kind of scorched-earth stuff on several sites - I need to try and stay on point.  It's about our craft and how we can advance.  If we alienate too many, it can come back to bite us when we least want it to.

This is what makes commenting on blogs dangerous.  We're all human, so no one will be perfectly informed or eloquent enough to express themselves perfectly all the time.  Everyone can make an error in thought or speech, and coming down so hard creates more enemies than it does potential readers.  For me, it's a question of balance - not submitting to idiocy while also not alienating people in the process.  I've just got to keep fine-tuning that moderation button in my brain.
(Try to avoid being a yappy chihuahua)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Thirsting for Complexity

One of the toughest issues I wrestle with as a writer is how simply or complex I want to make something.  Lots depends on the audience - I made things less subtle for Wrongful Death than I did for Salvation Day - but, in general, I give the audience lots of leeway.  I try not to come right out and state the obvious so that the reader can figure things out for himself or herself.  I want them to suddenly piece together that minor point I made in Chapter 3 with the way a scene played out in Chapter 17.

However, I've often wondered if I'm doing the right thing, and I think that's a question many writers have had while composing their latest piece.  We so desperately want people to get our work that there is a massive temptation to just say, "THIS IS WHAT YOU NEED TO FOCUS ON!!!  RIGHT HERE!!!  DON'T MISS IT!!!"

The problem, of course, means that we have to assume our readers are idiots to do that.  No, we don't make that decision consciously, but the end result is still the same - the reader is too stupid to know what I want to say here without my splashing it up in neon lights, so I'll just forego all that foreshadowing and inference bullshit and tell them what they should figure out.

But shouldn't we be treating our readers as adults?  I hate it when the person I'm reading doesn't let me figure stuff out for myself, and even when I miss a subtle plot point, it gives me motivation to go back and find it when I re-read the book a second time.  However, I usually choose authors who already know this about me, and that helps make the reading that much more fun.
(Do we really need to tell folks this is a lion?)
It takes focus to be complex in our writing.  The inclination to not just lead, but to push our reader towards our viewpoint, can be overwhelming.  If you're anything like me, you spend part of your time lamenting just how much you wish people would pull their heads out of their asses and act more intelligent.  But that's when we need to remember that it's not "most folks' we're writing to.  We target our work to certain segments of society, and it's to those hopefully intelligent folks that we need to write towards.

My first two novels, in particular, are rife with this kind of stuff, and looking back, they wouldn't be as strong as they are if I left out the allusions and inferences.  Salvation Day depends on people extrapolating the horrors of Hell, as well as what becomes of someone who seems like a minor character, to create the tension necessary to pull it off.  Akeldama is an action novel combined with a whodunit, so not giving the reader some credit to work things out for himself or herself would completely destroy the novel.

To me, it's similar to sitting with my wife and watching a movie I've seen, and not shouting out for her to pay attention to a particular scene.  Yes, I've done that, and it drives her crazy, usually followed by her saying, "Let me watch the damn movie and figure it out for myself."  If I'm going to have anything approaching a successful career in the target demographic I'd like, I've got to remember this in my writing as well.

It's just so darn hard sometimes...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Slowing Down

Act Four of my new novel has been tough.  It was the least formed of all of what I'd envisioned, and lots of stuff has gotten in the way.  I'm still averaging around 1,000 words a day, but it's not the pace I'd like to be at.  I had wild dreams of doing at least 2,000 words a day, and possibly even 3,000.  Unfortunately, that hasn't occurred.

There have been several unexpected events this month in my household, and that has obviously stifled the progress I wanted to make.  Just as those events recede, at least temporarily, I got sick, and I'll admit to being a complete weenie when I get sick.  I cough, wheeze, and generally feel sorry for myself, but I also recognize I'm in no state to produce my best work, so I let it pass before going back in full bore.  Combine that with the fact that my outline has flowed as freely as I might've liked, and you can get a sense of the level of frustration I've experienced this month.
(Don't let your work fall in)
Part of my getting antsy is, I think, the fact that I'm so close to the end, and that I've never written a novel this large before in such a short period of time.  The first draft is likely to come in at just under 160,000 words, and it should be finished in a total of four months.  However, the closer I get, the further away it feels.  I've got several plot points to wrap up, and not a lot of space to wrap it up in.  I know I've said that stories will end when they end, so the novel could go on if I wanted it to, but I don't want to ramble.  Each act needs to be between 35,000 and 40,000 words in the first draft, so I can't just keep going.  If it gets too long, the reader will lose interest.

