Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Politics, Politics, And More Politics

News flash - we're divided as a nation.  I know, I's shocking.

Although I get that most of us hold some pretty strong beliefs, I will never understand the urge for some of us to want to piss off half of our potential audience unless you're writing a book specifically about politics and marketing to that side of the political spectrum.

Recently, someone asked me why I didn't put certain character types in my work.  Another asked me why I didn't push a particular issue he felt was important.  Both got a little offended when I pointed out how divisive that could be and that folks on the other side of the aisle also buy books.

"This is your chance to have an impact," I was told.  What impact?  Is it really asking too much for us to have a story that entertains rather than preaches to us?  If someone wants to read political opinions, they'll pick up a book that is designed to do that.  However, I didn't go into writing to make political points - I went into writing to tell stories.  Changing historical events to put in folks who weren't there, or squeezing in some kind of radical viewpoint that would not advance the story one iota, isn't going to win any friends.  In fact, it might make a lot of folks who might otherwise enjoy my story to put it down in disgust and vow to never read me again.

To those who have implored me to push their pet issue, or even some of my pet issues, in my work, just stop.  People see enough politics everywhere else.  Is it really asking too much to just have a normal story that entertains the audience?

Sunday, September 24, 2017


The written word is actually one of the worst ways we can communicate because so much of what is said is left up to the reader for interpretation.  Writing makes it hard to convey tone of voice, body language, volume, facial expressions, etc.  As writers, we have to rely on the reader's ability to know us to properly interpret our intent.

So I do something a little different in my work - I sometimes change up my fonts.  Folks have told me for a while not to do that, that it messes up the flow of the work, but I feel it enhances it if used in the proper spots.  After all, don't we use italics for emphasis?  Don't some writers USE CAPS TO TELL US WHEN THINGS ARE LOUD OR CHARACTERS ARE YELLING?  Is there any real difference?

I often use different fonts to convey the mood as well as how someone is saying something.  I think it lets the reader know how to better navigate a scene.  Of course, this creates other problems, mostly in formatting the book for print and ebook.  To start with, it makes the final product much more expensive.  Changing up fonts beyond italics and the occasional bold makes the formatter work more, and thus charge more.  Additionally, although things usually work out just fine for print work, ebooks are more challenging because not every font I like to use is available in ebooks, so I have to modify and still try to convey the same thing.

I realize this can be frustrating for my formatters, and they've been more than patient with my eclectic tastes.  However, I do this because when I'm writing, I imagine reading my work to an audience, so I imagine how something is said.  A Bradley Hand ITC font gives a more guttural read than my traditional Arial, just like I think Papyrus creates an air of regality.  Still, I wonder if readers really care.

So what do you think?  If you've read my work, or any other book that has a few different fonts, do they change the reading experience?  Do they distract or enhance?  How much is too much?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Horrible At English

I was helping my 11-year old daughter the other night with her grammar homework, and it occurred to me just how much I suck at the language.  Yes, I can write a moving phrase and come up with a sharp turn of words, but when it comes to standard English, I'm lost.

She was working her way through a book called Grammarly(which, ironically, I was about to spell wrong until I looked it up), and she asked for my help.  I puffed up my overly self-important chest, sauntered over, and found I was of next to no use.  She was supposed to find the prepositional phrase in the problem sentences, and I had to look up what a prepositional phrase was.  I also had to look up how to find the direct object and indirect object.

Suddenly, all of my nightmares from 9th grade English(or Language Arts, as it was called back in my last year of junior high) came roaring back to me.  I have to now admit that I, RD Meyer, published author and winner of several writing contests, routinely failed these kinds of tests.  And I don't just mean failed - I mean spectacularly failed.  I was getting 40s and 35s on tests that asked the stuff my daughter's 6th grade class is now going over.

Truth be told, while I can write pretty well, I don't always follow the standard rules of English(I know, I know...big surprise).  I don't even know what all of them are.  Instead, I write the way I speak and read.  I may unwittingly use pieces and parts correctly, but I'll be damned if I could point out the nuances to you.

This all makes me wonder just how useful knowing such minute details are.  No, I'm not blowing off education, but unless you teach the language or are an editor, when was the last time you really gave a shit what a prepositional phrase was?  Or a dangling participle?  Once you left school, did most of that knowledge just fly right out of your head?

I wish I cared more.  I really do.  I wish others could think of me as some kind of language guru, but it doesn't interest me very much.  I want to spell words correctly and be able to write a sentence so that the reader doesn't want to pull his or her eyeballs from the sockets each time my work comes up.  However, the specifics of each rule?  Sorry, but I'm just not that exacting.  I wonder how many of my fellow writers are...or if I'm in the minority when it comes to the give-a-shit factor.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Salvation Day - Cover Reveal!

My cover artist, Carl Graves, has done another fantastic job with the cover for Salvation Day.  I think it helps capture the spirit of the novel.  Please let me know what you think.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Sequels As New Ideas

If you're a writer, chances are that you have a special universe where you would like to set a great deal of your work.  This is usually the place our first novel comes from, and it's comforting to return to a familiar setting.  After all, don't many readers also demand to see what has happened to their favorite characters over and over and over again(Harry Potter, The Lost Regiment, The Great War saga, etc)?

Here's the problem with that, at least for those of us new to the water - our first novels aren't usually our best work.

I've written a few times about my first full length, novel, On Freedom's Wings.  I was swept up by a space opera that I was sure was going to take the world by storm.  I had sequels planned.  I prepared for years of going back into that universe and imagined all the accolades I'd receive as people returned time after time to see what was happening with the future I'd created.  Unfortunately, there was one teeny tiny problem...

My novel sucked.  A lot.

