Sunday, January 15, 2017

Being A Twit

Okay, so the title of the post is a bit misleading since this is about both Twitter and Facebook, but I couldn't find a pun to make about Facebook.  Anyhoo...

Social media continues to pervade our lives.  It's everywhere and nearly impossible to escape.  As writers, it can be a useful tool for marketing.  We get to describe our work in order to gage interest, build an audience, and let that audience know when we're coming out with new stuff.  That said, it can also be a dangerous trap of our own devising.

I've previously described that we, as writers, need to keep our personal views on controversial subjects out of our work.  In light of this past election, it's even more vital we do so.  Most of us have strong opinions about recent events, but as the vote totals show, we're roughly a 50/50 nation, and each side feels steadfast in their views...to the point of cutting people out of our lives if they don't support our side.  I may think that's petty, regardless of who you support, but that's still a fact of life in this polarized age.  By injecting our personal views about this candidate or that, we risk alienating half of our potential audience - not the best way for a new writer to build followers.  Yes, rare people like Stephen King and JK Rowling can give out what they think without repercussion, most writers simply don't have that luxury.

Prior to around 2000, that wasn't really an issue.  Blogging was fairly new, and social media was non-existent.  Now, however, we all feel like we can put anything out from the comfort of our keyboard.  Problem is that it isn't only the side we agree with that sees it.  People on every side love to troll through the internet looking for outrage.  It takes only one poorly worded tweet or a viral Facebook post to irreparably tarnish what half of people think.

I have strongly held opinions myself, and I voice them a great deal on Facebook.  However, my feed is private and not visible to those I don't know.  I promise that at least half of you would turn me off forever if you knew what I wrote on there(probably more than half...I can be quite annoying).  We've all heard stories of one ill-advised tweet, even made in jest, ruining people's lives.  Remember, Twitter and Facebook don't provide body language, tone of voice, facial expressions, etc, so people will read it in whatever voice they want to, and these days it seems like that voice is a super-serious one.

In this perpetually offended age, remember your audience is more diverse than you think.  Michael Jordan recognized this in 1990 when he was asked why he wouldn't endorse Harvey Gantt against Jesse Helms, and he responded with, "Republicans buy shoes too."  If ideological purity is what you want, then by all means, piss off half of the audience, but just know that you won't have as wide a reach.  Also, you'll eventually piss off those on "your side" too.  Is that worth your own self-righteousness?

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Officially Incorporated!

I am now officially a business owner!  Late last week, I finally established Rushamra Publishing, LLC, the company for the publication of my novels.  I'm still on target for a May 18th publication date, so I thought I'd fill everyone in on a few details.

To start with, why the name Rushamra?  No, it's not some reference to the ancient Middle East, or a nod to some obscure source material that few would know and makes me sound either clever or snobbish.  Quite simply, it's the first two letters of me and my immediate family(RUss, SHerry, AMelia, and RAchel).  My family has been extremely supportive every step of the way, and I wanted to recognize them for that.

Next, why did I choose to be an LLC(Limited Liability Corporation).  Honestly, due to the protection coupled with ease of setup and operation.  Sole Proprietorships leave the owner vulnerable to all kinds of nasty consequences in the event some asshat gets the silly idea to sue me for some odd reason.  All the big-time authors, like Stephen King and JK Rowling, have been sued by folks who were eager to cash in on their fame by claiming that they'd written the same basic novel and that it was stolen.  Although I know that I'm not on that level, it would be silly to not be prepared.  Cases like this are usually dismissed, but they're costly to defend, especially in the US, where you're still responsible for all your own legal costs, even if you win.  By forming an LLC, and ensuring I keep my business fund separate from my personal accounts, I am able to protect my family's assets from seizure.

Also, some have asked why I waited till after the New Year.  I just wanted to wait until In could start under a new tax season, even though my tax accountant said this wasn't as necessary as I once thought, for filing as an LLC isn't terribly complicated(it's complicated, but that's a result of the tax system being complicated, and filing a schedule C doesn't add much more burden, especially to pursue my dream).