It reminds me of the final couple of miles of the 25 mile road march I undertook a few years ago.  Near the end, each section of road seemed to stretch into eternity.  Despite knowing how close I was to the end, the horizon appeared to retreat from my grasp.  It affected my pace, and I began to notice every little twinge my body screamed about.

I have to try and knuckle down and just finish.  If I could go hard for a week straight, averaging around 3,000 words a day, I could be finished by the end of the weekend, but circumstances seem to conspire against me.  Am I whining?  You bet, but I'll get past it.

I plan to take a break of a couple of months after this.  Yes, I will continue to write short stories, but I will lay off the pressure of producing a novel for a bit.  My next work won't be near as long as this one, and it won't begin until after the 4th of July.  The ease of this one has become surprisingly straining, and I need to recharge.  But until then, I've got to continue to trudge towards the end.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Walking on Eggshells

(Are our readers just as fragile?)
There are certain things that we, as writers, should probably avoid, especially on our blogs.  Delving too far into advocacy on things like politics or religion risks alienating half our audience, especially in today's polarized climate.  However, that doesn't mean we should have to walk on eggshells and be afraid of saying something the wrong way and offending people.  This blog, for example, addresses controversial topics in a profane way at times, and I make no apologies for it.  I can't spend time worrying if every little phrase or subject is going to piss people off, and I certainly can't affect the way people read my work.

The reason I bring this up is that there was recently a controversy involving fellow writer Hugh Howey.  For those who don't know him, Hugh is an indie published writer who has had great success with his Wool series.  He's had so much success, in fact, that director Ridley Scott has optioned Wool for a feature film.  A lot of writers would kill for that kind of success.  He also graduated from the college where I went to school, and I had the honor of interviewing him not long ago.

Hugh recently made a very tongue in cheek post about a run in at a book convention.  It was a story about elitism and the kind of vengeance all of us have dreamed of sometimes, and its language was coarse.  In the post, he called his tormentor a bitch, and he reveled in showing her up.  I would link to it, but he has removed all mention of it from his website.
(Everything has been scrubbed clean)
Well, you'd have thought Hugh had lit puppies on fire.  He got lots of angry emails from folks about the post, the nicest of which was, "I'll never read your work again!"

I was floored.  When I saw his apology post, I had to search my brain for which post he was referring to, and my reaction when I figured it out was, "You've got to be fucking kidding me."  Anyone with half a brain could've figured out that the screed was conducted with tongue firmly implanted in cheek.  What the reaction proved to me was that some hypersensitive folks will find any excuse to be offended.

To be fair, lots of people have rallied to Hugh's defense, citing exactly the same stuff I just did.  And that's as it should be - Hugh is a terrific writer, and those who didn't get the post likely won't get his work either.

Is this what we've come to?  I refuse to tip-toe through every subject, afraid that some people will read it the wrong way or take offense at the language.  We will not be able to satisfy everybody - in fact, it's one of the reasons our work targets certain segments of society - and those who have no sense of humor aren't worth the effort.  Yes, it might cost you a sale or two, but being too vanilla will cost you readers as well because they'll see you as boring.

I know Hugh will get past this and rocket into success beyond what he has already achieved.  This is but a bump along the way.  From my viewpoint, super sensitive bitches need to lighten the hell up.  Sheesh...

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Publisher Monpolies and Indie Competition

The last few years have seen a tremendous amount of change in the world of books.  The Big Six are on the verge of becoming the Big FiveAmazon has cleared the way for a whole host of people who were previously ignored by traditional publishing to make their way in the e-book market.

Although some people will talk as if traditional publishing is still the only path to success, those of us who are read up on what's going on know better.  It used to be that in order for a writer to be taken seriously, he or she had to sign with a literary agent and land a deal with a traditional publisher.  Starry eyed authors were regaled with tales of how some agent found a diamond in the rough and brought that writer to the heights of stardom.  However, the slush pile is getting even slushier, and a lot of traditional publishers are reacting to current trends in the same tone deaf manner that the post office exhibits when it raises the price of stamps because its revenue stream is down.

