Sunday, June 25, 2017

Signing Event

So today was my first book signing event.  First, I want to thank Park Road Books for their support in this event.  They gave me a venue and helped me immensely.  I'm grateful.

Second, the event was a little different than I envisioned.  I thought I'd start right at 2pm, give an overview of the event, read a passage or two, and then sign some of my work.  Maybe that will work someday when I have a bigger following, but it wasn't in the cards today.
(My front door display at Park Road Books)
There wasn't exactly a crowd at the event, which wasn't unexpected.  Instead, there were a few subscribers, most of whom I've gotten to know real well over the last few years.  So instead of going all formal, we devolved into an informal discussion of both my novel and my other works and their release schedule.  People came and went throughout the event, some staying for only a few minutes, while others stayed for more than an hour.  And during that time, of course, I signed some books.
(I've been writing my name since I was five)
I managed to sell 90% of what I brought and what the bookstore already had on the shelves, which constituted success in my mind.  The store also still has a signed copy to sell(they requested I leave a signed copy for them).  Not an earth shattering event, but still a fun one.

As I pick up more folks, and maybe stray outside of my old hometown, these will gain more structure, but for now, it was great to just bullshit with the folks who came and sign some novels.  I wouldn't mind all these events being this low stress.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Spinning Out Of Control

Stories can be a strange thing.  As a writer, I think I know how a story is going to unfold, but it sometimes takes a surprising turn and goes off in an entirely different direction.  I know how artsy-fartsy it sounds to say that we're not creating the story, that we really just sit back and write what we see(like it's a TV show), but it's the truth.  Sometimes we exert control, but mostly we're just along for the everybody else.

However, that can sometimes lead to strange stuff.  This happened to a novel I wrote called The Onyx Cluster.  The book was supposed to detail an arrogant scientist alone in a post-apocalyptic wasteland after a time travel experiment gone wrong.  He would eventually find a group of mutated telepaths who'd manipulated the time stream to cause the very apocalypse that created them.  It was to be a tale of loneliness and introspection that detailed that our best efforts sometimes go astray.  What I wrote instead was an overly complicated story about a guy who became a resistance leader in the future and brought back a psychic child that led authorities on a high speed interstate pursuit.  I'm not sure how I got there.

By the time I got halfway into the book, I had no idea how to untangle the mess I'd created.  I should've done the right thing and scrapped the whole thing before starting over, but we all know how hard it is to just abandon material we've spent months on.  So, God help me, I let that crap-a-thon go to the end.

That doesn't mean I learned no lessons from the fiasco.  The biggest takeaway was that I needed to exert more control over my stories.  Previously, I just wrote down what I saw.  I now tend to grab the wheel a little more strongly.  Reading some great authors, they do the same thing after similar tales of woe.  The most famous one I can think of is Stephen King, who said that The Stand was just going out of control with no direction until he blew up the Boulder Free Zone.  Yes, he was writing down the story he saw, but it was going nowhere, so, as the God of that universe, he introduced some wrath.  It's an important thing to remember.

Get into your story and take charge when you see it going awry.  Yes, it's fun to be as surprised as everyone else as to how a story progresses, but that can lead to silly garbage.  God may not publicly interfere much, but when He does, it can be dramatic.  Always remember that when it comes to the universes you create, you are God, and you must sometimes intervene.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

No Post Today

Sorry for the short post today, but I'm spending some much needed quality time with the family.  That doesn't mean I'm not still mapping out my next novel(which I am) or reading for both enjoyment and to stay on top of how to write(which I also am).  However, I needed a breather, and my family needed my time(which I gladly give).  I'll return on Thursday morning with a new post.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Book Signing Event!

I wanted to announce that I'll be doing a book signing event for Akeldama at Park Road Books in Charlotte on June 25th at 2pm.  I'll be answering questions about the novel, and I'll sign copies of Akeldama for anyone who would like one.  Park Road Books will also be carrying copies for those who haven't yet purchased one.  I hope to see you there!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Lessons Learned So Far

I'm nearly a month into this book release thing, so I thought I'd share what I've learned so far.  The list may seem a bit negative, even though I don't really mean it that way.  It's just that we learn the greatest lessons from the things we need to fix.

1.  You'll never catch every mistake.  I went over Akeldama with a fine tooth comb.  It has been written for nearly six years, and I spent most of the last six months pouring over it to make sure it was perfect.  It wasn't.  I was no more than a day past release when I found my first typo.  I've found three so far, and it irks me.  I'm going to put in a correction, but I somehow doubt even then that the 10th go around will find everything.  Copyediting would be great, but it's expensive.

2.  Not every subscriber will buy a copy.  I've spent the last few years building a subscriber list of several hundred.  Each time I convinced someone to join my list, or they asked me to of their own accord, I got excited.  Well, it turns out that not everyone is as enthusiastic about your project as you are.  So far, barely a third of those on my list have bought a copy.  That makes me wonder how many were just humoring me.  Yes, build your list, but don't bank on it providing the bulk of your sales.

3.  Whatever you project as costs...double it.  Costs pile up.  You may think you're straight with a cover, ebook format, and print format, but there are so many more costs that you can soon find yourself overcome by them.  I needed proof copies, second proofs after the first resubmission, a business license, a (very small) advertising budget, book promotion copies, etc.  Costs I never considered came up.  Be generous with what you think you'll spend when you estimate cost.

4.  No one will be as enthusiastic about your work as you.  Many think that simply getting a book out there is enough.  It isn't.  If you want to do promotional events,. you need to really go after those slots.  If you want reviews, you need to ask, and possibly re-ask.  When someone says your book sounds interesting, try to close the sale at that moment.  Waiting allows them to cool off, and you're much easier to say no to if you're not there to make a face to face call.  People don't just run to Amazon and buy it just because you're the one who's excited about it.

5.  There are always surprises.  Some folks will come through in ways you never imagined.  Sales will come from unexpected quarters.  Always seek the opportunities that come, and that means being on the lookout for them, no matter how subtle they may be.  And then move past those opportunities you miss.  They may sting, but you'll waste time and emotion on that which you cannot change.

Overall, it's been a great start, and one to keep going.  Hopefully these lessons will help me continue to sell and make my next project even better.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Yeah, I Missed One

Seems like I missed a post today.  My bad.  I got caught up in stuff.  Mostly, missing it was a reminder to plan ahead by a few posts.  I'll resume regularly scheduled blogging on Monday morning with some exciting news about an event for Akeldama.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Copyediting And Cost

I've spoken in the past about the benefits of copyediting.  I've talked about how a good copyeditor will make your manuscript so much better, and how it's foolhardy not to get one.  That's why I feel like such a hypocrite.

No, I didn't get a copyeditor for Akeldama.  I wanted to, but I couldn't afford it.  A book the size of Akeldama, I found out, would've cost me over $3,000...and that's just for the first pass.  Another pass would've been another couple thousand dollars, and my entire company's budget, for everything I intend to publish, was $6,000.  So I scrimped, and some people noticed.

I still feel that some issues with my grammatical "errors" is writing style.  Put two grammarians in the same room, and they'll edit the same piece of writing differently.  One will say you need the Oxford comma, one will poo poo it away.  One will say to never end a sentence with a preposition, while the other will say that's not a hard and fast rule.

So I got some people I know to proofread my work, and they missed some stuff.  Not much, but enough for the pickier among us to notice.  I plan to submit a couple of corrections, but that'll have to wait for now, for expense is an issue.

