Sunday, December 25, 2016

5th Blogiversary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Website Update

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Death Of Blogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 4, 2016

No Post This Morning

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

Sunday, November 27, 2016

NaNoWriMo Done

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Getting Started

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Justifying The Story

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Planning The Beginning

As I've said previously, my first novel, Akeldama, comes out next May 18th.  Some have asked why I'm waiting so long since the novel is ready.  Couldn't I just go ahead and upload it to Amazon now and be done with it?

There are a myriad of reasons I've waited, but the biggest one is that this isn't some lark - it's a business.  Were releasing this novel merely a one time deal, or if this was only going to be a hobby, then I could better understand just putting it out there.  However, I intend this to grow into a full time profession.  So, some ask, why then the long lead time?  Does it really take so long?

The short answer is - of course not.  On the other hand, I'm otherwise still employed, have been out of the country, and I have been unable to devote my full attention to this venture.  Now that I'm starting this in earnest, there are lots of things to consider - tax IDs, creating an S-Corporation, setting up an imprint, setting up my business account, etc.  These things don't happen overnight.

Moreover, planning these things out also doesn't happen overnight.  If you're a traditionally published author, with an agent and a publishing house, they aren't the kinds of things you give a lot of thought to.  At the same time, traditionally published authors should also not rush headlong into this process, since they have to consider querying, who to query, how to write a synopsis, and so on.  Each route takes time; it's simply a matter of what you spend that time on.

That's the whole point to me - take the time to plan.  Lay out all of your options and plot the best path forward.  Sure, you can go out and do stuff in about a week, but you'll put forth a shitty product.  The layers involved in this are so complex that it takes time to understand them all and how they interact.  There are other considerations too, like tax seasons.  I know that half the audience's eyes just glazed over, but what sense does it make to incorporate and prep everything on December 5th?  That creates a tax burden for that year for hardly any season.  Why not wait until January to do what you need to so that you have the luxury of work behind you?  Yes, maybe that's lazy, but I want to have something tangible before combing through IRS regulations on April 15th.  And sure, maybe you got started at that point because you had some great insight into the market(maybe 10,000 people said they wanted your book by Christmas), but that's rare.  Most book purchases take place in Spring or early Fall(taking advantage of either upcoming vacations or the start of school).  If you release when the market doesn't care, you'll sabotage yourself from the get-go.

All I'm saying is to be patient if you can afford to be.  Building a successful business takes meticulous planning, and it still might fail.  Don't increase your chances of failure by rushing into stuff before you're ready.  Remember, writing your novel is the easy part.  Making it a success is where most folks fail.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Overwhelmed By Events

Sorry, folks, but no post this week.  Life became overwhelming recently.  This is one of the reasons I went to one post a week, and, unfortunately, I can't even make it this week.  I'll return next week.  Until then, my apologies.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

On Being A Snob

I am a pretentious prick who scoffs at most of what passes for literature out there.

No, I can be honest and admit it.  I'm not the usual consumer of mass marketed books that everyone seems to love.  For example, I hated The DaVinci Code.  I thought the plot was simplistic, the characters lacked depth, and that I could've written a better and more compelling book while sitting on the toilet.  I think Twilight is drivel designed to appeal to the base emotions of 14-year old girls who don't fit in in high school.

To some people, this makes me a bad person.  At the very least, it makes me extremely picky.  I look down my nose at most books out there because I think most aren't very good.  If people choose to shun me as a result, that's fine.  I know what I like, and I won't change that to fit in.

The reason I consider myself a snob when it comes to novels is that I want smart books with depth and characters that seem real.  Endings I can see coming a mile away annoy me, and any book not consistent within its own universe strikes me as lazy.  I can get shallow by reading the front page of any newspaper, so why would I waste my time on terrible stuff?

And I know I'm not alone.  Mas market books appeal to society at large, but let's be honest - most of society doesn't regularly devour books.  Most people read two or three books a year, usually on the recommendation of a friend, or because it happens to be the "in" thing right now.  True readers, the ones who gobble up books at more than one a month, know how hard it can be to find an enthralling story.

Here's the thing, though - those of us who are snobs not only have to accept that fact, but we also have to accept that it's going to be hard to find a book we really like.  We have to accept sifting through tons of debris out there to find the occasional gem that we can go back to time and time again.  It means accepting limitations on our selection rather than shaking our heads in frustration because what's out there just isn't good enough.

It's okay to be a snob.  It's okay to be picky.  Embrace it.  Don't worry about what other people will say when they find out just how discerning you are.  Also accept that you don't have to be picky about everything, and that the occasional guilty pleasure(maybe you like Warhammer books) is a great escape.  Stop worrying about what other people, including other snobs, think about your tastes.  After all, reading is supposed to be enjoyable, and even snobs deserve enjoyment.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Pulling The Rug Out(aka - Twist Endings)

I think there's this push/pull dynamic at work for most writers.  We want to be edgy and unpredictable(to a point), but we don't want our audience to be screaming for our head.  It's this dilemma that plays into how far afield we take endings that aren't in line with the way we set things up.

Twist endings can be great.  So long as some of the seeds are planted along the way so that a discerning reader can go back and say, "Aha!  I missed it, but it's right there!," then a twist ending can make a good story great.  Unfortunately, so many of us get so caught up in wanting to make an impact that we create twists simply for the sake of twists, and we end up looking stupid.

Readers have certain expectations.  When reading a mystery, they expect to not necessarily see the end coming.  Absent that, though, they want to see things like the main character's love life resolved or for grandma to save her farm.  Undercutting them leaves them without closure and usually pisses them off.  And remember that pissed off readers rarely return.

I'm not saying to get all predictable where any five year old could see what you have in mind 400 pages down the road, but don't swerve just because you're feeling froggy.  M Night Shyamalan has become a joke because he does almost nothing but twist endings.  It was fine with The Sixth Sense, but it got tiresome after a while because audiences started trying to figure out the twist that they knew was coming.