While traditional publishing still has some level of success in getting books to market, the door for those not yet in the know is open less than a crack.  Traditional publishers know that most writers are so desperate to get a deal that they'll fork over all their rights for the chance to lick the boots of some New York editor, so the tiny fraction of talented people who find a way in are roped into servitude without even knowing what's going on.  Mid-list writers tend to stay there, and it takes an incredible stroke of good luck, translating into multi-million dollar sales, for an author to regain a smidgeon of control.

The demise of brick and mortar bookstores has had an impact on this.  With fewer distribution channels, there's less of a chance to get novels to market.  A book has to quickly prove itself or it's shoved out at the first opportunity to make way for the next hoped for success.  Unfortunately, this gives almost no time for casual readers to find that next great work.

But there's another aspect at play in this, and that's the indie writer.  Authors like Amanda Hocking and Hugh Howey have shown that if a person of talent can just get their work in front of an audience, they can make quite a handsome living.  Even writers previously published through traditional houses, like JA Konrath, have come around to think that there is a better way to bring in the public than through a traditional house.  Many publishers and agents complain about the quality of work, but all the indie movement has really done is move the slush pile into the public eye, and the market is determining who succeeds and who fails, rather than an editor at a desk in Manhattan.
(Look who's crashing the gate)
Were I just to come into the writing market with no inkling of current trends, I'd bemoan my opportunities.  After all, small presses have mostly gone away, and fewer new writers seem to be getting picked up.  I'd be going to conventions and cold calling agents, probably begging them to listen.  I'd write off not being taken seriously as an indication of a dying industry, books in general, rather than understanding the paradigm shift that has occurred.  The new pathway into traditional publishing success now seems to be to make it on the indie circuit and get noticed, thus improving your bargaining position if a traditional publisher does indeed come calling.  And if not, then an indie author can still make a better living than most mid-listers who will toil in irrelevancy, criticizing "those self published hacks" while not realizing those hacks are making a better living with more control over their work than those shackled to a traditional publisher.

True success nowadays means controlling your destiny, something you're much more likely to do if you first demonstrate staying power in the indie realm first.  That way, you have the option of signing or staying indie, flexibility those who've signed contracts, all of which are heavily weighted towards the publisher, don't have.

So don't despair in the constricting world of traditional publishing.  Instead, rejoice in the leverage that the new world of indie publishing has given writers.  The inmates don't yet control the asylum, but we've now forced management to the bargaining table.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Finding Beta Readers

Writers produce great work the first time out, right?  The masses flock to our brilliance because we're just that damn good.  I know my own work comes out polished and in final form from the moment I put pen to paper.

What's that you say?  You dare call bullshit on me?  I can't believe you don't understand my brilliance!
(My first draft can be found in there)
Certainly I think my work is good.  I know what I'm trying to get across, but this leads to a problem - I can't objectively evaluate my own work.  I even find that when I try, I argue with myself:

"That's not well written in this spot.  Your action sequence makes it unclear who the hero is."

"Bullshit!  It's as plain as day that Rick is the one pulling the Soldiers together and leading the counterattack."

"Counterattack?  Is that what that was?  I thought they were repelling an enemy attack."

"They did.  That's why they're now on offense."

"That's ridiculous.  You give no indication of offensive maneuver and make us think the action never transitioned."

"Bite me, you pretentious idiot.  You'd get it if you weren't so stupid and caught up on form.  Everyone else gets it."

"What everyone else?  No one else as seen it."

"Uh, yeah but...blow me!"

That's when I need an honest broker or two.  A good beta reader is worth his or her weight in gold.  You need to find someone who is an avid reader and can be brutally honest without completely crushing your ego.  I've sought out beta readers in the past, and it's harder than spinning that first date into a long term relationship.

There are several people I've given my work to who have yet to finish the novel in their hands...three years later!  I feel like a nag asking whether they got back into it or not, so I've given up on most.  These are friends who enthusiastically told me they were interested, but that interest soon fell off the face of the Earth.  One person in particular told me that Salvation Day was great, but she had to stop reading when some of the questions asked by the main character hit a little too close to home and made her start questioning her own faith.  Basically, she said I had too much of an impact.  Talk about a pyrrhic battle.