Some say you shouldn't publish unless you have the money to do it all.  I say that's bullshit since it would stymie so many of us.  That means accepting risk.  Most of us aren't rich, so copyediting may be out of our reach until we're successful.  Unfortunately, we may not be successful if we don't meet all the gates, so it becomes a self-licking ice cream cone.

I'd like to find a good proofer or copyeditor for Salvation Day, but I'd be lying if I didn't say price was an issue.  Everything takes money.  Am I whining?  Maybe a little bit, but I'm also pointing out that we have to put our resources, limited as they are, first into getting published.  Beyond that, we prioritize, and sometimes the price of copyediting puts that touch out of reach.  I wish it wasn't, but as long as we're wishing, I'd kind of like to have a pony...

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Catholics & Mormons

Now that some folks have actually been able to read Akeldama, I'm starting to get questions about it.  The most common one so far has been, "Why did you include so much about the Catholic Church?  Are you Catholic?"  A corollary to this has been, "Man, you sure talk a lot about the Mormon Church.  Are you a Mormon?"

I'm not sure why my religious affiliation plays into any of this, but I'll play along - no, I'm neither Catholic nor Mormon.  Why then did I decide to use those particular religious sects as centerpieces in my novel?  It's really quite simple - I needed a religious structure that was highly organized, and those were the two largest I could find.  I needed a vehicle through which to tell the story, and the Catholic Church and the Mormon Church fit the bill.

I had no desire for my main character to be an agent of the government.  I thought that if I did that, it'd limit his the extent of his power.  I'm all about USA, USA!, but no amount of chest thumping would've given Seth Gendrickson global reach.  Although the US government gets into lots of places, if it could get into everywhere, there wouldn't be any terrorism, for they'd have uncovered it all.  Seth needed to be able to get into dark and shadowy places that most folks couldn't, and the Catholic Church, with over a billion members and churches in every corner of the world, provided that.

So what was up with using the Mormon Church?  I needed another organization that fought the other main vampire sect, as well as a partial foil for my Hunter.  I wanted to introduce a level of doubt, and even a certain amount of human prejudice, into the equation.  Right or wrong, there's a degree of suspicion from most other parts of Christianity towards Mormons.  And since The Church of Latter Day Saints was already headquartered out west in Utah, they were perfectly positioned to already be involved in the fight.  Plus, their highly organized structure provided a counterpart to the Catholic Church that couldn't be readily dismissed.

Since I'm neither Catholic nor Mormon, I had to do a good bit of research into each in order to sound credible.  There are nearly 15 million Mormons, and over a billion Catholics.  If I didn't know how each was properly structured, or the various tenets of each set of beliefs, the entire book would come across as phony.  Although the basics of Christianity are constant - one God, sent His Son to Earth to die for our sins, believe in both an afterlife and an adversary - the nuances of each are distinct.  How many non-Catholics even know what the Roman Curia is?  Or that the claim about Jesus and Lucifer being brothers is rooted more in the doctrine of differing views of salvation that each held rather than as some setting of each on equal footing?  Things such as The Institute For The Works Of Religion may not come up much in Akeldama, but getting wrong what they actually are would make the reader dismiss the story as unconvincing.

The next time you read a story and wonder why certain things are in there, try to view it through the author's eyes.  Could the writer have accomplished the same story through another vehicle?  Or, like in my case, were the various nodes of the story simply the easiest way to say what the author wanted to say.  Not everything is an insight into the writer's life; sometimes they're merely tools that best allow for the expression of imagination.

Monday, May 29, 2017

God, Country, Golf

Everyone has a hero.  Some people worship Thor, some people at awestruck by Mickey Mantle, and others idolize Neil Armstrong.  There's something about these brave souls that calls to us and urges us to be better than we are.  We know they're not perfect - no one is - but the hero represents an ideal we strive for, an image that we hope we can one day become.

For me, one of my heroes was(and still is) Larry Bauguess.

I met Larry in the Fall of 1991 as a raw ROTC cadet at Appalachian State University.  I had no idea how to be a Soldier, or even what that meant, but here was this individual who seemed to embody everything that should be.  He wasn't some Hollywood action star towering above the rest of us.  Truth is that he wasn't any bigger than I was.  Yet I knew instinctively that this was a leader who represented the best, and that if I could be half the Soldier he was, I'd turn out pretty good.

That's why it was such a shock to me a day or so after Mother's Day in 2007 when I found out that he had been killed in Afghanistan.  General Dan K. McNeill called it an "assassination."  I was numb for a few days as I contemplated the impossible, that the man I most admired in the Army was dead.

I've known his widow, Wesley Hobbs Bauguess, for as long as I knew Larry.  I met her the same semester at ASU(she was a year ahead of me, while Larry was two years ahead of me).  She was also one of the most squared away cadets I'd ever encountered.  When she and Larry got together, and later married, it was a shock to no one.  They seemed made for each other, like different parts of the same machine, fitting together like they were meant to be.  That was one of the things that made his loss so hard to bear.

Wesley is also among the strongest women I know, and, on the tenth anniversary of Larry's death, she has published a book called God, Country, Golf, Reflections of an Army Widow.  In this book, she recounts her journey through this difficult time, as well as what has helped her get through it(not surprisingly, the facets are in the title).  She talks first about the day three uniformed Soldiers came to her door at Fort Bragg to deliver the news, and I admit that I teared up as I read it.

She then talks about her history with Larry, before transitioning into life without him and what she has done since.  Wesley has not sat around wallowing in despair - she has sought out those who need help and served as an inspiration for others.  Yes, there have been plenty of moments of grief, a grief I can only imagine, but she has also persevered and gone on to give comfort to our wounded veterans, as well as work with Folds of Honor, an organization that helps provide scholarships to the children of those we've lost.

During the course of the novel, Wesley talks about her family(she has two beautiful daughters), and how her faith in God and her love of country has helped them through this difficult time.  She also reveals her love of golf and how that both helped her at school and helped her continue to give to the community.  She has met Presidents, written articles for major news organizations, and cared for those wounded on the field of battle.  She has kept Larry's spirit and zest for life alive with her compassion and drive to help others.

Be warned - this book will grab onto you emotionally.  You'll laugh at some of the exploits she recounts(like how she "died" in training when one of her cadet comrades threw a training grenade in the wrong place and it landed in the middle of her team), and you'll cry as she talks about the journey her family has gone through(such as her drive into the North Carolina mountains with her daughters to tell them exactly what happened to their father, and why his actions saved the lives of others).  Mostly, you'll feel pride at sharing the nation with this tremendous woman.  I cannot recommend her book strongly enough.

If you're interested, please go to Amazon and buy it here.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Akeldama Update

Not much of a post today.  Truth be told, I wrote another long post that I originally intended to publish, but I then realized it was better suited to Monday.  Trust me, when you read it, you'll understand.

The release of Akeldama, even with the bumps along the way, has gone pretty well.  Sales are ticking up, and I can't express my gratitude enough for those that have purchased a copy.  I plan on doing an event in Charlotte in June, and I'm trying to schedule events in Kansas for the near future.  For all those who've bought one, I am always available to sign them.  Approach me wherever you are - I will never turn away a reader.  You can also send it to me to sign and return, but you'll have to include return postage since my budget won't allow for me to pay its way back(I'll rapidly go broke if that was the case).

