Sunday, November 30, 2014


I've had no choice but to come to the conclusion that I'm a storyline snob.

I say this because I've looked at the stories I've seen recently that have been re-imagined, and I hate them.  Several of these have gotten critical acclaim...and I still hate them.  Take Maleficent - this is the retelling of the story of Sleeping Beauty in an entirely different way.  It re-makes the story so that Maleficent isn't an evil witch, but rather just a misunderstood dark hero who was wronged.  It has won praise from lots of critics, yet I see this as a corruption of the story.

The tale itself could be wonderful...on its own.  Unfortunately, the filmmakers had to coopt the original because they relied on it to draw in business.  Using Sleeping Beauty as a context, they knew they could count on all the folks who saw and loved the first movie to come see this new version.  To me, the new version twists the story into something it was never meant to be.

This isn't the first movie I've had this reaction to.  Star Trek Into Darkness had the affect on me since it took one of the greatest villains of all time, Khan Noonien Singh, and made him one dimensional, even taking away his raison d'etre by not having Kirk strand him and his wife.  This event was what made Khan so terrible, yet the filmmakers treated it like just another plot device, easily discarded if it was inconvenient.

Why am I like this?  I wish I knew.  I wish I could mindlessly accept stories, but a large part of my enjoyment rests on a story's consistency.  If a story is nonsensical within its own universe, I have trouble.  I think part of this is due to the implied laziness of it - it requires effort to maintain the same plot elements so that a universe makes sense.  Another part is the suspension of disbelief - the story must work for us to enjoy.  I have to be able to say, "I could see that happening within that universe."

Perhaps I'm the only one.  Maybe others can accept these things and think I just overthink them.  I could be in a company of one.  Does anyone else have this problem?

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Abandoning My Online Novel and News

First and foremost, I've decided to abandon my online novel.  Simply put, it sucks.  I've put no effort into outlining in advance or spending the time needed to make it worthwhile.  As such, it's nowhere near my potential, and I'm loathe to continue working on a novel that gives people the impression that my writing is shit.  This could make people think the rest of my work is shit, and that's not something a writer who depends on quality wants people to think.

I plan to go back and look at it, parsing it here and there, saying what stinks about it and what I've learned.  That shouldn't be too hard since it's easy to learn from bad work.

As an adjunct to this, I've also decided to stop doing Short Story Friday.  I don't know yet what will replace it, but the quality I like just isn't there.  It was easy in the beginning since I already had a few short stories done, and they could be copied and pasted into the blog.  Unfortunately, as time wore on and I had to come up with new short stories, the quality suffered.  I stopped outlining and editing as the demands of time pushed me down.  I just started throwing things against the wall, and it felt like a chore.  If I've learned anything, it's not to write when it's not enjoyable.

On other news, there may be a year delay in the release of Akeldama.  Originally set to come out in May 2016, I think I'm going to have to push that back to May of 2017.  The reason for this is that I think my job will take me away from the country for a year starting next summer.  I won't return until the summer of 2016, and I want about a full year to finish putting together the business aspects of my work, as well as marketing it.  Don't worry - I think I'll be able to continue this blog from my new, and temporary, home, but it'll make putting something out difficult.  If any of that changes, you'll be the first to know.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Conflicting Advice

Although I've committed myself to the indie market as a writer, I still read what comes from the traditional houses regarding how to write because one can always learn something useful.  Besides, if I don't think what they're saying is right, I can always ignore it.

A case in point is the continuing assertion that you should always "show, don't tell."  I think this is fine a point.  The problem is that literary agents and editors in publishing houses want to stick to this like biblical canon with regards to new authors.  I say new authors because some of the more established authors I've read violate this all the damn time.

Yes, you should always paint the picture when you can.  However, there are times when telling helps do that.  You sometimes need to say a character is anxious rather than portraying the beads of sweat rolling down his face or the flips his stomach is doing.  Not only does overdoing the showing aspect increase the size of the book unnecessarily sometimes, but it can also make you look like a pretentious asshole.

Go back and re-read some of your favorite authors.  Stephen King and JK Rowling do a great deal of work in allusion, but they also just come out and flat tell you what is happening sometimes.  If you pay attention, it's not hard to figure out that they do this when they need to get a point across but don't need it to delay the story.