Other beta readers have fallen into one of two categories - either they were real nice and told me everything was wonderful without being specific about what they liked, or they said they hated it, again without being specific as to why.  I'm a big boy, and I can handle it when people don't like my stuff.  Tastes are subjective, and not every piece of advice is going to be incorporated, but I can't evaluate that advice if I don't get it.  If a beta reader liked the novel, I need to know why.  How did the characters resonate with them?  Did the setting of each scene create an emotional reaction?  In what way did the opening sequence capture their attention?  Likewise, if they thought it was shit, I need to know the reason.  Did I take too much for granted in not describing the action?  Was the main character not sympathetic enough?  Did it just not flow well, creating instead a bumpy experience?

This is the kind of feedback a good beta reader can give.  I just wish more people understood that I truly want to know rather than just having my ego stroked.  I want that when I publish and readers flock to what I'm selling, but in order to get there, I have to know what to fix in the here and now.  Maybe new folks I'm reaching out to will help.

Sunday, April 7, 2013


When it comes to this whole writing business, I do two things - I write novels, and I blog.  However, I've recently begun to wonder just how much my lack of actually publishing something has affected my credibility with the folks who come here(or even the ones who don't).

It's no secret that I've written a few books.  I continue to do so, and I have plans for future works to I can try and make a go at this on a professional level.  Most people that claim they want to be writers can't get beyond the "grand idea" stage, so I've gotten further down this road than a lot of folks.  Still, my lack of being on the current market could, conceivably, make my credibility suspect with the audience of this blog.

It's relatively easy in the modern age to produce a novel for the general public and put into practice the dream one espouses.  After a while, the general public begins to wonder just why they're taking advice from an author who doesn't have a product on the market for them to peruse.  Would you believe in a football coach who never played a down, or in a chef who never produced a meal for you to taste?

This had me wondering recently just how serious people will take this blog.  I thought that maybe I got started too early in the process and started this thing up long before I'd be ready to put a product on the market.  Perhaps, I thought, I should've waited until that day a while from now when I could show I had a book scheduled for imminent release.
(All businesses have to be ready to serve their customers more than dreams)
That was when the tiny little voice in the back of my head started asking me if that credibility mattered in the context I was imagining.  I wasn't claiming to have invented the longer lasting light bulb or that my car could run on both gasoline and water.  I was giving out writing advice, mostly to people with the same hopes I have, and they'd either embrace it or they wouldn't.  It wasn't like I was a teacher, sitting on high and dispensing philosophy to the masses.  No, I was engaging in what was essentially mutual collaboration with others at probably the same stage of this business I was.  Some are ahead of me(have been published), and some are behind me(still working on that first novel), but no one had yet come to me and said, "You asshat - why should we listen to you?"  Even if that happened, would I care?

I came to the conclusion that I wouldn't.  Those that won't take what I'm offering aren't worth the effort anyway.  I put my stuff out there, and people can evaluate whether it makes sense to them.  If so, I hope they incorporate it.  If not, they'll ignore it.

I also know that I'll actually publish one day.  Why not now, you ask?  There are two reasons - the first is that I want to focus on selling novels when I first publish, and I don't want to be worried about writing another novel so I can maintain momentum.  By having an inventory of books ready to go, I can release one every six months for the first couple of years and bypass the pressure of new deadlines, lest I slip into irrelevancy.  That'll free me up to focus on the business side of this without feeling that I'm neglecting work.  The second reason is a function of geography - I currently live in Hawaii, and that makes it difficult to do all I want to in regards to my work.  However, I will be leaving Hawaii in roughly two years, at which point geography becomes less problematic.

Maybe I'm just being cautious, but the market will be there when I finally debut.  Besides, the space has given me excellent breathing room to save money up that I can use to jump start what I'm planning.  If my calculations are correct - channeling a little Doctor Emmit Brown there - then I should have roughly $10,000 to start once I'm ready to push this into high gear.