I've also started working/re-working the next novel in the Akeldama series, and I'll have an interesting request regarding it shortly.  Until then, thanks for sticking with me, and please purchase a copy of Akeldama if you can.  The paperback is on sale until June 1st for $13.56, and the ebook is available on Nook, Kindle, and Smashwords(still working on Apple iBooks) for $3.99.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Bumps In The Road

As readers of this blog know by now, I released Akeldama last week.  This has been the culmination of years of anticipation, and it is far from the end.  Most folks I know think that the release of a novel is the end point, the place where writers become rich and famous, and all is right with the world.  For me, the release of Akeldama was the beginning of a career, not the end of a movement.  I plan to release at least four novels over the next two years, and possibly as many as six over the next three years(five are written).  I planned and plotted and worked hard to start a business, not create a hobby.

That doesn't mean all has gone smoothly.

For all the planning, things get missed, things that create frustration and have made me wonder if I'm just another schmuck on a lark.  To start with, I promised those who joined my distro list prior to Akeldama's release that they'd get a 15% discount on the novel.  I thought I had everything set up for that, even acquiring a discount code from CreateSpace.  However, on the morning of release, several people emailed me to tell me that the code was invalid.  I dug into it and found that the code only works for CreateSpace's e-store, which I'm not using.  I was pissed!

So, after whining and feeling sorry for myself for an hour or so, I went back and figured out what I could do to give my customers the price I promised.  To make good on my word, I reduced the price of Akeldama from $15.95 to $13.56(the price at 15% off) and made it available for a limited period of time(in this case, until June 1st).  Yes, it means that others who weren't on my early subscribers' list also have access to that price, but at least those who wanted the discount can get it, and my word is still somewhat intact.
(On a side note, many people decided to purchase at full price anyway to support this struggling writer's career start, and I'm grateful for their help)

And then there was the reader who pointed out to me a typo.  Yes, a typo.  After months of pouring over it and having several people look it over, there was still a typo.  It's not a big one, and it's one that, honestly, many people will miss.  You have to really understand things to even notice, but it's still there, and it grates on me.  I pride myself on being a perfectionist, and, sheepishly, I'm even quite arrogant about it.  After all, don't most writers know - not believe, but know - that we're better grammarians and spellers than the average person?  Don't we possess that conceit?  When I heard about the typo at first, my initial reaction was, "Pfft, that person has it wrong.  They've got no idea what they're talking about."

Then I looked at it.

Yup, it was there.  Subtle but obvious to me.  Proof positive that you need editors who know what they're doing, as well as proof positive that no amount of proofreading catches everything.  I felt sick about it, and, honestly, I still do.  Every time I think about it, I feel a twisting at the back of my neck, like someone has grabbed my brainstem and yanked.  Perhaps I'm beating myself up too much over it, but no one feels this sting more than I.  The ironic part is that nearly everyone who doesn't know this part in depth won't even notice.

Finally, I had a reader on my list ask to be taken off.  I dutifully complied, but it still hurt.  I don't want anyone who doesn't want my work to be bothered, but I spent years meticulously piecing together my subscriber list, and it's a body blow when people no longer want to be a part.  Yes, everyone else has lives and things that they're into, but while my mind can understand that, my ego has trouble with it.
(Yet another side note - not everyone on my list has yet bought a copy of either the ebook or paperback.  It'll be interesting to see how that plays out.  After all, it's only been three days)

So stuff doesn't go perfectly.  That's life, but it's also hard for a control freak like me to take.  I don't like chaos, so I try to eliminate variables.  Yet they stubbornly persist.

Oh, who am I kidding about just being a control freak?  I'm their king!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Book Release!

It's finally here!  Akeldama is now available on all platforms(or will be by this weekend...Nook and Apple iBooks are still awaiting final validation by those sites).  It has been a little more arduous than I thought it would be setting up, but my debut novel is finally on sale.  As a reminder on the plot...

Seth Gendrickson has worked for the Catholic Church's Order of Mount Sion since his initial encounter with a vampire during seminary years ago.  Finally working his way up to the rank of Hunter, Seth's first assignment is to investigate a spike in vampire activity in Kansas, an area previously quiet.  The region between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River had been a kind of neutral zone for the two main factions - The Assembly of Cairo and Los Muertos.  The Assembly hails from Europe, and although few in numbers, is the older of the sects and far more powerful.  Los Muertos saw opportunity in the New World, so they established themselves in the Americas and began to multiply.  They are young, aggressive, and passionate.

And they're moving east.

Seth is under orders to figure out what's going on before an all out vampire civil war brings knowledge of such supernatural creatures into the open and causes societal panic, a situation the Church is keen to avoid.  During his mission, Seth captures one of the enemy and interrogates it, but he soon finds that the movement east is less an invasion than it is an influx of refugees fleeing a greater threat.  Something is hunting the vampires out west, something more terrifying than the risk of conflict.  Seth tracks this threat from California to Japan and across Europe to discover the heart of a conspiracy that stretches back 2,000 years and threatens the future of the world.

This may be my first novel, but it certainly won't be the last I publish.  My plan is to bring out a new novel every six months for at least the first three years, and I'll be deciding on a release date for Salvation Day by the end of June.  Wrongful Death will follow, and then we'll see where the publication schedule goes from there.

If you buy a copy of Akeldama, I ask only one favor - please do a review of it on your favorite reader's site, be that Amazon, Goodreads, or whatever you enjoy.  No, I'm not asking for a specific star rating or write-up, just an honest review.  For one, I want to know what people think.  Second, honestly, more reviews means more exposure which means more potential sales, so anybody that could help out with a review would be greatly appreciated.

If you're interested, you can buy the paperback on Amazon here, or the ebook for Kindle here.  And you can get it on Smashwords here.  I'll add links for Apple iBooks and Nook as soon as they become active in the next couple of days.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Other Outlets

As I ramp up towards the release of Akeldama this week, I've expanded into other media outlets for exposure, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.  That doesn't mean that my computer illiteracy has been solved.

Twitter has been the biggest example.  I know most of you will laugh at me by the end of the next couple of paragraphs, and that's okay.  I laugh at my own ineptitude sometimes too.  To start with, I can't get my picture uploaded to Twitter, and I have no idea why.  I've got a picture the right size, I click on the "upload a picture" button, and I follow the steps.  Yet, stubbornly, nothing happens.  And then there's my phone...

I'm a dinosaur.  I still have an iPhone4 that I only got because my flip phone died in 2013.  I'm trying to get the Twitter App, but my operating system is outdated, and it's taking forever to download the new iOS.  I should probably take it to an Apple Store, or just breakdown and get a newer phone, but I live out in the sticks, and even a trip out for fast food becomes a version of Oregon Trail.  I'll load up the wagons sometime soon and head on to the big city, but a family and other commitments make such a trek a bit daunting right now.

I'm looking at the Facebook boosting of my author page, but I'm also still a small time operation with a low budget, so ad promotion isn't a top priority right now.  Mostly, I gain exposure through word of mouth, so I have to straddle the line between nudging those I know to mention me to others, and pestering them to the point where they ignore me.  It's a hard line, and I'm still figuring out that part.

Still, even with limited exposure, Akeldama, my debut novel, comes out this week, and I'm excited.  If I can convince a few others to get a little excited too, that'd be a great bonus...and a wonderful start.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

One Week To Go!

There's only a week left until the official release date of Akeldama!  As of now, the ebook is available for pre-order on Smashwords, and it will soon be available on Nook and Apple.  By this time next week, it'll be available in both ebook and paperback from Amazon.