That's another part of the point - by being "unpredictable" all the time, aren't you becoming...unpredictable?  Surprises aren't surprises if everyone expects them.  You need a good reason to occasionally throw a curve, and it needs to be so overwhelming to the audience that they forgive you for not fixing things up the way they wanted.

The best advice I can give on this is to not be a douchebag.  Give your audience closure, and save your twists for those rare works you want to stand out.  Otherwise, you'll be shoved to the back by your readers.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Cultural Appropriation

I recently ran across a few articles about a writers conference in Brisbane, and some apparently controversial remarks made by Lionel Shriver.  Shriver is most famous for the novel We Need To Talk About Kevin, a book about a disturbed young teenager who commits a shooting spree at school.  The novel has received critical acclaim and was even made into a movie.

At the conference, several writers criticized Shriver and her remarks about cultural appropriation.  They said that only a person from a particular background can write about characters of that background.  Many complained that their own works were being outsold by others not from their ethnicity and that Shriver, and others, should stick to their own ethnic groups when creating characters.

Pardon me while I say...what the fuck?!?!

Okay, maybe I'm violating one of my own rules by wading into the cultural/political arena, but this one concerns one of the very essences of writing, making stuff up, and happens to be absolute bullshit.  Writing about others is the soul of writing.  Does anyone seriously believe that you should only write about people that look and talk just like you?  Do any of these namby-pamby-offended-all-the-time social justice vigilantes know what such stupidity and separation would've done to literature over history?  Would we have ever gotten Carrie, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Madame Bovary, or even any of the Harry Potter books(after all, JK Rowling isn't a teenage boy)?  We're writers; we make stuff up.  We borrow histories and people from other cultures all the time - that's what we do.  To limit yourself to only those you look like would constrict writing and make the world both dull and separate.

I wonder if those who were upset that Shriver outsold them ever considered that maybe she's just a better writer.  The market decides these things - if people like your book, they'll buy it.  If they don't, then they won't.  It's that easy.  Unfortunately, we seem to live in a world where everyone is looking to get all butt hurt because people don't do exactly what we say or adhere to our ideology and have the temerity to be public about it.

"Cultural appropriation" is a complete farce, and it's a form of separatism and prejudice.  It's a way to gather unto yourself all that is yours and can only be yours, and others better not try to play in your sandbox.  It's infantile and reminds me of a toddler screaming "MINE!  MINE!  MINE!"  If writing about something with which you're unfamiliar crosses the line, then the market will let you know, but these holier-than-thou PC freaks need to let this stuff go.  Part of cultural diversity and inclusion is allowing others into your circle.  It brings us together when we look to other cultures and try to form bonds between them.  Writers have to look outside their own experiences in order to write stuff that appeals to more than a few people.

In other words, to those who got mad at Shriver(and others like her), take the fence pole out of your ass.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

On Shrinkage And Being Overwhelmed

I wish it hadn't come to this, but I have to reduce my number of blog posts for the time being.  With my work schedule being what it is right now, keeping up three blog posts a week is a bridge too far.  I've also found myself repeating topics, and I know it's hurting the quality of this site.

Therefore, for the next three months, I plan on doing only one posting per week.  Don't worry - I'll still be here; it'll just be a little less often.  Since my book launch for Akeldama begins in earnest in January, I'll get back to three postings per week at that point since I'll have more material.  However, expending the energy at this point, along with a work schedule a lot more intense than I thought it would be, would be crushing.

I know some of you may think that this is the beginning of the end.  You'd be wrong.  I first have to put food on the table for my family, and I want to be sure I'm ready when the march towards May 18th really begins, so I've got to scale back.  It won't be for long, but I have little choice.  I'll put up a new post each Monday morning so you'll have something to read for the week.  Hopefully it'll make Monday a little less boring as well.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Clichés To Avoid

Clichés are sometimes unavoidable, but that doesn’t make them less annoying.  Usually, clichés are the hallmark of a lazy writers, something used to appeal to a reader without making him or her think.  I thought I’d review the clichés that need to be avoided, if at all possible.

- Prison stories that involve male-on-male rape.  Yes, this plays to nearly every guy’s primal fears, but it has been done to death.

- Clean cut bad guys.  It seems that the only people you can make villains nowadays are bankers dressed in three piece suits.  Anytime I pick up a mystery or crime story now, it’s pretty easy to find who the bad guy is going to end  up being – I just look for the neatly dressed guy who has been successful while everyone else around him is poor.  Stop it.

- The rogue hero with a heart of gold.  This is almost standard in every cop drama or war novel,  We like to see guys with a rough exterior that we can peel away into a teddy bear.  I guess this goes to our notion of how we can change things for the better.  For a twist, make the rough guy really be a rough guy.

- Brilliant doctors/scientists who have an amazing epiphany at the last possible second.  Look, I get the need to build drama, but I can’t tell you how many times it’s that last second insight that solves everything.  Aside from being a lazy catchall, it makes me wonder why this supposedly brilliant person couldn’t think of it earlier.

- The hurt athlete.  It seems that every story involving a great athlete has that person get hurt in order to “find themselves,” as if tragedy is required for greatness(or maybe that we just hate jocks).  Perhaps an athlete should sometimes just be an athlete.

- The government conspiracy is behind everything.  Good God I get tired of this one.  It seems we’re so afraid of offending anyone that we resort to the eeeeevvvvvviiiiillllllll government(almost ALWAYS being the American government), as the catalyst for every villainous thing out there.  The complete lack of creativity involved in this makes me want to drill a hole in the side of my head so I can get the idiocy out.