Additionally, blogging helps me hone my own writing skills in a format that I'm not always comfortable with.  Therefore, even if no one reads it or takes seriously what I have to say, I'm practicing the craft and getting better, which is an end unto itself.  And isn't getting better one of the reasons we all spend so much time writing anyway?

Thursday, April 4, 2013


It's no secret that I despise people who grovel.  It's okay to have admiration for others, but we all need to remember that the people on the receiving end of our admiration are people, just like us.  They drink coffee like we do, they fart like we do, and they have the same insecurities we do.  We like to imagine that those we look up to are stoic gods who have no flaws, but that's just not reality.

This advice applies not just to those looking to land an agent or publisher, but also to our fellow writers.  I say this because I recently had to overcome such fawning on another website when I dared have the gall to question two fairly well known indie writers.  What they were saying, in my opinion, was incorrect, and I said so.  I wasn't rude or dismissive about it, but I also didn't back off of my opinion either.
(Am I playing with fire?)
For daring challenge the opinion of these superstars, you'd have thought I was out setting puppies on fire.  Not only did several folks lash out at me for what I said, the two authors in question went insane.  One or two people tried to inject reasoned opinions into the debate, but most people started hurling epithets that would make a sailor blush.  And all because I didn't bow down before the awesome greatness of these two.

Maybe I'm just quirky, but if I think something you said is wrong, I'm going to say so, and it doesn't matter to me who you are.  Whether it be Stephen King, the Dali Lama, or Sheldon Cooper, if you're wrong, you're wrong.  A person's status doesn't mean anything to me when it comes to engaging them.

What this has taught me is that some people believe their own press.  It's one thing to be a good writer, but it's quite another to think your success somehow means your shit doesn't stink.  I will engage anyone in a spirited and respectful debate, so I always find it amusing when folks think they should never be challenged on an issue just because they've achieved a few accolades.

It also taught me another great lesson - stay humble.  When I do achieve success, I don't want to become one of "those people."  I want to remember that I can be wrong, and that I can always grow from the opinions of others.  If I ever get like the two I took on, I hope someone has the decency to take me out to the woodshed and beat some sense into me.  Maybe then I'll be reminded that I'm a person as flawed as any other, capable of great thoughts but just as easily able to engage with others.  I don't want to come across as a spoiled two year old who thinks his is the only opinion and that those who think otherwise are just big poopyheads.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

In Between

I have something of a season when I write.  I set a schedule and try to stick to it when I'm working on a book.  However, assuming I finish up on time, there's usually some time in between.  That's not always the case, as demonstrated between Canidae and Schism, but even then I had a few weeks.  So, what do I do when I'm not working on a new book?

There are several things.  First, it's not like I abandon writing completely.  I work on short stories and enter contests.  I do this to both stay sharp on writing and to help keep myself sharp by doing things I don't normally do.  I can get away from the long developing process of writing a full novel and try to do it in a much more condensed version.

I also take a little bit of time to not write every single day.  Yes, writing can be like going to the gym - the more time you take off, the easier it is to continue to take time off.  However, just like the body, the mind needs rest.  I read a lot, but I can get to things from my reading pile I'd postponed when I'm between novels.  I can also just chill out and not worry about hitting 2,000 words for the day, nor do I have to feel guilty when I don't hit that daily goal.
(Even chickens need an egg laying break)
I also work on other novel-related projects that don't involve coming up with whole stories from scratch.  Wrongful Death has needed to be edited for a while now, and I'm going to use the "off season" between the end of Schism and the start of my next project to do just that.  There's been more than enough time for me to take a look at Wrongful Death with fresh eyes, and I can now at least run through it once.  I want to take some time off between editing cycles so I can refresh my own mind, but it'd be great to get near the end of that process before the 4th of July.

Also, Canidae needs to be reworked, and the off season gives me a chance to start doing that.  I won't get anywhere close to complete before I begin on my new novel in July, but I can work on it a little bit and stay with a world I'm familiar with before diving into a new one.  It'll allow me to reset before going full bore to another full novel, and if I feel like I'm burning out, I can always put the rework on hold until later.

So I guess the answer is that there's not really a break for a passionate writer, only a shift in focus.  But doesn't shifting our focus allow our vision to stay strong?