If you're not a subscriber to my email list, there's still time to join in order to get the 15% discount off of the paperback - just email me or leave a message in the comments with your personal email address.

It's almost here.  I can hardly wait.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Life Gets In The Way

So yeah, I missed my post last Thursday morning.  I was both sick and out of town, and I didn't plan ahead.  I think this was the first time I missed a post without at least telling people I'd miss it since the blog began.  However, the world didn't end, and I'm back in the saddle.

On another life note, a few people have asked why it has taken so long to get my debut novel out.  Yes, I could've easily just uploaded it(and several more) before now, but that's just not the kind of person I am.  I'm cautious by nature, and I've always said I wanted to treat this like a business rather than a lark.  Several factors kept me from devoting the time I wanted to towards the business side of this(being out of the country for a year, a new birth, the location and its impact on marketing, etc), so I waited.  Does that mean I missed the boat?  I have no idea, but we'll soon find out.

Akeldama is 11 days from publication.  I'm in the home stretch, and all that needs to be done now is final approval and ebook uploading.  So why not just go ahead and make it available?  Because I told my early subscribers that it'd be out May 18th, and I take my word pretty seriously.  Yes, it may be a minor shift that few would notice or care about, but it means something to me.  As with this blog and its predictability over the years, I want people to be able to count on something in our usually unpredictable world.  It may be anal retentive, but it's the only small level of control I have.

And I freely admit that some minor glitch could still come up that could alter things.  That'd be part of the learning process for when I release my second book sometime later this year.  I suppose we'll all find out together.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

No, Being A Writer Doesn't Make You Rich

I think the biggest misconception about writers is that since we've published a book, we're rich.  I can't tell you how many people think I have money to burn since my first novel will be out shortly.  That's right - I haven't even officially published yet, but a lot of folks think I'll soon buy my own private island.

I spoke a little while back about trying to reach the exalted status of those at the very top.  I don't think there's anything wrong with shooting for the stars.  However, the stars are all most people ever know about.  Yes, they've heard of Rowling, King, and Patterson, but how many know the plethora of other authors who struggle to keep their heads above water?

I think this is due to many thinking that if you're on your own, it must be because you're supremely successful.  I know a few business owners, from those who own restaurants to those who have cleaning businesses to those who run mortgage refinancing businesses, and none of them are rich monetarily.  Most are month to month, and sometimes they get a month or two ahead, but they can't take a year off to explore Europe or hitch a ride on the Virgin Atlantic spaceship.  Writers are the same way.

I too once held this misconception, and I think it comes from both seeing the very successful, as well as not daring to go out on their own themselves.  Going out on your own is scary - your chances of success are enormous, and you could be out big bucks if that happens.  Since most people are risk-averse, they assume that the only reason someone would write full time id because they've "made it."

Don't get me wrong - I measure success as a writer in far more than monetary terms.  I can set my own hours, I have freedom to decide my topics, and I get to do something I'm passionate about.  And I hope one day to become super-successful like Hugh Howey or JA Konrath(or Dan Brown, if you think that's even larger), but I'm happy trying to make a living at my passion.  It doesn't mean I can fly first class to Hawaii or that I'm front row at a Rolling Stones concert, but maybe I can put food on my table and have my house heated in the winter.

I just smile and nod when people imagine my wealth.  It's fun, and people don't like their fantasy balloons popped, but it does get annoying.  I guess I'll just have to get that way eventually in order to justify their imagination.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Careful On What You Promise

Books cannot just come out in a vacuum.  Well, they can...but you then face the prospect of no sales because no one knows a new and potentially interesting book is out.  Like it or not, you have to be a businessperson too, and that means marketing your work.

I've been doing this for a while, and I've got a fairly robust email distro list to show for it.  My readers get regular updates about Akeldama and other things, so they know I'm still around.  As a bonus for signing up, I also promise them a discount on the book(in hardcover format).  However, as production has demonstrated, one needs to be careful when promising things.

I originally started out by thinking that a discount of around 25% would be fair.  When I first did my numbers, a 25% discount would still leave a couple of buck as a profit margin, so it didn't seem like a big deal.  Then inflation happened, as well as my own inability to get things out in the current price market.

You see, the list price of $15.95 was originally compared to a print price of around $7 or $8 per book, so three bucks or so off wasn't going to do me in.  However, once prices went up in production, not only did the after-discount profit margin decrease, it went past the point of profitability at all.  In that vein, the POD wouldn't even let me offer this discount since it would mean selling at a loss.

Yes, I could raise the price to around $17.95 and still offer the discount at 25%, but that seemed stupid to me - why raise the price just to lower it to what you originally were going to make?  So I decided to keep the original $15.95 print price and reduce the discount to 15%.  I will still make a little off each book sold to my subscribers, and they'll still be able to get it at a lower price than the general public.

This could cost me some customers.  I recognize that.  However, I said at first the discount would be 25-ish%, so I never locked in on a hard number due to the unknowns in terms of capital production.  And while I hope everyone will still stick with me, the right to buy or not to buy still rests with the customer.  I think that most will still be thrilled with getting it at a lower price, but some may get upset enough to go elsewhere, and that's their prerogative.

The lesson has been to better evaluate promises before making them.  I want to serve my audience, but I need to be more in tune with the numbers before I say something.  If nothing else, I've definitely learned this for the next time.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Story Exhaustion?

As most of you know, I've been reviewing Akeldama for a while now in order to get it ready for my May 18th publication date.  I've been going over(and over, and over, and over) the formatting, text, and general layout of the story for a few months, and it's beginning to get a bit tedious.

Don't get me wrong - I'm still very excited to be nearing my debut novel's release date, but I'm growing so familiar with the story that I don't even need to look at the text to understand it.  I realize this makes little sense to those who don't write - after all, I write the story, so I should obviously know it inside and out - but it has become repetitive.

I'm a big fan of putting a story away after you write it and before you edit it so that you can look at it with fresh eyes.  However, the work necessary to bring Akeldama to fruition won't let me put it down right now.  Yes, this is a bit like complaining I have too many bills for my wallet, or that I can't decide which sports car to buy, but that doesn't make it any less real to me.

Do other writers have this issue with their stories?  After so many revisions and edits and rewordings and reviews, does it get more chore-like after a time?  Or am I whining over a non-issue?  I find myself wishing the release date will get here just so that I can move on to a new tale.  I'll always love this story, but even a person eating his or her favorite food every day will likely long for some variety.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


I recently ran across a post that compared writers like JK Rowling and Stephen King to unicorns - very beautiful but incredibly rare.  Their level of success is something most people dream of but will never even come close to, so why bother to fantasize about it?

Yes, I've previously written that you shouldn't make a career plan based on being Dan Brown of Stephenie Meyer, for most will inevitably fall short.  However, I don't think that harmless daydreaming is necessarily a bad thing all by itself.  Sometimes the fantasy keeps us going in those dark times when we feel like no one will ever read our work.  I believe that as long as we don't make that fantasy the bedrock of our career plan, then it's perfectly okay to occasionally wonder what hitting the literary lottery would be like.

Besides, someone has to be the next unicorn.  It's no secret that I loathe the writing of Stephenie Meyer, for I consider it to be trite and simplistic, but that doesn't mean she didn't find an audience looking for the vision she was selling.  Had you shown any halfway competent and successful author Twilight before it was released, the person would've laughed at it before running down any chance of success Meyer had.  However, most experts have more conceit than powers of prognostication, and Meyer hit a nerve with an audience most couldn't tap, so she went on to grow that horn from her forehead and pranced in as the next unicorn.  Such unexpected success could strike anywhere, and maybe it could strike you.