It's okay to say that you're main character is hungry.  It's okay to say that the hero stabbed the villain in the chest.  Intersperse this with more vivid descriptions when applicable, but don't beat yourself up if you don't always tell us that, "Greg ran his blade across the fleshy part of Tyrone's throat.  Blood spilled from the wound, drenching everything in crimson."  There's a time and place for this, but it isn't all the time.

I came to this realization on a plane recently while reading over someone's shoulder(yes, I'm nosy, but I was also inconspicuous).  The man was reading a Jack Reacher novel.  Now, anyone who reads this blog regularly knows of my antipathy for Lee Child.  However, despite what I may think of the man personally, he has great talent and sells a lot of books.  The passages I caught were lean on the showing and long on the telling.  The pages used words like "hungry," "nervous," and "clumsy."  That's because the point of the pages was to focus on the conversation between the characters in order to propel the story rather than on individual emotions - that came later.

It made me understand that too many writers agonize over rewording to eliminate telling when that might not be necessary.  Get your story out there.  Go back and edit some, but don't stress.  If you achieve the effect you're looking for, then don't worry about the doctrine Nazis who will scold you.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Burying the Hatchet

Well, the scuffle between Amazon and Hachette appears to be over...for now.  Both sides are claiming victory in a moderately complicated legal argument and business dispute.  Hachette will continue to charge more than is reasonable for ebooks in an attempt to protect paper sales, although Amazon is providing financial incentives for them to discount the work.

The folks who make millions of dollars in this, like Doug Preston, are thrilled, although that won't stop them from telling the DOJ on Amazon.  Something about monopolies, even though you can also buy books online from Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Google.  I did a quick search for anything Preston said about the collusion amongst ebook publishers and couldn't find it, but no matter, because Amazon is the big baddie here due to big profits or something.

The press, who has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo - they all go to the same cocktail parties - is playing this up as a big win for Hachette.  Of course, they're also leaving out some very important facts on the case - facts like how Amazon wasn't delaying shipments(how do you delay shipment on books not in stock?  If you have no contract, would you stock a book on the off chance you might someday get paid?).  Facts like how traditional publishers pay 15% royalties to authors, and only then twice a year(whereas Amazon pays 70% of the sales price and does so monthly).  It's always so funny to watch some folks portray themselves as protecting the little guy when the people they defend are in the habit of screwing the little guy.  Yes, millionaires like Preston are fine, and if that's the way they want to do things, that's okay, but they should stop pretending it's about anything but self-interest.

Meanwhile, Amazon has Hachette books back in stock again and is chugging along just fine.  Their publishing market continues to grow as more and more writers question the need for a traditional publisher.  I still think Hachette needs Amazon more than Amazon needs Hachette.

What does this mean to you?  Not much.  Your Hachette titles will no longer take as long since books will now be in stock, and those titles will also be much higher than necessary, thus pushing people into the indie market and protecting paper sales for those who still really want books by the writers selling ebooks too high.

So go out and pop some bubbly, for the great war has ended!

Thursday, November 20, 2014


Greetings all!  An unexpected business trip kept me out of the loop for longer than I thought, which is the reason I haven't posted this week.  Also, some new work news may have me delaying the release of Akeldama for a year.  On the plus side, I'll have that much longer to prepare the launch.

I promise to return next week with full posts.  Sometimes life gets in the way.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Online Novel Chapter 8 - Cleaning Solution

"If we can't stop the hemorrhaging, he won't survive much longer."

Kurt's pronouncement was bleak, but looking at Assissi, they could all tell it was true.  The point of the arrow did enough damage upon entry into his shoulder, but the wound showed far more than simple carnage brought on by an arrow.  The weapon had been coated in something, and the poison was causing a reaction the likes of which none of them had ever seen.

"You're a healer," Lisa noted.  "You've healed far worse among us while playing the game."

"That was a fucking game!" Kurt retorted.  "I'm not a damn healer, I've never been to medical school, and you all know that the sight of blood makes me nauseous."

Sun was just beginning to break over the horizon.  It took more than two hours for them to lose the goblins who'd given chase, and they were now holed up in a cluster of rocks and scraggly trees several miles outside of town.