So, what does all this mean?  It means I can move forward with all the nuances I need to meet the May 18th publication date.  I'll contact the cover artist I've found shortly, have the books properly formatted, get the ISBNs, etc.  As that ramps up, my update posts will include the cover, blog tours, in person appearances, giveaways, and all that jazz.

I know this step may be small, but I'm excited.  It's the first real sign that this is real that doesn't have to do with just writing the book.  I hope y'all's interest remains with me, and I'm grateful for the continued support.

Monday, January 2, 2017

New Year's Resolutions

It's a new year, so I thought I'd lay out what I hope to accomplish in 2017.  Perhaps it's better to call these "Goals for 2017" rather than "New Year's Resolutions" since I'm not normally a fan of resolutions(I think you should be moved to something by your own internal motivation rather than an arbitrary calendar flip).  However, since it's January 2nd...

1.  Complete blog posts on time.  Granted, I'm only a few hours late, but you'll note that this post didn't come out on the schedule it usually does.  To be honest, I was tired and lazy this past weekend, so I sat on my ass and didn't feel like posting.  Unfortunately, this isn't the first time that has happened.  I need to get back to writing my posts in the middle of the week so I don't hit a time crunch in writing them.  That's more trying to get back into good blogging habits rather than any major change.

2.  Get back to three posts a week.  Speaking of changes, I will try to get back to posting three times a week.  I went to a single weekly posting due to two things - lack of time(caused by a variety of factors), and not having much new to say.  Topics began to repeat, and my job made doing three a week a bit daunting.  However, as I move forward to May 18th, I need to get back to my old ways.  I'll have plenty to say as my debut novel gets published, so topic diversity should increase.  I don't know when this will happen, but I'll target April to get back to three times a week.  I know y'all have been eagerly awaiting that.

3.  Publish my first two novels.  May 18th is the publication date for AkeldamaThis will be my first published novel, and there's LOTS of work to do to get started.  However, I put off publishing it last year due to some out-of-country job pressures, and I now have no excuse.  Still gotta get a cover and self-incorporate, but May 18th is the date.  I would like to publish Salvation Day about six months after that.  In short, the dream has arrived, and it should be a busy year.

4.  Get back to writing.  I haven't written anything substantial since April of 2017, and even that needs serious work.  I took time off to recuperate(my last two novels showed major signs of burnout), and getting into my new job has been challenging.  I'm also concentrating on my first release, so that doesn't allow me to write like I want to.  All the same, a writer writes, and I wonder how much my skills have atrophied.  Just like going to the gym, you need rest so you don't overwork muscles(in this case, the brain), but "resting" for too long means starting over once you finally get back to it.  We'll see which stage I'm at.

5.  Do a book tour.  This doesn't mean going to bookstores all over the country and sleeping in sleazy motel so that I can read my work to a crowd of four.  It means getting on others' blogs, going to some bookstores and local libraries, and giving away free copies to strategically placed people.  The key is publicity so that more people will be aware of, and hopefully buy, my brand.  Still working on the details, but it's a must - I can't just publish and hope people find me by some strange cosmic karma.  There are too many out there, so I've got to find ways to break through the noise.

Okay, that's it for now.  Five "resolutions" is a good goal, and I want those resolutions to be achievable rather than overwhelming.  I think that's part of our problem in our goals - too many make is seem to be too much.  Keep it simple, and do what's achievable.  What are your resloutions?

Sunday, December 25, 2016

5th Blogiversary

I started this little blog in December of 2011, and it has now been five full years of putting down random thoughts on a page.  I've been gratified by those who've chosen to read it, and I've learned a few things along the way:

1.  Blogging takes time and work.  As noted by recent changes to this blog, blogging can take a great deal of time.  Posts take, on average, 30-ish minutes to write, and when added to a full time job, writing more novels, and a family, it can be exhausting.  Figuring out a schedule takes thought.  I can't just be willy-nilly with my blogging schedule, for it will either consume me or I'll put out crappy stuff.  As an addendum, it's work.  Sure, it can be fun, and Lord knows I use it to stay sane sometimes, but it isn't just something that's "meh."  Don't go into blogging if you have an aversion to work.