I think it's such tales that keep many of us going when we feel inadequate.  So yes, keep your feet planted firmly on the ground, working hard and doing what you can to build a viable career, but don't let that stop you from wondering what your own shiny unicorn horn would look like on those starry nights when you're by yourself.  Maybe that spark you feel will turn out to be the next bolt of lightning to open your career up to stratospheric heights.  I mean, we can all dream, right?  And aren't dreams what start a writer writing to begin with?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Not As Good As You Think

I pride myself on being a better writer than most people.  This is a conceit I believe most writers hold, even if they won't cop to it openly.  There's a part of us that sighs when we run across a piece of writing that's out of sorts, for we just know we would've written it better.  Whether it be spelling, or grammar, or just the way the sentence is worded, we're all so certain that it would've been perfect if we'd written it rather than the poor soul who just doesn't have our knack for stringing words together.

However, there's often a difference between this conceit and reality.  And sometimes it smacks us in the face pretty hard.

I've been reviewing the proof for Akeldama, confident that this was merely a formality.  After all, I've edited the hell out of this thing, so this was just to help me bask in the glow of my brilliance, right?  This was the culmination of a project several years in the making, and I needed merely to sit back and revel that I finally had a physical copy of my work.


Much to my dismay, I've managed to find over a dozen mistakes in the work.  I was already annoyed previously when I found mistakes I was certain didn't exist, so this came as an even bigger blow to my ego.  Yes, the majority of what I've found is minor, like writing "rocks" instead of "rock" or "screeching" instead of "screeched," but there was one sentence that had to be totally re-done because I wrote it as a statement instead of as the question it was meant to be.  I found myself growing angrier as I continued to review the book, upset with myself that I somehow missed these points during the previous gazillion rounds of editing.

Needless to say, the process has helped shock me back into humility.  Sure, I could probably let it go since there are so few errors in the 340 pages, and most people wouldn't even notice, but I'd know they were there.  Further, leaving in such stuff would show a lack of professionalism and could get Akeldama written off as yet another sloppy indie job.  And pretending people wouldn't notice may just be another point of arrogance since I tend to notice these kinds of things when I read.  For example, I love Williams Forstchen's novel One Second After.  However, whether because he didn't know any better or because he was just stupid, Forstchen consistently wrote the contraction "could've" as "could of," and it drove me bananas every time I read it, so what kind of hypocrite, not to mention hack, would I be if I just let the stuff I wrote contain such errors?

The process has been effective in reminding me that I'm not as good as I think I am.  It seems like every time my arrogance starts to ride up, something comes along to knock it back down, and this has surely done it.  Akeldama is now in the process of (what I hope to be) the final revisions before my release date.  I wonder what else will come along to remind me to try and stay humble...

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Proof Of Life!

Not a long post tonight.  I'm busy...reviewing the proof for Akeldama!  I'll have a more extensive write-up after I finish going over it.  Still, as one guy once said, there's nothing quite like holding a copy of your very own book in your hands.

Sunday, April 9, 2017


I've been going over my post list here at the blog, and I'm struggling to understand what makes a post popular and what makes a post barely get noticed.  I thought of it when I saw that my most recent post last week got six views.  C'mon, folks...six?  I know I can't rock the universe every time, but six?!?!

The average for most of my posts is somewhere around 30 unique views.  A few get more, and a couple get hundreds of unique page views, but figuring out what will go viral(at least viral in my world) is tricky.  Some are predictable - my cover reveal got around 80 individual page views, and since I've touted Akeldama for quite some time, that came as no surprise.  I reference Salvation Day quite a bit, so that isn't a huge surprise either, although the total number of unique page views for it certainly is.  But my take on going indie versus traditional went waaaaayyyyyyyyy beyond what I thought it would.  And somehow, this post on imagination - a post I found a little dry - is far and away my most popular, with over 1500 unique page views.

I guess I could try and be "edgy" with some posts, spewing venom at the world and acting all cool, but I'm not cool, and edgy can be dangerous if you piss off half(or more) of your audience.  Yes, sometimes something gets up under my rear and makes me go on a tear, but that doesn't happen very often.  Further, it shouldn't happen very often, for if it does, then such "edginess" merely becomes background noise.

(As a side note, being edgy all the time can be exhausting - I get worn out sometimes getting mad over whether or not my favorite team will draft the right player)

I cross post my blog to my Facebook page, so some of my views come from friends there.  I used to post on a writers' forum, so that could've driven some of my early traffic.  However, some posts just go off for reasons unknown to me.  Others, like last week's, wallow in obscurity, like even clicking on the link will cause leprosy or something.

There's not really a point to this post - it's merely a mental exercise in a vain attempt to satisfy my curiosity.  I wish I could figure it out so that I could get more "viral" posts, but as long as I'm wishing, I'd kind of like to have a pony too...

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Lots Of Learning

Every time I think I have everything figured out, life throws me a new curve.  This time, it was in the form of not understanding as much about the POD business as I thought.

I made the decision to go with Ingram Spark a while back based on the recommendations of several people.  Everyone said that the books would be 100% top-notch professional, and that they could be distributed through every channel imaginable.  And that turns out to be true...but incomplete.

First of all, the process at Ingram Spark is lots more complicated than using CreateSpace.  CreateSpace will walk you through the process step by step, pointing out along the way just what exactly you need to do.  Ingram Spark believes you already know what to do, even if this is your first time.  I had little difficulty until it came time to order the proof copy - I accidentally approved the full proof without getting one because I clicked the wrong button.  I'm working hard to get that fixed, but it has led to lots of frustration.

Another issue with Ingram Spark is that although they distribute through Amazon, Jeff Bezos is apparently not very happy about you not using CreateSpace, so he puts a delay on some of the stuff from Ingram Spark ordered through Amazon.  This has the potential to discourage the customer base when they realize that their order will take a bit longer than usual.

Fortunately, there appears to be a solution - use both.  Based on articles I've read, I can use Ingram Spark to sell to bookstores and other outlets, and I can use CreateSpace to publish through Amazon.  The catch is that I have to only use the Amazon distribution option with CreateSpace or else I'll have to pull everything else from Ingram Spark.  Why not just use CreateSpace then?  Well, because most bookstores view Amazon - and CreateSpace through them - as a competitor, and they're less likely to order your work.  There's also a feeling that CreateSpace is less quality, but I'm not sure that's really the case.

So I'm learning how to use both systems, and it really is a pain in the ass.  I'm sure it'll get easier as I get more used to the actual selling of my work, but the learning curve is steep.  That's why this indie thing isn't for the weak of heart.  As I've said before, it's a business, so treat it like one.  I am, and although it makes it more challenging, it also means it'll be more successful than just being a hobby(I hope).

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Read, Read, Read

If you want to be a good writer, you have to be a good reader.  I can't stress this enough.  I was reminded of this point recently with the number of people I've run into who've declared they have the next great American novel in their head and need only the time to bring it out.  They've all, without exception, asked me how to do that, so as I've gone over my process, I've asked them how often they read as well.

The most common response has been, "I don't have the time to do that."

"Then you don't have the time to be a good writer," I reply.

