Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Great Reviews!

I've been getting some great reviews for both Akeldama and Salvation Day!

Regarding Akeldama, on Amazon, VeganTourGuide wrote, "5.0 out of 5 starsI am glad this book was recommended to me and I will be recommending it to others in return. Until now, this wasn't my genre of reading, however I love the action and story and so I'm IN and looking forward to more!"

CC Case wrote, "Imagine if Tom Clancy were running your Vampire: The Masquerade Campaign."

Gregory C. Scrivens wrote, "5.0 out of 5 starsFantastic. Grabbed you at the beginning and kept you holding on. Great seque to historical factish. Read it in a weekend. Great job. Looking for the sequel."

On Goodreads, Vanessa Eccles said," 4.0 out of 5 starsVampires and the church? Definitely an interesting and unexpected read!" 4.0 out of 5 starsVampires and the church? Definitely an interesting and unexpected read!

And Sir Reader of Iowa said, " 4.0 out of 5 starsI got this from voraciousreadersonly.com. Fantastic read! I got hooked since first page of the book."4.0 out of 5 starsI got this from voraciousreadersonly.com. Fantastic read! I got hooked since first page of the book.

Salvation Day is beginning to get similar reviews.  On Amazon, Redskier wrote, "5.0 out of 5 starsUnique topic and handling of various beliefs. But underlying is a story which keeps the pages turning and the mind engaged on your own religious beliefs."

Finally, Tonya Adrian-hill writes on Goodreads, "5.0 out of 5 starsExcellent read, my husband wants to read it as I kept reading sections out loud to him. I would love to hear more of this author’s ideas on God and religion."

Please keep writing reviews - I love getting feedback from readers!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Same Character?

I feel like I'm caught in a trap that many writers face - are my main characters really just the same person with minor variations?

One of the oldest pieces of writing advice is to "write what you know."  Though I think that such a sentiment is often garbage - not many of us have gone to Mars or are endowed with the powers of a witch - there are times the phrase has meaning, and it's usually when you put yourself into your characters.  Most of the folks I write are exaggerations of myself and how I might react in a situation.  I do that because I know my own mind and motives better than I do anyone else's, so it makes the character more easily believable(for me).

Of course, the danger here is that the characters in a series of novels can end up being pretty similar, and that's frustrating.  I want to branch out into more interesting people, but my lone attempt - the first draft of Wrongful Death, where I tried to make the main character a high school girl - went so poorly that I had to start over.  It turns out I have no idea how to realistically portray a high school girl, but I remembered what I was like in high school, so I changed the main character to a high school boy with little difficulty.  Was that a cop out?  Sure, but it was also the only way I could produce what I needed to produce in a compelling way.

But how do we fix this issue?  Once a writer gets into a groove, it's tough to shift.  I think the solution is to ask your beta readers to look at your characters and figure out if they're the same person.  Do my scientist and my vampire hunter do things the same way?  Can I distinguish between the historian in my science fiction and the vigilante in my war about a new American Civil War?

It takes outside eyes to look at a work and figure out if, compared to other works by the same author, the main characters are the same person.  This critique can be crushing for a writer, but the sooner you figure it out, the better.  After all, while I love Jack Torrence, I doubt he'd have been as compelling fighting Pennywise.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Enjoying Work

On the heels of my last post(I know I missed earlier this week...sorry), someone asked me if I read my own books.  The only thing I can say is...well...yeah.

No, I don't obsess over my novels, lovingly caressing them before bed each night, but I look at them off and on, and for several reasons.  First off, both Akeldama and Salvation Day have upcoming sequels, so I have to make sure I can remember various pieces for the sake of consistency.  Readers remember the original well enough to catch flaws in new work that the author may have forgotten about.

Beyond that, though, I just like them.  I've often spoken of writing what I want to read, so why wouldn't I enjoy going back to my own work the same way I've read Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince or Guns of the South over and over?  Authors, I hope, don't write something and then think, "Wow, that's crap.  But I hope people still buy my book."  Just as any reader does, I get attached to my characters and like to remember their travails and triumphs.

In addition to that, going back and re-reading my own books reminds me of where I was in life when I wrote them.  Ask any writer, and he or she will tell you the energy and life circumstances that went into writing a novel.  I can look at a chapter, a plot line, or a character and remember, Yup, that's what was going on at that time.  I can then see how the book evolved as my life evolved.  It's also fun to retrace the evolution of not just my life, but my writing style.  You can find what you did not as well, and how you might change it today.  It aids with growth as a writer.

This is not to say I read only my own books, or even that I do so very often, but I do it, and it'd be dishonest not to admit that.  I'd wager that any writer worth his or her salt will cop to that.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Arrogance Required

Arrogance has gotten a bad rap.  When someone is seen as arrogant, the connotations that go along with that moniker are almost always negative.  In a lot of cases, that negativity is deserved.  Those cases are usually when someone pipes up about something about which they know nothing, or regarding an activity they've never done but claim to be expert at.

