Sunday, October 29, 2017

"How To" Books

First of all, I know I missed a post last week.  Sorry.  Life at work has been overwhelming.  Hopefully it'll lighten up this week.

Now, on to the real topic...

Anyone who is a writer or knows a writer also knows how desperate most are to be successful.  We want fans, prominence in bookstores, a spot on morning talk shows, a movie deal for our latest book, etc.  As a result, most of us will do what we can to figure out the path to success, and that creates a market for other writers.

What do I mean by that?  Well, it seems like my inbox has been flooded over the last year with people trying to sell books where the topic is "How To Be A Successful Writer."  In other words, I'm getting less advertisements about books with plots than I am about books about writing and marketing books.  I have yet to open my email over the last six months without at least one - usually more than one - spam email about how if I use one little trick, my audience will explode and my dreams will come true.  Of course, they can't let me know that little secret unless I plunk down $14.95 or so for it.

Don't get me wrong - some of these tips might be good.  I'm sure that using a few as part of an overall marketing strategy has the potential to increase sales.  However, what I continue to wonder is why the folks trying to sell these books aren't using their own techniques to become super-prolific fiction writers themselves.  Having looked into a lot of them, most are/were fiction writers as well.  So why do they have to write a book about how to be successful instead of using their strategies to be successful themselves?

Keep in mind that their names aren't King, Rowling, or Patterson.  Maybe the people writing these "How To" books have some talent, but they haven't been using it to become the grandiose successes they say they can make other people.  Most folks outside of writing circles have never heard of them, and even most writers wouldn't recognize the names, so what makes them experts at knowing success?

A lot of this seems like a scam designed to prey on those who are overly eager about their careers and will do anything to make it.  It's a great market to try and take advantage of, but fellow writers should be cautious before jumping into these things.  Ask yourself how successful the person offering you their key to success has been, as well as why they're offering it to you.

Yes, be willing to listen to others to help formulate your own path, but be wary about thinking anyone has found the secret.  If that person had the secret, wouldn't he or she be using it to sell his or her own books instead of telling you how to sell yours?

Sunday, October 22, 2017


I have the proof copy of Salvation Day!  I'm reviewing it as we speak, and it's on schedule for publication on November 2nd.  I hope you're as excited about it as I am.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

No Post Tonight

Sorry, folks, but events got away from me tonight.  Therefore, no post this evening.  I'll catch back up Sunday night/Monday morning.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Catching The Market

Hitting the market at just the right moment is important for an author.  If you can capture a trend just as it's going viral, you can ride that wave to success.  However, if you miss that trend, or hit it at after the moment has passed, you could continue into obscurity, wasting an otherwise incredible opportunity,

I find myself wondering if that opportunity is now at hand for one of my novels - Schism.  Schism is a novel of a 2nd American Civil War, one that gets triggered by the right spark.  It's set more on the red vs. blue model, and it gets downright ugly.  Partisan hatreds come bubbling out from every corner, and only an extraordinary(and horrific) event reunited the nation.

Sound scary?  I think so...especially given that I haven't seen partisan hatred as raw in real life as I'm currently watching.  Try making a political statement on Facebook or Twitter and find out what happens.  Half of the folks who follow you will loudly cheer...and half of them will condemn you.  Many will refuse to even speak to you again, and this can include both family and friends you've known since childhood.  We get so tied to our personal political beliefs that maintaining friendships is near impossible with those who are "on the other side."  It has even become en vogue to hope that people who share a different belief hurt themselves.

So, has this become the moment to release Schism?  The book still requires a little revision, but I could get that done in less than a month.  I want to capture the moment, but is this the right moment?  Or will my original release date be too far beyond the wind of rage?  My thought has been to release the novel to coincide with the political conventions of 2020, when the partisan rhetoric is at its highest point, but will that be too late?

I'd like to know what you think.  Is this the right time to cash in on the growing climate, or is patience the right virtue?  I need your help because, honestly, I'm not sure.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

New Editions

No, not a large post today.  I just wanted to let everyone know that Akeldama has been updated.  No, you won't find a different ending or characters acting in ways you're unfamiliar with.  There were simply a few errors in the book that I've since corrected, and it was time to get that update to the audience.  One of my errors was particularly glaring since it involved someone I got permission from to use their name(yes, I misspelled it).  I was mortified.