These are just a few, but if you’ve seen it over and over and over and over again in either print or on your favorite TV show, find a different way.  Sometimes it can’t be avoided in order to stay true to the story, but most of the time it makes you look like a hack.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Muse At Rest

She lay on the bed, her gown strewn lazily over her chest.  Her breath rose rhythmically as her nostrils took in the warm summer air.

She’d been asleep for a while now.  Sure, I’d go stir her every so often in order to avoid the near-catastrophe I encountered a year and a half ago when my apathy nearly killed her, but I mostly let her rest.

My Muse hasn’t been too active as of late, and that has been by design.  The projects she worked with me on now need their own time to rise, and her constantly whispering into my ear would be distracting.  That was a distraction I simply couldn’t afford at the moment.

Still, every once in a while, I just liked to sit here and watch her.  Part of it was to make sure she was still with me; I nearly lost her once, and even that memory brought on chills.  The other part of me was to just appreciate her beauty.  My Muse was there for me in the darkest of times, nudging me towards certain paths in ways even I was unaware of.

Of course, I couldn’t let her sleep too long.  She might slip into a coma if I did, and that’d be as bad as her disappearance last year.  No, she needed to stay just active enough that she’d be there when I needed her.  Even rousing her from time to time wouldn’t brush off all of the cobwebs when I really needed her, but it would make the process much easier.

So I watched as she snoozed, a soft smile still on her lips.  This wondrous masterpiece served as an outlet for me, so I let her rest…for now.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

What's Behind My Agent Antipathy?

I have a well-documented dislike of literary agents, especially as they exist in current form.  Some have asked what I have against them.  Is it that I was once turned down and am now bitter?  Is it that I don’t like that you have to have an agent to get picked up by a major publisher?

Let me first start out with an admission of full transparency.  In my early days, before I knew anything about the publishing business, I had the same visions every newbie author has, to get signed by an agent and hit it big with a major publisher.  I even submitted query letters to a few agents regarding Akeldama.  Several ignored my inquiry, and I got a standard form letter rejection from a few others.  A couple were even gracious enough to give me a personal rejection.  However, nobody took me up on my submission.

At this point, I know many of you will stop reading and write me off as an embittered hack who just didn’t like people telling me I wasn’t good enough.  That’s okay.  If you’re in that crowd, you wouldn’t hear anything else I had to say anyway.

As time progressed, and I did more research regarding publishing, the less I liked the traditional process.  Thirty years ago, there were dozens of presses to get published at; now there are five.  I also started learning things I didn’t care for, like how I found no agent with a background in contract law(most had literary degrees).  Although understanding good literature is great and necessary to sell novels to publishers, appreciation for that is so subjective.  However, contract law is not, and aren’t I looking for someone who knows that so I can get the best deal I can?  How does an MFA qualify someone to know the language behind torts, payments schedules, opt-out clauses, and various other aspects of a legal contract?  Wouldn’t the ideal agent have a background in intellectual property law, with either a minor in or an appreciation of good writing?

Then there’s the inbreeding of it.  In order to stay relevant, agents have to stay cozy with publishers.  That’s great…except I don’t want my agent to represent publishers – I want them to represent me.  This system makes it far too likely that the agent will have the publisher’s best interests at heart instead of mine so they can stay in the group and have continued employment.  It’s hard to get the few publishers that remain to listen to you if you have a reputation as a hardass.

There are other things too, but that’s the basic framework.  Sure, no one likes to get rejected, and it’s entirely possible there’s some personal animus directed to the group as a whole, but I don’t think so.  Were it not for indie publishing, I’d have to swallow my pride and become part of the system, if possible.  However, the changes in the current market make agents relatively meaningless.  I’m sure they work great for some folks, but I’m sure an enema works great for some folks too, and I don’t want one of those either.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Don't Forget To Read

We all get caught up in our lives.  There are bills to be paid, kids to go to sports, decks to be fixed, etc.  This can leave us all hardly any time for our true passion of writing.  Therefore, when we get a free minute, our tendency as writers is to sit at the keyboard and start cranking away on our work.  But have we forgotten something?  Have we forgotten that to write, we need to read?

“Wait!”  you shout.  “How am I supposed to read when I have dinner on the stove, baths to give, grass to mow, and drinks to drink with co-workers?”  Yep, life can be hectic, but if we don’t read well, our writing will suffer.

Good reading is a cornerstone of good writing.  You can observe techniques and tricks for writing that other authors use, and you can either figure out they don’t work or that they might be useful to you.  Further, you maintain a sense of literary awareness by reading good stories written by successful authors.  I liken it to playing chess or basketball – you may still remember the fundamentals, but the absence of actually participating will dull your skills and reduce your muscle memory.

Don’t forget that you can learn as much from poor writers as you can from good ones.  No, I don’t stay with a novel that makes me want to claw my eyes out, but it reminds me stuff not to include in my writing:  don’t overdo the very bad poorly horrible adjectives and adverbs that announce in BREATHLESS! and over-the-top ways the action; don’t have character conversations that sound like two teenage girls on Facebook; description is fine, but make sure it sets the stage rather than is the stage; stop with all the damn clichés(if I read another crime drama that starts with the main character squinting into the sun after a drunken night, I think they can write their next novel about me because my rage will become murderous).

Reading is essential to good writing.  Just as an NFL quarterback can’t be great on the field without studying tape, writers can’t be great in writing without reading.  Besides which, it’s a fun break away from the tedium of life, and it helps remind us why we got into this aggravating fantasy to begin with.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Different Authors, Same Universe

In some of the more popular fictional universes – Star Trek, Star Wars, Warhammer, etc – it’s not uncommon for multiple authors to publish stories with the same setting.  It gives us lots more stories about our favorite characters than we could get otherwise, so fans will flock to them, but is this necessarily a good thing?