You can't just delve in and think you learned enough in a college writing course to make something folks will want to read.  Good writing takes time to hone, and you need examples.  There is no go-to for who to read - it all depends on how you like to write.  Beyond that, you should read more than your favorite authors so you can see how others get a point across.  Maybe you'll find some of what not to do as well.

But you must read.  You need to know how others tell a story others want to hear.  You cannot just start writing and think you'll produce anything more than what your family will look at(and even then, they're only being nice).  You're just not that good.  None of us is.  We need to learn, and reading is the only way to do that.

So read.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

On Being A Pest

This will come as a newsflash to almost no one who knows me, but I can be a complete pain in the ass.  I get anxious.  I get jittery.  When I see something that needs to be done, I want it done NOW NOW NOW!

This hasn't done me any favors in getting the last few things I need in order to publish Akeldama.  The two remaining issues that have yet to be resolved are 1) getting the final cover for the print version, and 2) getting the ebook version completed.  These are somewhat small items, but not having them ready to go is wearing on me.

The cover is mostly complete.  I even got the spine and back part of it back from the cover artist.  The problem is that, like a dumbass, I failed to be completely satisfied with the blurb I wrote and sent off to Extended Imagery.  I thought it sounded great when I looked at it in a word document, but seeing it on the actual full-blown cover made me realize that there's some word repetition in it that needed to be cleaned up.  So I had to send off a corrected version to the artist, and I'm anxiously awaiting it coming back.  Each day for the past couple, I've checked my email in the hope that the new version would come back so I could go ahead and order my proof copy.  That the artist needs a few days to finish(since I'm not his only customer) rarely crosses my mind.  After all, I'm important, dammit!

I've heard back from the formatters for the book, but there are a couple of issues, the main one being that I've incorporated a few different fonts in Akeldama to lend to the mood, and not all of those fonts translate well to the ebook format.  I'm waiting to hear back from them, but each day that passes - admittedly, it has only been a couple - is killing me.  I'm very much a "let's-do-it-now-and-get-it-over-with" kind of guy, so I feel helpless when I don't get to do something immediately.

Maybe all of this will be good for my patience.  I need patience, and I have no choice but to wait for them to get back to me, so perhaps patience will emerge out of having no other choice.  I certainly hope so, or else this whole exercise does nothing but make life miserable for those I'm around.  I'll try to stop pestering the folks who are doing this great work for me, mostly because I don't want to come across as a male version of Glenn Close.  I hope they understand my emails are nervousness and not stalker-ish.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Problems With Epic

I like to write grandiose stories that affect the big picture.  Whether it's a vampire story about the fate of civilization, or a political and military thriller about the schism in the United States, or a story about a guy trying to kill God Himself, my stories tend to be about the overall fate of the world.  They're throwbacks to the movies I've always enjoyed, where the hero has to overcome incredible odds or everyone is DOOMED DOOMED DOOMED!

There are a couple of problems with doing this, though.  The first, and most obvious, is that such stories rarely leave room for future novels in that universe.  When you have an epic, the-entire-fate-of-the-human-race story, it gets hard to top it in such a way that the audience wants to stick around.  After all, who's really interested in climbing Pike's Peak after you've scaled Mount Everest.  Don't get me wrong - I've found a few ways to keep them going, but the paths are limited.  It reminds me of comic books where the villains have to keep getting more and more sinister so that the heroes still have something to do, even after beating the bid-bad world ender.  Authors, of course, hope that the audience doesn't collectively yawn in response.

The second is that there are only so many ways for a world to be in jeopardy.  There are countless ways to tell a monster story or a princess rescue story, but how many ways can truly affect everything?  It's one thing to strive to overthrow a military despot, but it's quite another to confront God and change the fate of Creation.  One of my worries is that I'll eventually run out of ways to do this.

Sure, that's not a problem at the moment, and I could always devolve back into more narrow stories, but how would the audience react(see problem #1)?  Stephen King has found ways to slip back and forth(going from The Shining to Salem's Lot, and then back to 11/22/63 are examples), so maybe there's hope.  And I know that running out of epic stories to tell is a bit like saying there aren't enough $100 bills for my wallet, but it still presents challenge.  Let's just hope that challenge is...well...epic.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Cool Or Real?

Reading a few books recently, I've found myself in the crux of a dilemma - should the characters I write be more on the "God I wish I was that cool!" side, or the "That is so me!" side?  In other words, should the main character be super-cool, or should the main character be more relatable?

There's nothing wrong with either.  We've read about both.  Harry Dresden and Jack Reacher are both guys' guys who are always able to come up with the right solution and react with little to no emotion beyond, "Eh, no big deal."  Even  alcoholic Bobby Dollar from The Dirty Streets of Heaven always has the right weapon, is rarely afflicted with self-doubt beyond being cool enough for everyone, and always gets the gorgeous girl in the end.  Most people aspire to be this happy-go-lucky, even with all of the problems associated with it.  As an aside, my go-to for cool characters is Dean Winchester from Supernatural - I freely admit to having a man-crush on him, as he is every bit of cool that I've always wanted to be.

But here's my problem with writing guys like that - I'm not cool.

No, this isn't a humble-brag.  I've done some cool stuff(jumping out of airplanes, leading troops in combat, rappelling out of a helicopter), but I'm not personally cool.  I love to watch the news and sci-fi shows.  I like to read about zombies, vampires, and werewolves.  I play online games like Warcraft.  I played chess in high school, and I still know enough to beat the average person.  I didn't date much until college, and even then not until my senior year.  I wear t-shirts that were made in the 1990s.  I'm the guy who doesn't talk much around folks I don't know because I don't want to come across as either stupid or lame.  All of that makes it hard for me to write about "cool" and have the audience believe it.

However, I think us uncool people, with all our geekery and self-doubt, are the ones in the majority.  Sure, most of us like to read about the cool guy, but we know we're not him, which I believe makes it hard to relate to a character that's so cool.  I think that a character can do cool things while being uncool, like the characters I've written in Akeldama and Salvation Day.  The main character in each does cool things - like killing vampires of leading an assault that could determine the fate of humanity - but they're not cool per se.  They doubt.  They're angry.  They hold grudges.  They're horrible with women.  But they're good at heart an strive to overcome the world in spite of their own uncoolness.

Call it a weakness of mine - I write uncool characters doing some cool things because that's who I am, so that's what I can write.  I liken it to the character I tried writing for Wrongful DeathI originally wanted Christian Gettis to be a teenage girl, but I couldn't make her believable, no matter how hard I tried, because I've never understood the minds of teenage girls(especially when I was a teenage boy).  However, I've been a teenage boy about to graduate high school, so it was much easier to write a character like that.

But what does the audience want?  In the end, that's who needs to care the most, since those are the folks who buy our books.  Do they want slick perfection and someone who didn't know the Friday night lineup on ABC?  Do they want the guy who drops the mic, kisses the supermodel, and then shrugs it all off as no big deal?  They might.  Surely we all want to know folks like that, if for no other reason than to pretend we might one day be that cool.  Or will they better relate to someone more like them, the geek who is a bit awkward at times but who rises to the challenge presented to them?  While I like the cool guys mentioned above, I want to know my heroes have flaws, for when they do, it lets me know that perhaps I can accomplish the same kinds of things if I just put in the effort.  To me, the best heroes, the ones who get an empathetic reaction out of me, are the ones who I can envision being.  The cool guy may strive, but it doesn't seem like a big deal when he wins.  However, the real guy who wins is exhausted and allows us to revel in the triumph with him.

