The Beacon 23 series is complete! I’ve had a few questions about the series, so I thought I’d answer them all in a blog post, plus give you a little history of how the series came about.
I’ve been thinking about this series for years, all the way back to the Molly Fyde books. The idea of a lighthouse operator in outer space appealed to me. The desolation, the solitude, plus all the wild events that might break up the monotony of staring at the stars the way lighthouse operators must’ve stared at the sea.
The original idea was to write a short story for one particular beacon, and then move on to another beacon. I would invite other authors to come up with their own beacon stories. The potential here is endless. Anything that might happen in outer space could be told from the perspective of a beacon operator. And these operators could come from all walks of life.
This last point is the most important, in my opinion. The stark setting of the beacons brings the characters into sharp relief. This series was always going to be heavily character-driven, which are my favorite works to write. When I sat down and wrote the first story, I realized before I was even done that this nameless character was going to be the subject of a full novel. By the time I had a rough draft of part one, I had outlines for all five parts.
Why release this series in parts? For several reasons. The most important to me is the ability to slow down the reading process and have each work linger with the reader for a while. When you order a five-course meal, the chef doesn’t bring it all out at once. He or she controls the timing of each dish, making sure you digest and savor as you go. Even though I’m going to release a print omnibus (and eventually an ebook omnibus), I hope readers take a while to pause between each section. The first four parts tell their own stories, but all weave together and culminate in the fifth.
I’ve seen several reviews that claim this is the best serialized work they’ve ever read, and that makes my heart sing. I don’t serialize lightly. I draw from my love of comic books and TV shows, which use small arcs that contribute to a larger arc. This isn’t a novel chopped up into pieces; it is deliberately written to be read in this fashion. It’s also affordable. At 99 cents apiece, the entire series costs slightly less than I would charge if I released it as a full novel. I also lose readers along the way, which isn’t good from a financial perspective. But writing the works that I love, and releasing them in the way that I think adds the most to the reading experience, has never been bad for my writing career. By not caring about maximizing my income, my income has never been a problem.
So how do you outline a work like this? The crazy thing is that I published part one before I’d written a word of part two, much less parts three, four, or five. As I was writing the first part, the entire story began to form in my head, or at least the major plot beats that would tell the overall arc. Part of the thrill of writing a serialized work is publishing as you go, getting positive feedback, which makes you want to work hard at the rest of the series. My best works have been serialized, and I credit much of this to the feedback loop of writing before a live audience. If I wrote the series in full and then just staggered the uploads, I wouldn’t have this feedback loop. It’s crucial for me. WOOL, SAND, and now BEACON 23 have all been written in this manner, and these are not only my best selling works but possibly my best written.
What inspired the story? Why is it so dark at times? Why is it so emotionally driven? I credit this to changes in my life, living on the road and out of a suitcase for the past few months, and a move back to the sea. All of my works are autobiographical to some degree, but this one very much so. That’s not why the protagonist is nameless, however. The reason for that is related to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. There’s an idea behind this series that I spell out in a note to the reader in part five. I’ve always wondered why we don’t have a Tomb to the Unknown Dissenter. That’s who this series is dedicated to, all the people out there saddened by violence, even if they understand it is sometimes, tragically, necessary.
So that’s it. A look at the series that has somehow taken off similar to WOOL, something that I never thought I’d see again. I hope you enjoy the works. Here are links to all five, in case you want to get started:
Beacon 23 – Part 1: Small Noises
21 replies to “Beacon 23”
Hi, Part 1 seems to take me a sony camera and not the first part of the story?
Unless there’s something meta going on that I’ve missed…
No wonder that camera is suddenly out of stock.
Two days and still the first link not fixed?
Heh. Been busy here and out of town. Should be fixed now.
Hugh – Congrats on the success of this series! I’m looking forward to reading it.
Question for you: What marketing, if any, did you do for this serial? A lot of authors have experimented with serials, promoting the hell out of them and making a new installment available every week in the hopes there’s a snowball effect. Just wondering if you did any promotions and also, did you release these at specific intervals or just whenever they were ready? Very curious to hear whatever you’re comfortable sharing.
Congratulations on the series. Well earned success. And yeah I got a camera in the Amazon link too.