Assissi's arm was drenched in red, and black lines ran from the wound across his shoulder and chest.  The priest had yet to regain consciousness, and no one could tell if his sweat was due to fever or the exhaustion of running from the goblins.

"We're going to figure something out," said Varagorn.  "We didn't get sent here to die - I won't let it happen."

"What are you going to do about it?" Pat asked.

Before the argument could begin in earnest, Dan shuddered and closed his eyes.  When he opened them again, his face held a dreamy look.

"Potions and wonders abound in the forest.  A shadowy witch has the means to cure Assissi's wounds, but the price may be high.  You must bring her both the ingredients and the price, but beware her vile treachery, for actions speak louder than her words."

It took a second for the group to realize Dan had slipped back into his role as Storyteller.  Finally, Ray said, "Where can we find her, and what ingredients does she need?"

"She's to the east, in an uncharted canyon.  You'll know it because it is in darkness except when the sun makes its final descent.  Follow the light to her darkness."  He shuddered again, shook his head, and looked back up.  When he did, the dreamy quality on his face was gone.  "What the hell just happened?"

"I'm guessing that your role here has just been identified," Lisa said.

Varagorn jumped to his feet.  "What are we waiting for?  We need to head east and find that cure or Assissi will die."

"I counsel patience," Ray said.  "All we know is that she's to the east, and we don't know what she'll want.  If we go barging in there, we may lose our only chance."

The bickered for another ten minutes before deciding that Lisa and Dan would stay behind to watch over Assissi.  It was mid-morning before they mounted their steeds and headed east.

Varagorn wanted to charge straight ahead, but it was Pat that suggested they find a mountain to get a good look from.  As fortune would have it, there was one close by, and a few tiny paths littered the mountainside and led to the summit.

Pat smiled.  "Back at school, this wouldn't be a mountain.  It might be called a knob or some such."

"It fits for what we want," said Ray.  Looking out across the broad landscape, he said, "We can see for miles up here."

"Yet there are two canyons that might fit the bill," said Varagorn.  "We can't look at both and get back before Assissi dies.  Which one do we choose?"

"We could split up," Kurt suggested.

But Varagorn was firm.  "No.  We don't know the area well enough.  Our strength and diversity are out only shots at this."

"I think I can figure it out," Ray said.  Without waiting for permission, he grew a large fireball in his right hand and hurled it at one of the canyons.  He then repeated the exercise and hurled it at the other.

The ball of flame broke open over the first canyon's entrance, but it split open and died, showering the landscape in sparks.  The second fireball, however, split the entrance and flooded the area, lighting up shadows that looked like they rarely saw the sun.

"That's the one," Ray said.

Varagorn spurred his horse without waiting for the others.  Dust kicked up from its hooves and the others followed shortly behind.  Although they could see the canyon from the mountain, it still took several hours to ride there.  When they finally got there, it was mid-afternoon.  Their horses hesitated as they breeched the canyon.

Hidden deep against one of the canyon walls was a stone hut, little more than a hovel.  A thin wisp of smoke flittered from a small chimney in the outcropping.  They dismounted and headed over.

Varagorn unsheathed his sword, but Ray grabbed his arm.  "We're here to talk first."

"If she won't help, I'll makae her help."

"We have no idea who or what we're dealing with.  Let's see that first."

Reluctantly, Varagorn re-sheathed his weapon, and Ray put up a fist to pound on the door.  But before he could knock, the door swung open.

A withered old lady in a rocking chair and gray shawl smiled at them from across the room.  "I saw you coming, my dears.  How are you?"

There was an awkward silence at first.  Finally Ray spoke.  "We've come because we've heard of your healing powers.  Our friend has been shot with a goblin arrow, and we can't heal the wound.  Can you help us."

She smirked.  Leaning forward, she said, "Of course I can.  I have the alamite and chrysanthemum blossoms required.  All I need is the purest water from the spring inside the mountain you've just left."

"So, if we bring you that, you'll help us?"

"Of course."  She leaned back, and then, almost as an afterthought, she said, "Of course, I would like to be paid."

"We have money," Varagorn offered.

"Oh no, my child," she chuckled.  "Money doesn't interest me the same way hard to come by items do."

They looked at each other before Ray asked, "What kind of hard to come by items?"