2.  Ideas are hard.  When I first started blogging, I had all kinds of topics to talk about.  After all, I had a lot to say!  I also had lots of time to do so.  However, ideas began becoming more and more scarce over time.  How does a person stay on top of a blog without becoming repetitive?  Aside from time constraints, this was the biggest reason for the blog's shrinkage recently - I simply didn't have enough to fill a blog three days a week without becoming that Charlie Brown teacher that no one understands because her words become nothing but noise.

3.  Always be safe with permissions.  This is a big one when it comes to the financial health of bloggers.  Some bloggers use the work of others to enhance their sites.  I used to be one of them...until I discovered the risks involved.  Remember, when you use someone else's work - pictures, song lyrics, etc. - you usually owe them something monetarily, and they will be able to enforce that in court.  I decided not to risk it.  At the same time, it makes pictures on the site challenging since it takes effort to take pictures, and rarely do we find something super-hilarious.

4.  Always engage with commenters.  Always.  People like to feel they are friends with people they read.  It's a basic human need.  It can also be annoying when a blogger seems to think that he or she is above the audience.  None of us are.  We're all people, and we need others to both be interested and buy our work.  Besides, you can have some really great conversations, so don't snub your audience.

5.  Don't get political.  We just came off of a very divisive election.  People have ended relationships over folks being on the wrong side of political conversations.  Don't alienate half of your audience by being snide about what you believe.  In fact, don't bring it up unless it's absolutely necessary.  Let people believe you think exactly what they think.  Practiced apathy can be bonding, but opposition can piss people off.  Unless you're writing a political book intended for a specific group, don't risk it.

The first five years have been fun.  I've met some awesome readers and writers, and I've learned a lot.  I hope I'll continue to learn.  As for what I'll do next, that'll come in next week's post.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Website Update

I finally did something I've been meaning to do for almost a year - I updated this site.  A great deal of the information was wildly out of date, so it needed doing even though I'm a lazy bastard who cringes sometimes at the minutiae of things like that.  However, being a professional means doing the little things, and the site was beginning to get stale.

First, I updated the "About Me" section...at least a little.  I haven't lived in Hawaii for over a year now, so claiming such made me look like a douche.  Kansas may not be anywhere near as exotic as the South Pacific, but it's truthful.  I loved living on Oahu, though, and my wife misses it dearly.  At the same time, the picture accompanying my profile is three years old now(the "baby" in the picture is rapidly approaching the age of four), so updating that still remains.  I'll get to it sometime during the holidays.

Additionally, I updated the "RD Meyer's Novels" page.  It said I've completed six novels, although I've completed nine.  I also updated the status on several, including the publication date of Akeldama(May 18, 2017).  I know both fans of the site want to know accurate information on how to get my work.

Finally, I updated a woefully out of date blogroll, and I may still prune it some.  Several blogs haven't been active in more than a year, while others moved to different URLs.  There were even a couple that have long since shut down.  Anything over a year without an update, with the exception of my wife's CF blog, have been removed.  After all, if those bloggers don't care enough to update their sites, why should you?

Yes, all of this seems mundane, but I've gotten a couple of notes about the currency of my site, and I finally got the proper motivation to do something about it.  I've gotta keep working, and hopefully the next update won't be yet another year in the making.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Death Of Blogs

Last week, I got overwhelmed to the point of not doing a post.  This week, it almost happened again.  As I remembered that I have people who read this blog(both of you), I wondered what the hell was happening to me.  When the answer crept into my head - life - it got me thinking about other websites that are on my blogroll, and how many have disappeared.

First, yes, I need to clean up my blogroll.  There are a few on the right side of the screen that haven't been active for months(or longer).  But I'm a lazy bastard, so I'll clean them up as soon as I get a chance during my vacation coming up soon.  Still, as I looked at cleaning, it got me thinking about those that are no longer around.