The difference in the quality of writers is the most glaring weakness in this.  Let’s take the Star Wars universe, for example – following Return of the Jedi, there was little left in that realm.  Most of what had been published was done prior to the last movie, and the spark seemed dead.  Then, in 1991, Timothy Zahn revitalized the franchise with Heir to the Empire.  It was an instant classic, drawing fans back in with a zeal similar to the original movie.  It led to a whole host of new stories and new writers writing them.

Unfortunately, at least from my point of view, Zahn was far and away the best author out there for this type of work.  I found others that followed to be dry and uninspiring, mostly relying on boring old clichés and worn settings that they couldn’t breathe life into.  I often wondered whether the Star Wars universe would’ve been better had those other writers come in first and let Zahn be a later spark, or would it all have died before ever getting off the ground.

The second issue I have with multiple writers in the universe is consistency of story.  I have a hard enough time keeping my own story straight – keeping it straight over several writers and several books may be all but impossible.  And believe me, fans will find those inconsistencies.  I’ve read a few books that play fast and loose with the canon, and it’s frustrating.

Third…are we really so out of ideas that we have to borrow from another?  Maybe I’m being an old codger here, but I find writing so much in an already established universe to be lazy, especially when taken from one so prominent.  My ten year old daughter could write a story in the Harry Potter universe; do we really need folks not named Rowling to do that?  Where has the creative spark for creating your own world gone?

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Monetary Expenses

Part of the process in this whole indie publishing thing is getting started, and as with any venture, it can be expensive.  But just how expensive?  And how much into debt do you need to go in order to put out a decent product.

To start with, any fool with a computer and access to the internet can upload his or her work and call it an indie novel.  If success was that easy, there’d be a lot more Hugh Howey’s out there and fewer (insert anonymous writer’s name here).  The challenge here is to appear professional, and whether we like it or not, that’s something that matters in this business.

There are obvious expenses, like getting a good cover.  Don’t – repeat, DO NOT – simply put your title on a solid background, upload it, and think you’ve done anything other than shoot yourself in the foot.  Covers draw us in, and you need a good one, especially when you’re an unknown.  These can run around $500 for something decent, but this isn’t an expense you should skimp on.

ISBNs are next.  If you want to be taken seriously, and someday get into bookstores, you need your work to be available through an ordering catalogue, and you have to have an ISBN for that.  The number you get depends on how many versions you offer.  No, not versions where the hero is an albino in one and a lion in another, but rather your hardcover, paperback, foreign edition, ebook edition, etc.  Each of these requires an ISBN, so consider just how many formats you really want to be involved in.  Good thing is that ISBNs aren’t prohibitively expensive – about $50 a piece, and some bundles are available that reduce that cost in bulk.

Then we start getting into really expensive stuff.  Editing comes in many forms, and none of those forms is cheap.  Content editing is far and away the most expensive, and it will run you several thousand dollars for a competent job.  I use beta-readers for this since I think editors are usually no better than the intended audience for this.  That said, copyediting isn’t cheap either, as I found out recently on another project.  A good copyedit will cost over $1000 for anyone of competence, so the question necessarily becomes how much you need it.  I think professional copyediting is a must, especially for first time writers, but this one is difficult due to expense.

All of this comes down to expense versus profit.  How much do you think your project will reap?  If you’re not going to recoup your original investment, why do it?  Are you just looking to establish a fledgling base?  I set aside a little each month and have a nice little nest egg for publication, but it’ll cover maybe two books.  If my work doesn’t start to take off after that, further expense will be hard to justify, which will, in turn, harm the next product.  Threading this needle is much more difficult than writing the book, which while rewarding, isn’t exactly easy.

I never said this would be easy…just expensive…

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Book Clubs

I’ve never belonged to a book club.  However, a few of my friends are part of one, and that got me thinking about using that channel as a marketing technique.

As a brand new author, few of us will have the street cred of a JK Rowling or a Stephen King.  The reputation of a new writer, and thus the potential for new/increasing sales, is based in large part on word of mouth – someone will read a book by a person they’ve never heard of and then pass along to a friend how much he or she liked the novel.  But how do you do that?  How do you get your work into someone else’s hands and know they’ll read it?

If you have a friend in a book club, that is an approach.  I approached one of my friends and asked her if she would be willing to have her group read Akeldama and critique it.  No, not as beta-readers, but after publication as an actual novel.  If I can get a fan or two from that group, perhaps my base will spread.

As indie writers, I think we need to be creative in how we market our work.  I can’t afford a full page ad in the New York Times, and no bookstore is going to give me a large display at the front of the store.  Therefore, we need to figure out how to generate buzz.  Book clubs are designed for those who like to read.  They’re usually such passionate readers that they’ll talk about what impacted them in the literary world, and they may be able to turn on others outside of their club.

So seek out alternative avenues.  You never know where your wave of success could begin.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Novel Perceptions

As I’ve said before, everyone thinks he or she is capable of writing the next Great American Novel, but few actually follow through.  It’s that follow through that produces a remarkable effect when you let people in on your world.

Through work, I recently became associated with a new group of talented individuals who are up and coming in the company.  Part of getting to know each other included telling things about ourselves that we felt others would find interesting.  After the standard trope about family and background, I divulged two facts – 1) that I’m personally ungooglable(that’s why I go with RD Meyer rather than Russ Meyer – go ahead and look that name up, but don’t do it from a work computer), and 2) that I’ve written nearly ten books and will publish the first next May.

All heads in the room immediately turned.  Some wanted to know what I would do with all the money I was bound to make, not realizing that most writers don’t reach the level of James Patterson.  To others, this somehow made me instantly smart in their world.  And yet more became very intimidated when we started exchanging position papers on stuff.