"Several of my potions are lacking in purity, the kind of purity only a pure creature begets.  On that same mountain roams a herd of unicorn.  Bring me one of their horns, and you shall have your potion.  I advise you to be quick, for if it was indeed a goblin arrow that injured your companion, then you haven't much time to waste."

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Should I Abandon My Online Novel?

The title says it all, and I need your help.  Should I abandon my online novel?

I plan to write the next two chapters, but I'm seriously considering calling it quits.  The reasons are manifold, but the basic one boils down to the reason a lot of writers abandon their stuff - it sucks.

Yep, I can be honest.  This thing I've written over the last two months is not very good.  The premise was something I've been playing around with for years - role playing dorks(it's okay...I'm a dork, so I can say that) get caught up in their own adventure and slowly start to become the players they were portraying - but never got around to doing anything with.  I saw this online experience as a chance to see if I could flesh it out.

I was wrong.  Not even close.

To start with, I have no outline, so I'm flying by the seat of my pants on this one.  Outlining is crucial to anything I write because it provides me with direction.  I can foresee where things are going and make correction en route.  Without an outline, I'm kind of just going by whatever strikes me in the moment.

Why am I not outlining?  Because it's time consuming.  In addition to my "regular" life of work and two children, I'm also working on another book that I don't feel I've given enough attention to.  The novel in question is a Homecoming prequel, and I need to give all my outlining imagination to it if I want it to come to fruition.  Outlining a second book takes not only time, but also focus, and I need that focus on one project or neither will come off well.

Next, time is just getting away from me.  I write three blog posts a week, and I normally complete them on Sunday night so that I can post a week's worth of material.  That allows me to focus on other stuff the rest of the time.  However, an online novel is more involved than a 750 word post, and it requires much more effort.  Even at 1500 words, that's not a very big chapter that allows for a great deal of detail.  Am I giving anyone any sense of what's going on?  I know writers must be brief, but I think it's a little too brief here.

Due to knowing what's involved in writing a new chapter, I tend to put it off from the rest of my weekly posts.  That leads to my thinking about it when I'm supposed to be working on my other novel, and so I delay, figuring I have plenty of time.  Suddenly it's Thursday night and I have nothing, so I sit down and slap together a half-assed effort.  I think that half-assery shows.

Finally, I don't want people to judge my talents too much by the mess in my online novel.  I could be scaring away customers who read this and think it's representative of my work.  It's not.  My novels are far more in depth and better written.  Unfortunately, folks might not get through to read my other stuff if they look solely at this.

I need feedback.  Lack of feedback will constitute acknowledgement that I need to move on.  Please help me figure this out.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Indie Versus Traditional - Marketing

The refrain I often hear from defenders of traditional publishing is that traditional publishers offer the backing of an established business, especially when it comes to marketing.  Traditional houses have an array of ways to help you get your name out there so more people buy your book.


Oh, it sounds nice, and I'm sure it even exists with a select few.  However, it doesn't exist with most writers, whether established or not.  Article after article talks about how authors are responsible for doing most, or even all, of their own marketing.  Traditional publishers don't want to waste their limited resources on potential flops, so they reserve what they have for more established names.

The problem with this is that the more established names are the ones who don't need as much exposure.  They've usually built up a loyal fan base that's waiting for the next tome to come out.  This becomes a death spiral when the newbie or mid-lister's work doesn't sell - the publisher uses this as a reason to not spend marketing money, so there is no exposure to new readers, and, therefore, low sales.

The only benefit of marketing offered by traditional publishers is distribution potential, and if you're not selling, they won't distribute it on a large scale anyway(to say nothing of how when it doesn't sell, you have little recourse since the publisher owns your printing rights).  The few newbies that get marketing are those already doing well due to word of mouth, like 50 Shades of Grey.  It's that old axiom of needing to prove you don't need the money in order to get it...

If you have to market yourself anyway, why not go indie?  You retain full control over how you get yourself out there.  No one is going to come along and say, "That's too risky" or "That's not your target demographic."  It's your decision, consequences and all.  Yes, it's work, but you were going to have to do that anyway.  Wouldn't you rather take control and be answerable only to yourself?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

No Post Tonight

Sorry folks, but the week got away from me.  As I sit here at 10pm, I'm simply too tired to write the next chapter in my online novel.  I'll return next week and will continue the story.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Background Details

Part of the fun of writing a novel, to me, is researching the various aspects that lend credence of the work.  I get that I'm a total nerd, but I truly enjoy digging into things and finding out about the ways in which energy moves in a vacuum or how cells absorb oxygen into the blood.  However, the thing that balances that out is finding how much detail to put in for the reader, and what distracts them from the story(and looks a bit like bragging about how much I know).