Kevin Hanrahan is a good friend of mine from school, and he had a promising start with his book, Paws On The Ground.  Unfortunately, he's been consumed with parts of his career, and I haven't heard anything about his novel in...well...forever.  His website is now dark.  Go ahead - click on the link.  You'll get nothing.

Christine Rice is a writer I've interacted with on a few occasions, but her site hasn't appeared active in over a year.  On the rare occasion I've had the chance to browse around and look at other blogs, I've found myself wondering what has happened to hers.  I suspect that, much like many others, there are life events that have gotten in the way.

Those life events seem to be at the crux of the websites I've seen that haven't been active.  DeAnna Knippling hasn't put up anything new for a while, and many others have changed platforms so often that I find myself jumping from one to the next to keep track.  It's exhausting.

So as I came up to tonight, life events once again threatening to overwhelm me, I wondered if this was the beginning of the end for my own site.  After all, I'd already limited the number of posts I was doing each week, and perhaps this was the natural course of how it was going to end.  You know - life wins, and all that bullshit.  But then I remembered that I have a novel coming out in a few months, and I need a platform.  I also need to keep writing in some vein since I'll go insane otherwise(to say nothing of dulling my ability to craft coherent sentences), so I buckled down and wrote.  I also came up with several topics for the next posts, and I've dedicated myself to finding the time to write them.  I hope I stick to it.

It's easy for life to take over, but you have to stay engaged if you want to be successful(which I aim to be).  Not that that necessarily translates, but if you lose dedication in one area, it will fall in others, and that would truly be the end.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

No Post This Morning

Sorry.  Life got overwhelming this week.  Rather than a shitty post, I'm not going to put one up at this point.  I'll be back on track next week.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

NaNoWriMo Done

Well, we've come to the end of another NeNoWriMo, and I must say...thank God.  It shouldn't be a secret that I detest this artificial creation of writing desire.  I think that if you need a special month someone else designates to write, then you don't really have the motivation to be a successful writer.

To start with, writers write.  It's what we do.  It should be all year, not just the 11th month of the calendar because it's suddenly a fashion trend.  If you can only find the motivation to write in November, how do you think you'll sustain that the rest of the year?  Yes, I know that some people say that NaNoWriMo inspired them to really get into it, but I view this as the exception rather than the rule.  It's like all those who make a New Year's resolution to go to the gym - they go the first three weeks, and then they abandon the project since they were artificially inspired(meaning the rest of us who actually go to the gym regularly can get back to our workouts in peace).  Motivation has to come from within or it'll fade.

Then there's the lack of quality in NaNoWriMo inspired work.  Yes, I think a person can write 50,000 words in a month(I've done this ac couple of times myself), but most work produced so quickly is more of a vomit of vague generalities rather than a serious production of work.  Maybe that 50,000 words is meant to be a first draft, and God I hope so, because most of that produced so quickly isn't likely to be very good.  I can write 2,000 words a day when I'm doing a new book, but it's not a stream of thought - I consciously prepare for what I'm going to write so it has sufficient depth and isn't just a jumble.

And although technically 50,000 words is a novel, I think it's little more than a shallow one.  Most novels, in my opinion, need to be at least 80,000 words to give sufficient depth to the story.  Perhaps folks use NaNoWriMo to get started, but I've found that most either think NaNoWriMo is for a complete novel, or they abandon their project once December 1st rolls around.  Like I said - lack of year round motivation will not produce success.

Now maybe this will all piss you off.  "How dare he!" you'll exclaim.  "I love NaNoWriMo, and he shouldn't disparage it!"  If you like NaNoWriMo, then why should the rantings of an unpublished author matter to you?  I find it shallow, but so what?  If my disparaging of the month is enough to discourage you, then you were never going to make it anyway(see above for motivation).  Either you're inspired to write or you aren't.  If I'm sufficient enough to piss you off about your favorite month as an arteest, then imagine what flipping the calendar to December would do.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Getting Started

The first time I started writing with any passion was when I was in the 4th Grade.  My teacher, Mrs. Joyner, gave us all little blue notebooks and told us that we would spend an hour on Fridays writing something creative.  Afterwards, we would choose a few stories to read to the class, and I was determined to be one of those chosen.