There seems to be an air of instant intellectual credibility one gains whenever acknowledging that you’ve written a novel.  Never mind that none of them have ever read a single thing I’ve written – it could’ve been a re-creation of Pregnesia – the fact that I’d taken the time to write a full length novel made them think I was a literary genius…or at least more well versed than any of them.

I think some writers revel in this perception, but it gave me more a sense of responsibility than anything.  I felt I needed to make sure my work justified that admiration.  It’s not that I haven’t worked hard, but any fool with a computer can crap out words on a page.  When people think you need to be a great writer to complete a novel, you have some duty to not let them down.

Yes, it made me feel good.  I felt smarter, and I held my head high for a few days.  Still, somewhere deep in my gut, I wondered if I was worth that perception.  After all, it’s not like I’m yet published, and I’m certainly not yet successful in the world of published authors.  I guess I just need to be sure that my credibility doesn’t crash the moment someone reads my first book.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Email Confusion

I sent out a newsletter recently – something I need to do much more often – and was gratified to get a few responses.  However, what I found most frustrating was the pings I got back indicating that the email on my list wasn’t correct.

This frustration was a mixture of annoyance with the person who gave me an incorrect email address, and annoyance with myself for copying down wrong email addresses.  Yes, some people were jerks who either intentionally gave me a wrong email address so they wouldn’t hurt my feelings by turning me down when solicited(a coward’s act, and I only counted three), but most of my frustration was with myself – I’d copied down the address incorrectly(maybe it was .net when I wrote down .com, or I left an “e” out of the person’s name).  It indicated sloppiness on my part, and few things drive me crazier than when I make a simple error.

I eventually got it all sorted out and corrected my list, also sending out the email to those who I know didn’t get it the first time(I had to do this a few times since my pings came in not all at once, but rather spread out over the course of two days), but it just bothered me.  This is the business side of things, and I’d rather spend my time writing.

I suppose this is a warning, for lack of a better term, for everyone to check your lists as you’re writing them because you won’t be able to remember afterwards.  It also saves you from going back to the person via Facebook or something, hat in hand, and re-soliciting them.  Don’t gloss over the nuts and bolts of what you need to get people to buy the book you’ve pitched to them – it wastes time you can better spend elsewhere.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Back In The Saddle Again!

Okay, I have some news.  This may not seem like a big deal to you guys, but it’s a big deal to me, and this is my blog, so I’m going to share it with you.

As I’ve mentioned before, I was out of the country for a good portion of the past year.  Although my environment wasn’t totally austere, there were still things I didn’t have access to, and Kindle updates was one of them.  Well, back in late February, Kindle sent me an email saying that a major update was on the way via the wireless, and I’d have to have it in order to buy and install new ebooks in my device.

Big problem.  I couldn’t get wireless.

Since I wasn’t downloading any Kindle books anyway, it wasn’t a big deal…at the time.  However, I knew I’d be returning to the United States at some point, and I enjoy ebooks since they don’t clutter up my house – I save buying hardcover books for the ones that really pique my interest – so I would have to get the update.  Unfortunately, they would no longer send it out via wireless after the end of March.

When I returned to America near the end of June, my Kindle sat on my table, staring up at me with a blank expression.  Supposedly there was a way to get the update off of the Amazon website, but I’m a technological Neanderthal, so figuring it out was like asking a German Shepard to do calculus.  I hemmed and hawed for a while, even going so far as to download the new update to my computer once…where I promptly forgot which folder it went into.

Still, after much head scratching and hours of feeling more than stupid, I finally hooked my device up to my computer, downloaded the update again, and transferred it to where it needed to go.  I tested it out and found I’d been successful!  One Year After by William Fortschen was out, and that was the one I really wanted.  It’s now awaiting a reading.

So, what was the point of that tale of woe?  No point – I simply wanted to express my glee at having my beloved Kindle operational again, as well as to thump my chest that I figured out one technological mystery.  Now if only I could figure out how to change my ringtone to what I want…

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

You Shouldn't Have To Explain

I recently acted as a beta-reader for a friend’s novel, and although I did my best, the story confused me.  The characters acted inconsistently, and the overall story was vague.  When I presented this insight to my friend, this person got defensive, as we are wont to do when we feel like someone is attacking our precious babies, and started explaining to me why I failed to get what was being said.

I smiled and nodded along, understanding that regardless of my intention, I’d just shit all over their heart and soul.  However, two things were running through my mind the whole time:
1.  I was doing a favor by acting as a beta-reader.
2.  You shouldn’t have to explain to me what your story was about.

First, since I don’t pay my beta-readers, I always keep in mind that they’re doing me a favor.  They could’ve easily told me to get bent, or just ignored my request for such readership altogether(as has happened more often than not).  However, they took time from their lives to give me feedback on my work, so attacking them isn’t the best way to acknowledge their help.  I feel that, at this stage, I should listen to what the beta-reader has to say and file it away for later analysis.  This isn’t the time for a pissing match.

Second, if I have to explain what I was trying to say, maybe my writing was the problem.  It’s important to get several different beta-readers to see if there is a trend in your writing.  It’s possible that someone doesn’t get what you’re trying to say while others get it completely.  But if several people have the same issue, then you need to look at what you put on paper.

It’s the writer’s job to convey the story in a way the audience understands, not the job of the audience to sift through the author’s prose and discern the meaning.  Once it has been published, you can’t sit down with every single person who reads your stuff and explain to them what you really meant.  They need to get it without you around.  Go back and look at your work and figure out if it’s clear enough.  If it’s not, then it’s not the readers’ problem for not comprehending your brilliance, but rather your problem for not being clear enough.  That may sting, but would you rather sting and sell, or would you be a misunderstood arteest who no one buys?

Sunday, September 4, 2016


This blog has gotten roughly 71,000 hits in the nearly five years of its existence.  Yes, the number of hits has ebbed and flowed with the effort I’ve put into promoting it, but I’m exceedingly grateful to those of you who’ve taken a minute or two from your schedule to read it.