So, why is this a concern?  After all, don't most writers get better over time as they write and publish more?  Absolutely, but we know how the audience is - they won't read the later stuff in a series if the first book stinks.  It's counterintuitive to believe that people will join us halfway through a series where book #3 is great but the entry into that world has already jumped the shark.

There is a place for returning to the same universe, but it's usually after you've established yourself as a decent writer.  Making it the only place you write from makes it far less likely for folks to give you a chance because all they know is the initial shitty foray you made into that world.

It's daunting to keep figuring out fresh worlds and new ideas, but it's critical to success as a writer, especially new ones.  As our writing improves, people can find new novels that expose them to fresh ideas, meaning they can jump into that universe later.  However, crappy beginnings usually close people off to our work since most won't venture beyond the first book.

Branch out into other areas, especially when you first start out.  Readers will let you know once you've struck gold, and then you can find your happy place.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

RIP Jerry Pournelle

This was going to be a lighthearted post...until yesterday.  That was when the world found out that sci-fi great Jerry Pournelle died.  I read my first Jerry Pournelle book, Footfall, when I was 16.  The storyline about the traveling herd coming to conquer Earth after leaving their own war-torn world captivated me.  Years later, Inferno came to my attention as I was writing Salvation Day.  I remember hoping that I would one day reach the heights Pournelle did with his work.

By all accounts, Pournelle was a gentleman who never let his fame go to his head.  Sarah Hoyt, whose blog I've frequented over the past few years, wrote a moving tribute to him last night.  She shared his lack of pretension and how he engaged even newbie authors as equals.  The world is a lesser place today without him, and our profession has lost a great man.  It may be a long time before we see the likes of another Jerry Pournelle.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Rare Editions(Mistakes?)

I overlooked a few minor errors in Akeldama, and those errors have grated on me since I noticed them, both because I'm a perfectionist who despises making such mistakes, and because I honestly thought I got them all.  Even as I make some corrections, I just know I'll miss something.

But yes, I'm about to submit a correction to Akeldama.  Why do you care?  After all, shouldn't that be what every author does?  Yes, but since I haven't yet reached the bestseller list, the copies that are out there with these errors may eventually become collectors items themselves.

I know it's terribly conceited to say such things out loud, as if I'm bragging on my eventual success, but someone has to be successful, so why not me?  And should that occur, the copies that aren't error free, limited though they may be, could end up being like the 1922 Wheat Penny or the "Inverted Jenny" postage stamp.  Knowing that I'm going to correct these errors has actually made me somewhat wistful about the copies I have.

Of course, if my writing career goes nowhere, or goes only a few steps down the road, then these rare editions will mean little.  They'll be conversation pieces for those few souls who bought them, but since the general public won't know or care who I am, the books will just be something cool to note if anyone picks up one.  However, if I do eventually become more than I am now, they might create some buzz.  Imagine(yes, this is in the realm of fantasy, but just go with me) a first print edition of The Shining where Stephen King accidentally called the main character Jack Torrence a couple of times instead of Jack Torrance.  Or a copy of Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone in which JK Rowling switched the "i" and "o" in Hermione in some spots and spelled her character's name as "Hermoine."  Any chances some collector would like to have that due to its scarcity after correction?

All of this is just fantasy speculation and a bit of indulgence, but it makes for an interesting intellectual exercise.  It remains in the realm of fantasy for now due to two reasons - 1) I'm still a nobody, so no one cares if I have some errors in my work, and 2) since I'm still a nobody, there aren't a lot of copies out there, making this a more rare find should my books become more popular after correction.  And that's one of the keys to this whole thing - if I ever gain popularity, first edition mistakes will be much more common with the increase in print numbers, so it won't matter.  However, the low numbers now make those errors much more scarce.  If things take off, they grow more valuable.

Imagine creating something of value from a mistake!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Real Heroes

First, I know I've missed a few blog posts recently.  And I know you're sick of heating me bitch about how taxing it is.  I wish I had an explanation for my recent level of exhaustion, but I'm simply tired.  Real tired.  Most won't care, and I should just plod through and get back to it.  I will.  I promise.  But my pity party is still going strong at the moment.


I wanted to dedicate this post to the real heroes of a writer's world.  I know that I deliver the "meat" of a book by writing the story, but until I started publishing, I never really realized just how much goes on behind the scenes(or at least just out of sight).  Some stuff eventually gets seen, like the cover art.  And let me say that my cover artist, Carl Graves from Extended Imagery, is awesome.  He has once again gone well above the standard in the cover for my upcoming novel, Salvation Day.  He's making a minor tweak to the cover design he gave me a little over a week ago, and I promise to do a cover reveal once he gets back to me.  He has been a pleasure to work with, and he requires only a small inkling of the story to convey with images what that story is about.  He's a true hero.

My formatters Cheryl Perez and Rob Siders are just as essential to this process.  They format my work for print and ebook, tasks I have no idea how to do myself.  Even if I did, I'm not inclined to put in the time necessary - I'd rather be writing.  Both are real professionals who are able to shepherd a wide-eyed newbie like me through unfamiliar ground.  They've been extremely patient as I've bombarded them with questions and emails about topics I'm sure they consider mundane, but they've acted with professionalism and grace.  Again, real heroes.

I've also gotten a proofreader for this one.  Yes, I proofread my last novel, but this time I actually went out and paid someone to do it.  No, it's not at the level that it would be if I had more resources, but Kari Case is looking over my work to help me avoid the same minor mistakes I encountered with Akeldama.  She has a background in such work, and she let me impose on her limited time with the meager resources I have.  I'm hoping her heroic efforts will make this release a little less stressful than the last.

Speaking of needing more editing, I plan to do a second post this week(Thursday morning) to discuss that very topic.  I know, I know...back to shocking consistency!