As we began this little endeavor, I found that it fired up my imagination.  I was a big Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers fan, and the sci-fi of the late 1970s and early 1980s fueled my imagination, so I designed my own space opera saga.  It was a dumb little story about Earth staving off a massive intergalactic empire with a cast of only 20 warriors, but I was nine, and I didn't have the depth and context of realism at that point.  I just wanted a story where things would go boom and folks would fight impossible odds against a demonic alien.

It also gave rise to my lifelong desire of writing.  Despite my weak plot and laughable story, my nine-year old classmates were enthralled(like I said, we were nine).  I found the aphrodisiac of storytelling, and it was then that I knew I had to write.  I kept going by expanding the 4th Grade story into a full novel in 5th Grade(which turned out to basically be a Star Wars story with new names and settings), and then I worked with some friends on a V inspired story in 6th Grade.  After all this re-imagining, I felt something was missing and quickly determined it was originality.  These stories were fun, but they weren't really mine.

I think a lot of writers underwent a similar journey - find a story you like, rework it a little(since we know how to make it better), and then finally figure out that we need to create our own worlds.  How did your love of writing begin?  Was it early in life, or did something trigger it later?

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Justifying The Story

A while back, I wrote a post in which I spoke about justifying the ending of a story.  Basically, it said that in order to have a great ending, the story must be equally epic.  The more I pondered it, the more I realized that the reverse is also true - the ending also has to justify the story.

Here's what I mean by that - Johnny Carson used to say that the longer the build up in a joke, the funnier the payoff needs to be.  In other words, you can't just pull the audience along and then give them barely a mild pop in the conclusion.  The building of suspense and the creation of tension is great, but it has to result in something that makes the audience go, "HOLY SHIT!"

This came to me as I watched Designated Survivor recently.  The show is creating a lot of intrigue, both political and action.  However, I wondered how much longer this could go on.  The story has to eventually reveal the people behind the plot to blow up the Capitol, and the longer they go on without doing so, the more the audience will expect it to knock their socks off.  Perhaps the producers are afraid of the big reveal because, after that, the show essentially becomes The West Wing with Keifer Sutherland.  In the movie Sneakers, the story writers spent so much time building up such great suspense that when they finally revealed that the villain behind all the intrigue was a lone guy with a megalomaniacal personality, it was like deflating a balloon.  I was similarly disappointed in The Da Vinci Code when it was revealed that (*SPOILER ALERT*) Teabing was the bad guy the whole time, something any competent reader could've picked up on halfway through since he was one of the only major characters, and I doubted they'd make Robert Langdon the villain.  The Da Vinci Code made it seem as if there would be a lot more behind the search for the Grail, but it ended up being simplistic and a major letdown.

Keep these things in mind when you write your novel.  I think some of us are so worried about writing a good story that we forget about the ending.  We craft intrigue and allude to big things, only to write an obvious or underwhelming ending.  That will piss the audience off in a heartbeat.  Richard Matheson, I think, did a great job of justifying his story in I Am Legend(the book, not the horrible, horrible movie).  He brought us into a world of one man against the vampires, and then revealed to us that Robert Neville was the real monster of the story and was feared by the vampires trying to rebuild society.  It was one of the few times when reading a book when I went, "Whoa!"  Had Neville simply gone in, wiped out the vampires, and restarted the world, I'd have been okay, but the book wouldn't have been a classic.  Matheson's end point made the path we traveled worth the journey.

So remember both parts of your work.  Both the story and the ending are important, and one can't exist without the other if you want to get more people interested.  Focusing your creative energies on only one aspect would be like working out only one arm - your right bicep may look great, but people will avoid you because you look weird.