However, regarding our profession - or any profession, really - arrogance is a trait that is necessary to achieve success.  Think about the brass tacks it takes to believe you have what it takes to play football better than anyone else on the planet.  Or that you are the person who is best to lead the country.  Or that you have what it takes to tell a story that lots of people will not only love, but will pay good money for...

When it comes to writing, that's what we're basically saying - we're so good at telling a story that audiences will sit enraptured by our tale.  It's necessary for us to put our work out there and market it so that other people will fork over their hard earned cash for it.  Yes, I know that many writers are pretty insecure when it comes to their stories, but folks simply won't be successful if we sit on our insecurities and don't try to get other people to buy them.

Think for a moment about authors like Stephen King or JK Rowling.  Do you have any doubt that they honestly believe they can tell a horror story or spin a tale about a wizard and world of magic better than anyone on the planet?  I know what you're saying, that they actually can write those tales better than anyone, so that level of arrogance is justified, but that doesn't mean that it's not arrogance.  Reaching the top of the profession requires it.

This doesn't mean you don't go out and try to improve your craft, or that you're unwilling to take honest criticism.  It means that when you write a story, you have to believe it to be so good that people will want to spend time reading it.  If you don't believe that, why are you even writing?

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Quality Versus Quantity

I've been having a debate with a few author friends recently, and it basically boils down to how often and under what circumstances a writer should publish new books.  One friend is of the opinion that writers, especially new writers, should put out as many books as possible as quickly as possible in order to create an inventory that can start making money.  The thought there is that flooding the zone creates more opportunities for people to buy your work, so give as many as possible.

The second school of thought is that while creating an inventory is nice, quality matters more since people aren't like to buy your inventory if what you write is crap.  In other words, don't publish unless you're certain that you have something of quality that everyone will like.

Some writers are extremely prolific.  Even as prolific as they are, they still manage to write wonderful books that demonstrate a remarkable degree of talent.  Others write wonderful novels but only publish every few years.  They meticulously go over every detail until it's just right.

I think I come down somewhere in between.  I've written four novels that are in serious need of rewriting.  Yes, I could publish them now and increase my inventory, but folks would then likely skip more of my work since really good stuff would be intermixed with absolutely horrible stuff.  In my opinion, bad stuff is so damaging to a reputation that it's hard to overcome it with good work.  People get skittish about picking up one of your books since they have no idea if they'll get a diamond or a mound of compost.

As a parallel, many people love the Calvin & Hobbes comic strip.  Back in my day - you know...eons ago when dinosaurs roamed the Earth - people couldn't get enough.  However, the strip's creator, Bill Watterson, was adamant about rewriting poor work so that the quality was high.  Despite demand, he felt that poor strips would turn people off and reduce his audience.  I feel the same way about putting out lower quality work.

That's not to say that writers can just sit back and await perfection.  Although some writers strike gold on their first foray, and can thus afford to be more selective, most of us will acquire a small but loyal fan base.  And since that fan base isn't large enough to bring us to the NY Times Bestseller List, we need volume to create a steady stream of income.
(on a side note, if you're retching right now because you think that the "art" should be done just for its own sake...grow up.  Most of us have funny needs, like "food" and "heat," so actually selling our work is sort of a big deal)

I think that once one achieves success, it then becomes easier to take larger breaks between works.  However, especially at the beginning, we have the double burden of needing to be both prolific and good.  Just don't sacrifice one for the other.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Great Review For Salvation Day!

Self Publishing Review just gave me a tremendous review for Salvation Day!  It's never easy to solicit feedback on your work, but I couldn't be more thrilled with what they said about my work.  Check out the review for yourself, and if you haven't read it, pick up a copy today.  I hope you'll enjoy it at least as much as James Grimsby did.

Plus, if you're interested in reading more about me and the crazy inside of my mind, check out their author interview with me.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Two Space Or Not Two Space

In researching for this piece, I've discovered that there's a controversy in the writing world I never knew existed - whether or not to put two spaces between sentences.  Feelings run unexpectedly high on the issue, from some folks saying absolutely not to do it, to others who say that it's steeped in rich grammatical history.  Some have gone so far as to say that it's a sign of being old(or at least over 40) if you use two spaces after a sentence.  What began as a quirky little post became a journey into a surprisingly passionate subject that pit nerd against nerd, and grammarian against grammarian.

I learned, eons ago when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, to use two spaces at the end of each sentence(or a semicolon).  It became so ingrained in me, and I've been doing it for so long, that it's as natural now as breathing.  In fact, I have to make a deliberate effort to only use one space, and I've found that effort so disrupting to the flow of my work that I stopped worrying about it.  But why did that rule ever come about?

Apparently it was all a result of our use of typewriters.  In the olden days, before computers, typewriters all used the same font and spacing.  The letter "l" used the same amount of spacing as the letter "w."  In order to create separation between sentence and provide for better flow, what I call the "rule of two" came into being.  And it was used for a long time.  It became standard practice in both classrooms and media offices.  School after school that taught typewriting - which was nearly every high school in existence prior to 1995 - drilled the rule of two into everyone's head.  This made it a natural reaction.