Don't get me wrong - either way works.  I just have a hard time writing the first way(cool guys).  Maybe readers don't want the uncool.  I guess I'll find out starting in May.

Sunday, March 19, 2017


We writers aren't very good with humility.  Sure, we talk a good game, and we're good at being self-deprecating so that everyone thinks we don't fully believe in ourselves, but let's be honest - most of that is an act.  Yes, we may be insecure when it comes to hoping others like our stories, but in the end, we all believe we're so much smarter than the rest of the world.  We're creative!  We write in ways that can make our readers cry!  And deep?  Hoo boy, we're so friggin' deep.

At least this is the conceited world in which most of us live.

However, every so often, something comes along that reminds us that we're not as good as we think we are.  For me, that point came this week while having folks look at Akeldama.  I was riding high - my cover looked great, the book had been formatted just right, and I was ready to move to getting a proof copy.  Yet I still had a proofreader out, but I just knew that that was a formality.

So this person approached me on Friday with a few things he noticed.  I shrugged, confident that he just didn't get one of the ways I was using to give voice to the story...right up until he pointed out a minor spelling mistake that occurred in multiple places.  Damn! I thought.  I guess I'll have to send that back to the formatter.

Much to my dismay, that wasn't the only one.

Several of my sentences that were questions ended in periods.  And one of ellipses had only two dots instead of three.  And I'd misspelled "methemoglobin"(which this asshole found with a simple spell check).  Plus I'd pluralized one of the character's names instead of making it possessive as it needed to be.

Fuck me, I thought.  This is humiliating.

So I prepared yet another correction sheet and sent it off to my exceptional formatter, Cheryl Perez.  She has been very understanding throughout this process as I meander my way through my first publication.  And although she has been very professional and assured me that this is nothing out of the ordinary, I can't help but feel like a dunce.

This whole episode has reminded me of a lesson you'd have thought I learned after 43 years of looking like an idiot when I get too confident - just when you think you're at the top, something will remind you you're not as good as you thought you were.  And you know what?  We need that lesson.  We need to be reminded that while confidence is great, arrogance can come back to bite you.  Imagine if I'd gone to press with what I thought was a finished work and people came up to me with their copy and pointed out the mistakes.  Not only would it have been both embarrassing and amateurish, it would have been expensive as I recalled those crap bags and re-done them.  Or I could've just gone with what was out there and been shown up for not being the professional I've aspired to be.  You know...just to be a conceited prick.

Yup, this lesson will be with me for a long time.  Hopefully I won't have to keep repeating it.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Dashing Around

One of my favorite punctuation marks is the em dash.  Although I know that most people are now thinking WTF is an em dash, I cannot express how much this tiny line has had an impact on the style of my writing.

The Punctuation Guide says an em dash is one of the most versatile marks in writing, as it can be substituted for parenthesis, commas, or colons.  In other words, em dashes are used to signify breaks in action.

Even though I'd used them for years, I had no idea what this small line was called.  Then, this past summer, I submitted a piece of writing to someone for review, and they asked about the use of it.  They knew the proper term - em dash - but rarely saw it in action(just to brag, the person in question said that I used it to great effect).

Em dashes can be a great tool.  I usually use it to create a flow of action or dialogue when I think there needs to be a break in the flow of thought but believe the colon is too formal in that spot(confession - I often think the colon is too reminds me of my 9th grade English class).  I use it as an extension of thought that helps the reader feel the action at the pace I want the action felt.

Of course, this particular mark can be used too frequently.  If used every paragraph, or multiple times in a single paragraph, it becomes visually distracting.  Although we often think of writing as little more than a medium to transmit description, good writing can evoke emotions based on visual effect as well(think of the single use sentence in the middle of a page for shock factor).  The eye gets drawn towards anything out of the ordinary, and the em dash is certainly that.  However, when the unusual becomes the norm, it loses effect.

There are other times to use it, such as in place of commas and parenthesis(as mentioned above), but, once again, do so sparingly.  I recommend no more than twice on a single page, and even then I wouldn't do it every page.  Em dashes can create order and flow, but too many make the reader think you're a cheap carnival barker.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Mind Numbing Fantasies

I have a confession - now that Akeldama is nearing release, I've begun indulging in fantasies about what life would be like if it exploded into massive commercial success.  Yes, in the past I've told people to not worry about fame and fortune, for those things are so rare that you'll never feel successful if that's all you seek, but I'm now fantasizing about just those very things.

I believe most writers have those same fantasies, even if few will admit them.  We all want to be the lead panelist at some fan convention, or able to write whatever we want from the comfort of our plush office in our new Beverly Hills Mansion.  However, we also know that such fantasies are both unrealistic and a little self-aggrandizing.  Many say it's arrogant to spend(waste?) time fantasizing about what hasn't happened(and probably never will).  I a point.

Don't let such fantasies become obsessive.  Don't spend all your time on them.  But if you're out on your front porch for a few minutes late in the afternoon with no other pressing matters, I see nothing wrong with letting your mind wander.  It can be a fun way to keep from being bored, the same way many fantasize about winning the lottery after buying a $1 ticket at the local convenience store.  As long as you don't sit in your bedroom all day thinking about it, it's harmless.

Sometimes these things help us smile in the moments when it feels like all we do is prepare but never seem to actually get to our destination.  I don't believe for a minute that I'm alone in these fantasies; in fact, I'm certain I'm not even in the minority in this. 

Maybe it'll happen.  Maybe it won't.  For now, I'll just let myself dream.  After all, I may get a few good stories from it.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Building Up, Paying Off

As writers, we all want to craft a great story.  I don't think there's a single writer who hasn't said that he or she would like to create a piece of work that transcends the ages and is quoted by others as part of the societal narrative.  Part of that is ego, and part of that is the little kid in each of us looking for approval.  It's what lends itself to our toiling to make stories that are larger than life.

Unfortunately, while many of us can build a terrific story, we struggle with an ending that is worthy of what we just wrote.  Johnny Carson once said something along the lines of how the longer a joke, the funnier the payoff has to be, and the same applies to books - the greater the buildup, the better the payoff has to be.

We've seen plenty of this failing to come to pass in modern entertainment.  Twin Peaks was notorious for building up tension and never providing resolution until the very end.  Star Wars had great hype for its new movie, only to have it seem kind of blasé when it finally arrived.  These things built up expectations so high in the minds of the audience that almost nothing could've satisfied the rabidity with which they were greeted.

It's a trap we need to be careful of as writers.  I tend to think that stories are easy but endings are hard.  We spend so much time building the perfect narrative that the ending rarely matches.  No, I'm not telling you to not build a great story - I'm telling you to spend at least as much, if not more, time on crafting the ending so the audience doesn't walk away deflated.

This also comes down to knowing your audience.  If your audience is the kind that likes shocks and turns where the good guy doesn't always win, then find a way to surprise them with an ending that'll keep them thinking.  For me, I Am Legend by Richard Matherson did this.  We were all expecting Neville to be the good guy, but it turned out he was the monster and the vampires were creating a new society that I certainly didn't see coming.  However, if your audience is lighter and looking for happy endings, doing something like this would piss them off(imagine if JRR Tolkien had Sauron take the ring and rule Middle Earth at the end of the novels).  Or if in The Shining, Stephen King had the family just walk out of The Overlook and traipse merrily down the mountain rather than the boiler blowing up and Jack Torrence saving his son.  The story itself would've been meaningless.