That said, I’m seriously considering reducing the number of posts by one or two a week.  This is for two reasons.  First, as my last post indicated, it can be stressful when I get to a month and haven’t posted anything yet.  Second, I wonder whether I’m growing redundant.  Yes, some topics need to be reviewed, but there are only so many ways to talk about why adverbs are bad, or why it’s so important to evoke an emotional response in readers.

I anticipate things will pick up as I approach the launch date for Akeldama next May, but I wonder at the worth of keeping this site updated three times a week.  I would really appreciate hearing from anyone who reads this blog on anything resembling a regular basis – what are your thoughts on the potential for reducing the number of weekly posts, and what do you think would be the correct amount?  Don’t worry about this going into effect immediately, but since it could happen as early as October(if implemented), I really want to know what you think.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Monthly Deadline Approaches Quickly

As you may know, I write out about a month’s worth of posts in advance.  Much of what I choose to discuss doesn’t necessarily have to be timely.  Unless it’s a piece of breaking news, I can fire off a post and simply let it come out when it comes out, adherence to time be damned.

Unfortunately, that can also get me in trouble.  As I’ve often said, writing is like going to the gym – it’s a habit that requires routine use or it becomes easier to ignore doing it.  Given that I’ll spend three or four days writing out 13 or 14 posts, schedule them, and then be able to walk away, it’s not hard for me to overlook when yet another month is approaching.  Such happened to me this month.

My time back in the United States has been great.  I’ve been able to reconnect with family, enjoy some other hobbies, and work on things for my house.  However, it has also allowed me to forget about blog deadlines.  It was the 22nd of August before I realized that I hadn’t done anything for the September posts.  Yes, plenty of time left, but writing this blog is about more than sitting at the computer to shit out topics.  Just deciding which topics to write about is a drawn out process, one that requires time.  If I don’t plan out what I’ll write about, I find myself doing the functional equivalent of running my fingers over my lips while making that “b-b-b-b-b-b” sound.

So, what does this all mean?  It means I’m lazy sometimes and forget to track the days.  Another month is upon us – time to get it in gear.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Doubting Success

Most of us have had those moments of doubt, usually when we're mired in our latest work and wonder if anyone will want to look at it.  It feels off, and our phone isn't lighting up with offers for sales and TV interviews.  Maybe it's a grey day outside and our fridge is bare.  We have yet to sell anything, or our last work was a total bust, so we start to doubt whether or not we'll ever make it.

Truth be told, as harsh as it is, most of us are unlikely to achieve great success.  Tons of writers are so obscure that they'll never amount to much.  However, if you go in expecting that outcome, you can be sure that's the outcome you'll get.

It requires a certain amount of both naiveté and arrogance to truly believe you'll be the one who makes it, but it's essential to chugging along on those rainy days when your friends are out watching movies and you're at your desk writing.  If you believe it's for nothing, your work will reflect that.

Believing in your success also hinges on the amount of work outside of writing you're willing to do.  Did you set up a marketing plan?  What's your strategy to get into publications for review?  Did you buy ISBNs?  Are you willing to sit alone in a bookstore for hours while no one comes by your table?  These things are dreary, but they make potential success so much more believable, for the true work of getting your stuff out there is in that.  Remember, writing is easy, but selling is boring...yet essential.

So go ahead and occasionally indulge in that fantasy of what it'll be like when you're the main speaker at your local writing conference.  Or better yet, what it'll be like when you're on Good Morning America.  Don't let it consume you, but it's okay to flirt with such things now and again.  After all, they can provide motivation as well, and the work that comes from that can lead to the success you seek.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Shilling For Editing Services - Legit Or Con?

As I move forward towards actually publishing my first novel, one of the things I have to do is get a copyeditor for my work.  The problem is how to find one that's decent at a decent price.  I have a gmail account for all my writer stuff, and that's the account associated with several writing websites.  Inevitably, I get spam from some of them touting one thing or another, and one of those other things is editing services.

Like I've said before, I'm not interested in a content editor.  I have beta-readers for that, and I don't need some pretentious editor who would rather be a writer but couldn't make it to get snotty about what I wrote.  That doesn't mean that my work is completely clean, though.  If you want to be a professional, you need to have a copyeditor to polish the work from a grammatical and correctness point of view.

But how much of what I get in my inbox is legit?  It's real easy for someone to declare themselves to be a copyeditor and then tell people what their rates are.  I know more than a few who see copyediting as an easy side gig that can bring in some extra cash while they work on their "real" job.  I don't want my stuff looked at by someone in passing - I want someone who will dedicate themselves to what I wrote.

For me, I don't want to be anyone's guinea pig.  Therefore, as unfair as this sounds, I won't be submitting my work to a new copyeditor.  Sorry.  Go find other clients who are willing to take that risk.  I want someone established.

When I see a copyediting service in my inbox, the first thing I do is search for them on Google.  If I can't find them, they're out.  Once I find someone, I see a few things - how professional is their website, what are their rates, and, most importantly, what outside reviews I can find.

I trust reviews to a point, understanding that some people pad reviews with friends, relatives, or simply other aliases.  That's why word of mouth is the best review.  That's very hard to come by if you're not connected, but if someone I trust gives a thumbs up, I'm more inclined to accept the judgement.

Okay, that's a lot of blathering to say that it takes a combination of a lot of things to determine if a copyeditor is worth a hoot.  Email solicitation alone won't do it.  And if you're new, then I'm sorry, but you're just not for me.  Copyediting services can be expensive, and I want to make sure I get value for the amount of money I'll probably be spending.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Release Date!

I've entered the home stretch of publishing my first novel, Akeldama.  I'm finalizing some of the legal issues with regards to product permissions(and changing some of those things I have no permission for), and I'll soon go into the business side of creating an S-Corp for the publishing side.  That's right - I'm getting all of the boring business stuff ready to go beginning on January 1st.