However, when computers came along, it became moot.  Office programs made it so that the spacing now no longer relied on manual typesetting, so one space was plenty good enough to see the difference between sentences.  Typesetters even began discouraging two spaces after a sentence as it created extra work for them.  This has not been enough to overcome some of the (older) inertia.

I use two spaces.  I probably always will.  I independently publish, and I still think that two spaces provides a good break between independent thoughts, but I'm not opposed to those who use one space.  But bring that up in a group of writers under the age of 30 and you might as well have set a sack of puppies on fire.  Talk about angst - sheesh!

So where do you fall, and why?  Are you a two-spacer?  Or do you believe it's one space, and all two-spacers are secret members of a Satanic cult?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Just Write The Damn Story

Folks, I've done my best to stay out of politics.  I don't comment on the current President, just like I didn't comment on the last one.  I don't talk about Congress, or the federal budget, or the latest polls and what they may or may not say about an upcoming election.  I even stay out of topics sensitive to readers on all sides regarding same-sex marriage, abortion, and the war on drugs.  However, I'm going to stray a bit here, because some stuff is creeping in that affects actual writing.

The biggest takeaway is that writers are writing scared.  Far too many are getting so worried about not offending people that it's getting in the way of writing good stories.  Some folks are going so far as to have sensitivity readers look at their work so as to ensure that no one is offended and all the proper PC etiquette is observed.  Remember the saga of The Black Witch?  Laurie Forest endured scathing criticism of a novel that most people hadn't even read yet.  One reviewer talked about how the book was culturally insensitive, and suddenly the McCarthyites came out of the woodwork.  You'd have thought she penned a new Mein Kamp or something.

Then there is "cultural appropriation," a term which makes me want to vomit.  This is the belief that we're all supposed to stay in our own little world and not write about that which is from another culture different than ours(as if one culture or another "owns" something, or readers even know which culture is doing the writing in the first place).  This is idiotic from several standpoints, not the least of which being how limiting it is to both the writer and the audience.  Who gave anyone the right to tell us what we can and can't write?  If writers stayed only within their own world, we'd be denied some tremendous stories...stories that belong to all of us, not just select members of a certain group.  There's also the myopic view that this creates, limiting us to only what we know and never allowing us to explore outside of it.  Isn't the whole point of exploring other cultures to get to know them?  What is the point of diversity if it can't enrich us all?  Further most of those talking about not culturally appropriating things are referring less to real culture and more to skin color, which is an awfully stupid way to assess which culture someone came from.  I know folks of all races from all cultures, so assuming someone's culture by the color of their skin is only slightly less racist than...well...nothing.

I've come across a lot of writers that won't engage on certain topics or viewpoints because they're worried they may upset the wrong group of people.  Doesn't this keep us from writing good stories?  What's wrong with writing what you like and then letting the audience decide if it's any good?  So many classics throughout time have been maligned as wrongthink, from Huckleberry Finn to I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings to A Wrinkle In Time, that if those writers had listened to such scolds, we'd have been deprived of some amazing work.

Write what you're comfortable with and think is a good story.  I didn't write Wrongful Death from the point of view of a high school girl, but I originally tried, and I wouldn't begrudge anyone, man or woman, who could pull it off.  I doubt JK Rowling was ever an eleven year old boy or a wizard, but she did a great job with Harry Potter.

This isn't just a political issue - it's an issue of freedom.  I thought we'd long since moved past the era of book burnings, but today's scolds are trying to accomplish basically the same thing, which is to prevent a larger audience from enjoying a certain work because the scold finds it to be heresy.  Where we used to worry about fundamentalist churches banning books, now it's "sensitive" people who somehow know what's best for our entire society.  What a joke!  If you don't care for a book, don't read it!  However, acting as judge and jury because you think you're all "woke" is incredibly conceited and stifling.

Writers should write.  Let the audience decide what's good and what's not good.  I promise they will.  Beyond that, don't worry about what a bunch of overly sensitive ninnies who wouldn't know good literature if it smacked them will say.  Just be creative.

Okay...rant over.  Now go back to your lives...

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Been Busy

Sorry about missing a post last week.  Life has been hectic, and I didn't plan ahead to have a post ready.  Time also caught up to me today(the NFL playoffs didn't do me any favors  :-P  ).  I promise I'm working on something for Thursday.  I get that y'all are probably getting tired of me missing posts or complaining about time, but that's life at the moment.

I'll pull out of my laziness and pity party this week.  Until that point, please accept my apologies for being short on content.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Calling All Bloggers!

This post won't be long - I'm putting out a call for anyone who would like to guest blog.  Someone recently pointed out to me that writers should help give each other platforms to get the word out about ourselves, and I've decided to join the cause.  Anyone looking to guest post, please contact me at RussDMeyer@gmail.com.  Send me a brief bio and what you'd like to blog about.  If you have a book out or about to be out, I'll happily link to it from here.

So come one, come all - dazzle us!