Does that mean I'll be recalling the old editions?  Nope.  Maybe it's laziness on my part, or maybe I'm just cheap, but if you've got an old edition, keep it.  Maybe it'll be a collector's item in a few years!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Forgotten Characters

I was working on rewriting the sequel for Akeldama when I realized that there were several characters that I was leaving out.  No, neither of the main two(Seth and Maxwell), but several others that were vital to advancing the plot of the first book.  It wasn't an intentional oversight designed to create some big reveal later on; I just forgot about them.

Looking back at some of my other work, it occurred to me that this isn't something new.  As my story advances in more than a few books, the characters that are no longer as important tend to fade away.  It seems to be no big deal to me, but I then remembered that other people will be reading this, and they might be interested in knowing why (insert character here) no longer shows up.  I don't like that hanging thread, even if it's not necessary to advance the novel.

So, what to do?  Well, I think keeping a running journal beyond the outline I use would be useful.  What I mean by that is for me to keep a sheet either at my desk or tacked up to the shelf above my computer that has a running tally of the characters, what they've done, and where there are at the moment.  It might help remind me who else is in the story beyond the main player(s).

Should it matter?  After all, I don't notice who's left once the plot moves to the next vital point, but several readers have asked me what happened to somebody that may no longer be as involved(there's a character in Salvation Day that has a tremendous impact at one point but who vanishes without a trace roughly a third of the way in...and no, that character didn't vanish because he got killed; he just wasn't needed any longer).  That showed me my weakness.

It's important for us as writers to remember that readers grow attached to certain characters, and we don't get to decide which characters that might be.  For example, one reviewer on Amazon grew much more fond of Maxwell than of Seth, which I never anticipated.  Another reader emailed me to say that he was curious what ever became of Dmitri.  These took me aback because neither was the main character.

The lesson is to not forget who you have in your story.  Readers will want to know what happened to them.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Ego And Ownership

There's a fine balance writers need to take in regards to our work.  On one hand, we need to be willing to put aside our ego and accept criticism, both in content and in writing.  We can all make errors, and we don't always have the best ideas.  When someone offers a criticism of our work, we need to have an open mind about what they say...especially if we paid them for that criticism.  At that point, it's their job to find our mistakes.

Yes, it's hard.  We never really want to admit we screwed up.  We'll moan and squeal like branded calves, but the right criticism should make our work better and easier to read.  We'll be able to have our story flow more smoothly, and people will be able to read it without making faces that look like they just swallowed a spoonful of mustard.  Remember, too many errors and folks will just put us down.  Then how will people know if our work is any good?

But there's also the flip side of this - taking control of your own work.  While you should be open to criticism, don't forget that it's your work.  Perhaps what the editor marked down as wrong was exactly the way you intended it to be written, because it gives the desired effect.  And regarding content, perhaps others saw the point of your words more than the editor you paid.

It's hard to get it all right.  Putting ego aside requires maturity, but remembering it's your work requires you to not always be a doormat, and, sadly, we have far too many doormats in our field.  What do you hope to get out of paying an editor, and do changes make your story better?  Those are the key questions to ask yourself.

Does your ego hamper your reach?  Or does your mousiness make the story no longer your own?  Only you can answer these questions...but answer them you must.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

New Header Image

For those who haven't noticed, first let me say how sorry I am about your blindness.  For those who have noticed, I have a new header!  An old friend named Maggie Clark drew me a picture and gave me permission to use it for the site.  Maggie is a talented artist who is writing a humor book about her life.  Be sure to check out her website if you get the chance.

I've been looking for a new image for a while since I discovered that I shouldn't just grab any old image from the web.  Using someone else's work without permission is a big no-no, and it can get quite expensive.  So now that an artist has given me permission for a custom image she drew, I'm excited that something new will greet readers of my page.  Enjoy!