With that said, I'm proud to announce I have a release date!  Akeldama will be available on May 19, 2017.  That's the day it will be out in ebook format and be available to the general public.  Those on my email distribution list already know this since I sent it out about two weeks ago.  Further, those on my email list prior to May 18th will be eligible for a discount of approximately 25%(the plan is for the hardcover to be available for $12.95, and those who get the discount can get it for $9.95...but the cost could change if production costs turn out to be more than I anticipated).

Putting a date on the calendar makes things much more real to me.  I've got the finish line in sight, and no matter what else happens, I know the target to expose myself to the world(in books...get your minds out of the gutter).  There's still lots of work to do, but this is so exciting.  I can't wait.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Hardcover Or Ebook Exclusive?

On the heels of my last post talking about KDP Select and whether or not to use that platform, thus knocking myself out of the ability to use other platforms like Smashwords, I'm looking at something else - should I publish hardcover books too or go exclusively with ebooks?

Ebooks are all the rage,   That's where most indie published writers make their bones.  Readers unfamiliar with you are more likely to risk a $3.99 ebook they can delete from their e-reader than to buy a physical book that both costs more and takes up space.  I know I'm very selective nowadays as to which books I buy from the bookstore since my space is rapidly dwindling.

If this was purely a business decision for a newbie author, it'd be simple.  I could remove all the emotion from it and go exclusively with ebooks.  However, emotion plays a part, whether we want it to or not.  Besides, as writers, we're emotional creatures.  All my life I've wanted to hold a book I wrote in my hands.  No, not the printed out pages, but a physical book with a cover and a blurb and pages I can turn, in addition to something with my name I can put on a shelf.  Some writers may have moved past that particular ego boost, but I haven't.

Does this mean my ego is wasting both my time and my money?  Maybe...but do I care?  I understand that unless/until I earn a great degree of success as an established author, most of what I sell will come from ebooks.  That doesn't mean I want to go to my e-reader every time I want to look at what I've produced.  Further, some of those on my distro list have said point blank that they want a physical book.  They may not be many, but how many does there have to be before my ego can justify it?

In the end, this is my career.  I chose to publish independently specifically to have the freedom to make decisions like this, and I'm 99% positive it will include physical books.  Doing so will grant me three pleasures - 1) holding my book in my hands: 2) providing those who've asked with a hardcopy of my work; and 3) to stick it in the face of all those who said what I was doing was a fool's errand.  Yes, that's petty, but I don't care.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

KDP Select - Yes Or No?

As I'm beginning to look towards the actual release of my first book, I have a number of things to consider, one of which is the platform.  I will have a few hardcover/paperback books, but I'm sure most of my sales will come through ebooks.  Although there are a number of platforms out there, the one most seem to be in love with is Kindle Direct Publishing Select.  The real question to ask regarding this particular platform is whether the benefits outweigh the limitations.

Amazon accounts for roughly 70% of the ebook market.  Since most of my ebook sales are likely to come through that platform, it only makes sense to use it as much as possible.  However, there's something of a tiered system to publishing through Kindle.  You can publish the regular way and be buried near the bottom, hoping against hope that enough people already know about you that they'll find your work and pump up its exposure; or you can use the KDP Select program and take advantage of better algorithms to gain greater exposure and use more favorable marketing techniques - like the free download option(5 days every 90 days) and be part of the Kindle Lending Library.

Unfortunately, like with most things, there's always a catch, and with KDP Select it's exclusivity.  That's right - by using KDP Select you agree to use them exclusively and forego other ebook platforms like Nook, CreateSpace, and Smashwords.  In other words, you make a business decision about whether or not the features of KDP Select are worth not using these other avenues.  I gotta admit that that's a tough decision.

Obviously you want to get your product out to as many people as possible, but the real question is which one of those ways will get you there.  Common sense would seem to suggest that you want to spread to as many platforms as possible in order to reach the widest audience.  However, given that Amazon accounts for nearly three-quarters of the sales of ebooks, there's a balance since KDP Select can gain you greater exposure on Amazon.  If you bury yourself on Amazon and no one knows who you are or that you have a book out, does it really do you any good to get out onto other platforms?

I haven't yet made a decision, although I'm leaning towards KDP Select.  As a new author, the advantages of exposure seem greater than wider dissemination.  It appears that moving to additional platforms and having my work not as easily found on Amazon is something I can afford to do once I've sold more books and more people would be inclined to seek me out.  Does anybody else have any thoughts on this dilemma?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Reality Specifics And Permission

I feel the need to return to a topic I've talked about before - the need to be careful in the "reality" you write about.  I think most good writers make their worlds as specific as possible.  Specificity gets people to relate to the work.  Most people have been to McDonalds or had a Coke on a hot day, so the inclusion of such products in books draws them into the world a little more since they can relate.  Unfortunately, lots of us lose sight of the fact that we should tread carefully when getting product specific.

You can use product names in your work, provided you don't cross the line.  Those lines include trademark tarnishment or defamation.  In other words, if your use of the product can be interpreted to be used in some negative way, you might have an issue on your hands.  There's no issue, for example, in your character drinking a Coke since that's what you do with Coke and you're not trying to sell the product.  On the other hand, if you made a comment about Coke dissolving your fingers like acid, then you might have a problem since Coke clearly doesn't do that, even if you think it's a cool storyline device.

If a product is going to play more than a passing role, the safe thing to do is to obtain that company's permission.  For example, in Akeldama, my main character uses a Glock 17.  He does this because I own one and am familiar with it(yes, I'm every bit as lazy as anyone else...using the Glock 17, aside from it being a fine pistol, also made it easy for me since I had to do less research).  However, since it's more than a passing reference, I contacted and got specific permission from Glock to use their product in my book.