Be aware of the buildup you've created and spend that kind of time on your ending.  Make sure it's worthy of your story.  Otherwise, you risk pissing off your audience, and pissed off audience members rarely return to get pissed off again.

Sunday, March 5, 2017


As I finish up the process to publish Akeldama, there are other things creeping up that aren't related to the story.  One of those things is the acknowledgements page.

We've all seen them in our books, pages where the author thanks the myriad of folks who've been instrumental in bringing the book to the public.  Most writers thank their agents, their families, and sometimes a few other random people that are important to them but who mean little to the vast majority of those who read the story.

There are, of course, several landmines possible in this kind of thing, the biggest being if you leave someone out.  In Akeldama, I've thanked by name those most directly responsible for helping me put it together(the cover artist, the ebook and print formatters), as well as my family.  I made passing mention of those who've inspired or encouraged me, but there are so many that mentioning all of them by name could've been a book unto itself.

What I don't want is for someone to be pissed because they didn't get a mention.  There's my best friend who has seen me toil since 6th grade and who has read nearly everything I've ever written, including the puke inducing stuff I once thought was good.  His encouragement has never wavered.  There have been those whose advice I've taken, whether they knew it or not(mostly because it was general advice on their blogs or in their lectures), like Joe Peacock, JA Konrath, Sarah Hoyt, and Hugh Howey.  These exceptional writers have provided insight on both writing and publishing that I've used to make things come to fruition, and the only thing they may know about me is my name.  There are even villains that have inspired me - mostly agents and publishers, but a few naysayers as well - who've either ignored me or told me I never stood a chance.  I don't know if these turds have any idea just how much motivation they gave me to prove them wrong.

Inevitably, someone will get left out, but will it matter?  I'm not an ungrateful person, and I cherish everyone who had a hand in helping me along.  Still, I can't mention everyone, and I'm hoping that no one's feelings get butt hurt over it.  Further, does anyone but the writer and his family even read the acknowledgements?  The only time I've ever skimmed them was when I used to think about traditional publishing and I was scanning for agent names.  Let's be honest - most readers don't give two shits.  The acknowledgements page is something to skip past so they can get into the story itself.

So is there a point to this whole pile of steaming lamentation?  Not really.  It came up as I moved towards publication, and I wondered just how many other authors struggle with it.  Anyone else have any thoughts?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

By Any Other Name...

A friend of mine and I were talking recently about pseudonyms.  This buddy recently finished writing a small book on freedom and responsibility in society entitled Common Sense For The Modern Age.  I know I don't normally discuss politics on this blog, and I'm not saying the book in question is pro or anti what I believe, but since my friend wrote it and it's now available in the Kindle Store, with his print version coming out around March 20th, please do me a favor and at least check it out.

Anyway, he wrote it under the pseudonym "Publius II."  For those who don't know, Publius was the pseudonym that Alexander Hamilton and James Madison wrote under when they published The Federalist Papers.  He envisioned this tome as an update to their version, and while a bit pretentious(even he admits that), he thinks his pseudonym captures the spirit he's striving for.

I asked him why he decided to write under a pseudonym(other than the obviously conceited reason of trying to emulate the guys who wrote the friggin' Constitution), and he said he did it for two reasons.  The first was to generate buzz for sales.  The second was to protect himself.

Like me, he knows the hazards of getting too political in today's world.  If he got on the wrong side of someone influential within his company, it could spell disaster, so he wrote it anonymously in the hopes that it couldn't be traced back to him.  He felt he went out of his way to avoid getting too controversial in the book, but everything in today's polarized world seems controversial to someone, so he hid it.

That got me thinking of the use of pseudonyms and their usefulness.  Stephen King wrote under the pseudonym Richard Bachman during a time when publishing houses were convinced that writers couldn't publish more than one book a year without oversaturating the public(a line of reasoning I've always found stupid).  His son wrote under the pseudonym Joe Hill(and still does, I think) out of a desire to succeed on his own rather than on the coattails of his father.  JK Rowling has written under Robert Galbraith out of a desire to see if she could capture lightning in a bottle again based solely on her work rather than on her original brand.

It made me remember that even RD Meyer is sort of a pseudonym.  Yes, my name is Russell Dean Meyer, but my namesake is known for work I'd rather not be associated with(go on...Google Russ Meyer and see what comes up - just don't do it at work).  It makes me personally very hard to Google, so I needed some way to stand apart.

What's the point of all of this?  I'm not sure there is one, other than to say that even authors want to create something special aside from their work.  It's a new way to make it in the world and pretend to be someone else(like writing fantastical stories isn't enough).  At first, I scorned my friend for what I perceived as his cowardice, but once I really thought about it, it made sense.  He wanted anonymity in a polarized world, so he made up a new persona.  In a way, I've done something similar, and so have many other authors.  I guess only time will tell if we made the right decision.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Cover Reveal!

When I contacted Carl Graves from Extended Imagery, I wasn't sure what I was getting into.  I'd never gone to a cover artist before, and I had some very specific ideas in what I was looking for in Akeldama.  I gave Carl the laydown, and he started working on my cover.  When it came back, it wasn't quite what I envisioned.

It was better.

As a result, here is the cover for Akeldama, due out May 18th.  Those on my distro list already got this via email, so if you didn't and would like to be on my list(those on it will get a discount on the first release), let me know by either email or comment.  Otherwise, enjoy - I hope you like it as much as I do.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Just Die Already!

Story clichés bother me.  When I read, I want to be taken off the track that I could personally see coming a mile away.  I want surprises, new characters, and a story that goes in ways I didn't expect.  As such, there's a phenomenon present in writing that I despise - bringing characters back from the dead.

To be fair, it isn't like this is a new phenomenon.  Writers have been doing this for ages, and it has annoyed me just as long.  I find it to be a lazy way to keep a story going, and its value as SHOCK has been so overdone that it's no shock at all when it happens.  It seems that whenever a story reaches a point where it starts grasping at things, the author will bring back an old character to shake things up.

I believe that what's dead should stay dead.  I know I'm an effete snob, but I'm this way for two main reasons.  First, it's just not realistic for folks to keep rising from the dead.  This doesn't happen in real life, and having already suspended my disbelief to read a tome, this trite technique shakes me out of that wonderful escape.  The reason a harrowing escape is so compelling in real life is that it's so rare(c'mon - how many times do people really survive a boat capsizing in the middle of the ocean?)Second, it doesn't allow the story to deal with the new reality of a character's death.  When a dead character returns, it constricts the story and makes any future tension unbelievable.  Why should I care about the characters and their well being if they're going to keep coming back no matter what's done to them?  I'm actually angry that I spent time in mourning, only to have to factor them back into my life.  It gets confusing.

I get that readers and even writers become attached to our favorite characters.  They provide us comfort and familiarity in a world that rarely possesses either.  But it's the uncertainty of a story that gets us going and makes us want to know what will happen next.  There may be the rare time when someone can and should be brought back to advance the plot, but the writer needs to make it clear very quickly that the character's death was part of the plot all along, and not some device reached for at the last minute to extend a story that should've ended.

It's hard to kill a character we write about.  If it's so hard, then don't put it in at all.  You can still give the reader the illusion of tension, even though you know said character is safe.  But if you kill off a character, have the courage to keep that character dead.  Yes, some readers will implore you to bring them back, but resist these calls.  In the end, it'll make a better book and keep readers turning the page rather than rolling their eyes.