Man looking forward to Beacon 23! I’m in the middle of a Tamora Pierce series, but yours is next up, hopefully there’s an Omnibus soon?
Regarding your mis-linked book 1 – Considering upgrading from your RX1, eh? I don’t know if you remember, but I was talking to you about your camera before the Boing Boing conference in SF, where you were handing out the Wool usb drives. I have the original A7 with the 35mm 2.8 and the 55mm 1.8, the 55mm is a GORGEOUS lens, but it really ruins the portability of the camera, I use the 35mm 99% of the time.
The original A7 was a bit slow and missed on AF some of the time, and from what I’ve read that’s been fixed with the new camera, so I’m definitely reading all the reviews. If you buy the A7RII let me know what you think!
As others have said the first links to a nice Sony camera. I came for the book but on Hugh’s recommendation decided to skip and buy the camera as I thought it might have special significance and a bargain at just under $3,200 dollars.
I have a Beacon question that is nagging me:
Warthen – Is it “war then”, “wart hen”, or ” warth in”?
And a comment: as a retired Navy CDR, submarine guy, and farmer, you struck so many chords with me in this serial. I loved it! Absolutely great as a serial.
Loved this series and it made me take out a kindle unlimited sub and catch up on your other short stories.
Thanks for sharing your thought processes on creating this serial. I notice in the Amazon Reviews for B23 Part 1 that some people really get (and like) sequential releases and others don’t. Your five-course-meal analogy is interesting with the pausing between to savor. For me, and thinking about TV habits, I both like waiting for the next week’s episode (anticipation), but I also like binging on the whole season back-to-back (gluttony). I savored WOOL, but I binged SHIFT and DUST. What to do with BEACON 23? … :)
I finished #5 today and loved the series. I do think there is still a large market for short fiction done in serialized episodes and you’ve once again proved that it’s still a viable strategy for writers! Thank you.
I prefer Canon cameras, Hugh. Just sayin’…….
Hugh, I just discovered your Beacon 23 serial and and am enjoying it tremendously.
But I’m hoping you might take a look at your file for Part Three: Bounty. I haven’t been able to read beyond this section:
“Leaning against the wall, I enter the first three digits of the override code.
“My fingers hovers over the fourth.”
Aaack! When I tap my kindle to turn the page, I get this message:
“An error occurred. If you purchased this item from Amazon, delete the item and download it from the Cloud.”
I tried that twice. No go. I had Amazon call me. The rep had me go through the delete and download cycle again. That didn’t work, so she refunded me the purchase and then had me purchase it again. Still, no go.
She said she would alert the tech department and that they would fix the glitch in the content code. That she would refund my purchase yet again, and that I should wait a few hours and repurchase. She said that the tech dept was fast.
I waited a day and repurchased Part Three: Bounty today. Alas, the error still occurs at exactly the same spot. I’m sure you can understand that I am dying to know whether the protagonist pushes that fourth button…or not!
This is weird. I haven’t had anyone else mention the issue. Can you email me? Just my first and last name at gmail, not spaces or dots. I’ll send you a file to try.
This series sounds great, about to buy all 5: quick question, is Part 4 meant to be $3? All the rest are 99c.
Maybe an issue with regional pricing, as I’m in Aus?
Not that I’d mind, as it’s still a bargain for all five – just checking!
“But writing the works that I love, and releasing them in the way that I think adds the most to the reading experience, has never been bad for my writing career. By not caring about maximizing my income, my income has never been a problem.”
Saving this quote~
As an amateur writer, it’s useful to be reminded that financial security comes from serving readers well, not the other way around.
Picking this series up soon. Love the lighthouse in the universe concept. Created something similar with my first novel – The House Of Light. Also the idea of outposts in space is always a cool idea. My Cellar Dwellers monitor transmissions among other dimensions. Great! Great!
Any chance the books will be published through Kobo? I don’t see any easy way to buy the Kindle version and move it over to my Kobo reader.
When you buy the book on Amazon, you can download a MOBI version to your computer. The easiest way to handle it from there is probably to install Calibre and have it handle your non-Kobo ebook library on your computer. It’ll convert between any format, and if you plug in your Kobo reader it should be able to back up your books (if you want it to) and you can send the Amazon book over. It’ll automatically convert it to the right format before transferring.