And remember - some entities will not give you that permission.  A vampire attack occurs early in Akeldama on the campus of a major college in the Midwest.  When I contacted the school in question, they explicitly told me I did not have their permission, so I changed the setting to a generic school in the panhandle of Texas since it was the action that was important rather than the location.  Had I included the school anyway, I could've faced legal trouble for doing so.

The safest bet is to simply make up names for products, but this lessens the realism we sometimes want.  Strike a balance if you can and include some realism.  Just be careful when you do.  Yes, unless your work really takes off, you're likely not going to encounter any difficulties, but what if you hit the jackpot and your work becomes a bestseller?  Wouldn't you rather snatch up adoring press interviews instead of worrying about legal bills?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Being Mad Doesn't Make You Real

Allow me to take a second to step away from addressing writing in books to discuss writing in blogs.  Yes, I know I've done that before, but those have been about this blog.  Now I'm going to talk about other people's blogs.  No blog in particular, just a disturbing trend I've seen.

I get the urge to go on an angry rant.  We all get mad.  However, lots of people in the comments sections of these blogs read an angry post and automatically make some absurd assumption like, "Oh my God!  That's so insightful!  I love how you keep it real!"  Am I the only person on the planet who thinks you don't have to be mad to be real?  Are people being dishonest or less real when they don't go on an invective-laden tirade?

Some bloggers seem to revel in this approach.  Hey, they think, if I can convey how mad I am, then people will give me props for being 'real.'  I guess that's where some of my aversion to this comes in - folks are looking for affirmation when they do it, which makes it fake, not real.

Being mad and then telling everyone about it doesn't give you any greater insight into the world.  The reaction people give is an emotional one, not a substantive one.  I can go on and on about how much I love my wife or enjoy what I do, but no one comments that I'm "keeping it real" when I do these totally normal things.  Is an emotion any less real just because it isn't an angry one?

If you want to rant about something, and Lord knows I've done that, that's great, but it's no more real than anything else you post unless you decided to lie when you said those other things.  It's a release for whatever was pissing you off, nothing more.  I take insult when people say my mad voice is real, because it implies that I'm not as real other times.

Stop blogging looking for affirmation because you can post something angry.  Hey, I'm just keeping it real.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Getting What I Pay For

This post is more of a rant/something for those I choose to employ.  As anyone with more than an ounce of sense and more than a day of writing can tell you, you should always have a professional copyeditor look over your novel before publishing it.  The end product will be so much better, and you'll avoid the sloppiness that marks a lot of indie work.

That said, when I employ a copyeditor, I'm asking for that person's skills in making sure my work is coherent from a structure and grammar/spelling point of view.  That's what I paid for.  I'm not looking for editorial suggestions - I have beta-readers for that, and I don't like it when someone decides to give me an opinion I didn't ask for.

I'm co-writing a political piece - yes, I know, I know...stay out of politics, but this isn't being published under my real name(we're using a pseudonym) - and we submitted it to a copyeditor.  This copyeditor did a great job helping to improve our work in the ways we requested, but she added commentary in a few places.  I was livid!

Maybe I'm overreacting, but I didn't ask for editorial comment.  Had I wanted a content edit, I'd have paid for a content edit, I'd have been expecting it, and I might've chosen the editor differently.  When this person did what she did, I felt like she was overstepping her bounds.  Did she not know what we were looking for?  Or was she so pushed by what we wrote that she felt she just had to say something?  I get that we live in a polarized culture, but I was floored that she interjected her opinion in an area I didn't ask for.  Shouldn't a professional be able to put feelings aside and concentrate on the task at hand?  Yes, vent to others in your inner circle if you must, but keep the content of what you're supposed to be doing in mind.

Like I said, she did a great job on structure, re-wording, and awkwardness in the piece; I just felt taken aback by the decision to insert commentary where my partner and I never asked for it.  Am I wrong here?  How would you react?

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Narrative Pauses Or Breathless Action?

I've been struggling recently with a writing concept.  We obviously want to grab our readers' attention and keep the story moving so they don't get bored, but can we take it too far?  Can we ramp up the action so high that we leave our readers gasping for breath?

I was reading a novel by one of my new favorite authors, Tad Williams, and I started to wonder about the pace of his books.  After reading Happy Hour In Hell and realizing that I'd read the second book of a trilogy first, I went back to start reading The Dirty Streets Of Heaven.  Some of the action in Williams' books is intense, but I noticed something about the overall tenor - just as I started to think that there was so much action going on that it would overwhelm me, Williams would dial it back and introduce a pause of sorts.  I don't mean that the story didn't keep advancing, but the action slowed considerably for a few pages.  Then, inevitably, it would pick back up.

I've read a few books where the writer never allowed for a break, like The Da Vinci Code, and I felt kind of like I was being pushed and pulled by the author.  By the end of the journey, I no longer cared about the intricacies of the plot - I just wanted it over.  That's obviously not great for keeping an audience.

I know you're now screaming at me that Dan Brown sold about 80 million of those damn things, but that doesn't mean I care for it, just like it doesn't mean that Brown didn't somehow capture lightning in a bottle.  However, I don't think it works well for those trying to keep an audience.  I want readers to feel satisfied at the end of their read, not worn out.  If they associate being worn out with my books and my name, then I may not be able to sell them another one.  That's fine if your first go sold 80 million copies, but not so much for most of us.

Find a good place in your book to create a pause.  Maybe after the murder scene, the lead detective goes to look over the evidence at a bar where he can throw back a drink.  Or maybe after a gun fight, the lead character can look through a collection of maps to try and figure out the villain's next move.  Whatever it is, it still has to advance the story; it just doesn't have to keep sprinting.  People like to feel energized, but not out of breath.