This can be frustrating for many of us who want to essentially shout at the reader, "LOOK AT ALL THIS RESEARCH I WENT INTO!  IT SHOWS I CARE, AND YOU MUST NOW LOVE WHAT I SAY!"  We're all proud of that time and effort, but it makes us sometimes lose sight that the point of such research isn't to showcase our knowledge, but rather to help us tell a good and credible story.

This may even create instances whereby we don't even get to detail the extensive background behind some of our concepts.  I did several chapters in Akeldama around the town of Salina, Kansas, but talking about it having a population of just over 47,000 or how its wettest month is May has no bearing on the novel I wrote.  The reason to do such research, beyond helping set the scene, is credence.  There are lots of readers out there who, upon reading about a place, go out and do extra research on it to see how much real life matches up with their favorite story.  Just ask the folks in Forks, Washington.

It's okay to leave stuff to the reader's imagination.  Hard though it may be, don't go into every detail about the correct way to skin a bear or how the structure of DNA works; just use enough so that it enhances what you want to say.  If it doesn't advance the plot, leave it out, or at least leave it out in the detail you really really really want to get into.

Writers are pompous jerks sometimes(it's a writer, I can say that), and we often feel that people don't appreciate what we write.  However, it's those same people that keep us employed by buying our stuff, so coming off as a boor turns a lot of them off, to say nothing of putting them to sleep.  Don't.  Know how much to say, and no more.  Find solace in how much you know about a topic and leave it be.  Anything more, no matter how tempting to engage in, risks alienating your audience, and that can be hard to recover from.  Sure, you'll be smug...but you'll be smug with no one to read your brilliance.

Sunday, November 2, 2014


Anyone who pays any attention at all to this blog knows I've chosen to go with indie publishing.  I believe the market has changed enough to allow for it, and the freedom bequeathed by such a choice means I have true control over what I create and how I market.  However, that doesn't mean the public at large understands the choice.

I've told a few people about my work, and when I mention the May 2016 release date, they inevitably say something like, "You have a publisher?  That's awesome!"  Then, when I detail my decision to go indie comes up, their face falls and they say something along the lines of, "Well, I'm sure you will still do okay," when their expression is easy enough to read.  It says, "Your work wasn't good enough to get a major publisher?  I'm sorry.  You must suck."

There's still a stigma attached to indie publishing.  Most have no idea that Fifty Shades of Grey started as an indie book, just like their eyes will widen in surprise when you inform them that The Shack was and still is an independently published work.  While I love Hugh Howey and JA Konrath, the vast majority of casual readers have no idea who they are.  However, both have hit the New York Times Best Sellers List.

The perception remains that only those who couldn't land an agent or find a "real" publisher go indie...and most of the public still calls it "self publishing."  Visions persist of awful books hard bound with heavy staples that look like a 5th grade book report.  Never mind the advances that have come along in the last ten years, or the changes that the digital market has made to publishing whereby it's hard, if not impossible, to tell a traditionally published e-book from an independently published one.

This is a tough nut to crack in the minds of our readers, and it necessitates that we not always publicize the publishing nature of our work.  Yes, I wish we all lived in a world where indie or traditional wouldn't matter to folks, but as long as we're wishing, I'd kind of like to have a pony.  Whether we like it or not, we start a step behind in the minds of the casual reading public when it becomes known at the outset that our work isn't traditionally published.  I think we can get past this if we establish an audience from the get go, but we must first get past the mental barriers.

The way to get past this in the end is to put out quality work.  People enjoy reading challenging, fun books.  Every time we put out crap, we reinforce the negative stereotype of indie work.  Again, it doesn't matter that some traditional work sucks balls - it's the public perception still that if you are published by a large house, then you are good, but if you go indie, you weren't good enough.

What has been your experience?  Do people in your critique groups and writing classes automatically write off indie works(sometimes with a touch of pity)?  Or do they give it a chance?  And what are you doing to affect that perception?