Sunday, May 20, 2018

Wrongful Death Cover Reveal!

Wrongful Death is slated for release in August, and the cover is finally ready.  I think it captures the spirit of the book pretty well, so I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.  And big thanks to Carl Graves for the great design!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

No One Cares As Much...

...as you do.  Your work is your baby, and no matter what friends and family tell you, they don't care about your writing like you do.  Sometimes it can be a chore to get folks just to read your work.  People have lives of their own, and even though they want to be supportive, stuff gets in the way.  You have to be your own best cheerleader, and you can't get discouraged when people aren't as enthusiastic about your work as you are.

There will be times you'll get down.  There will be times you'll be frustrated by nobody finishing your book like they promised.  When that happens, knuckle down and try to push through.  It'll be hard.  You'll wonder why you're doing so much when so many seem like they don't care.  It doesn't matter.  What matters is staying on the path.

Remember, success isn't not not failing - it's getting back into it after failure until you make it.  Most successful people didn't perform flawlessly.  Instead, they simply kept going when everybody else gave up.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

New Schedule Of Releases

Okay, so things have been hectic here the last few weeks.  Sorry for the lack of consistency in my posts, but since no one is paying me for these, and my real-life job keeps food on my table, I've had to let this lapse for just a bit.

However, I'm back, and I'm here to update folks on the schedule of releases for my new novel, Wrongful Death.  I got behind on some stuff, so it won't be ready for release on June 28th.  Therefore, I'm delaying the release until August 1st.  I should have everything ready by then, and it'll be available before school starts!

On that note, I'll also be delaying the release of Homecoming by two months to let me catch my breath.  I'd planned on releasing it January 28, 2019, but I'm now going to try to release it March 30, 2019.  I'm going to have lots to do over the next year as I prepare for a major transition in my life, so getting some breathing room will help.

That said, I'm going to try to release Schism on April 29, 2020, the day after the last major primaries(Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania) in order to try to capitalize on the fervor of the 2020 Presidential election.  I guess we'll find out if I have momentum, or if Schism gets drowned out by the political noise.

For updated information on my novels, check out my Novel's Page.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Get Woke, Go Broke

Okay, maybe this post will get me in trouble, but I'm growing increasingly concerned by the whole "woke" movement overtaking many writers nowadays.  It's not enough to simply write a good story - writers nowadays must show their bonafides by writing culturally sensitive novels that cater to every group in existence.  And woe by unto the writer who fails to do so.

What's more, even trying these days isn't enough.  Laurie Forest wrote a great book called The Black Witch, where she even tried to be as "woke" as possible.  But she wasn't woke enough, because a few busy-bodies took her novel to task and nearly crashed it before it had a chance to get off the ground.  Fortunately, not everyone is a killjoy and rightly recognized Laurie's talent vice her ability to properly virtue-signal.

Being woke is about being superficially diverse, and it most often feels forced.  The Marvel Comics Universe is on the verge of going broke from changing its primary stories to accommodate this movement.  Social justice warriors may celebrate the new levels of wokeness, but they aren't the ones who buy comic books.

Not only is it supremely hard just to write a good story, but it's damn near impossible to do so while trying to check every box in the universe to make sure you don't offend someone by including, or not including, something.  Further, it's actually an insult to various groups to try and shoehorn them into characters already written.  Rachel Weisz of Oz The Great and Powerful and The Lovely Bones said it best when asked about who should play the female James Bond, she opined, "Why not create your own story rather than jumping onto the shoulders and being compared to all those other male predecessors.  Women are really fascinating and interesting, and should get their own stories."  Bravo for her!  Women have incredible stories, as does every ethnic group in existence, so why cram them into already created heroes and into already created story universes?  The new Ghostbusters movie flopped terribly because most fans knew the original, and they knew this version was merely a way to create wokeness on the back of an already created universe.  Couldn't the writers come up with an original story that didn't piggyback off of something else?  Did they think that women would be unable to carry a new story in an original universe all by themselves?  Isn't that just a tad bit sexist?

Our stories have to come from within, and they come off as fake when we try to write everything to please everyone.  There are some things I'm no good at writing because I don't have the background or context.  For example, I originally wanted to write Wrongful Death from the perspective of a high school girl, only to discover I knew nothing about how high school girls thought, so writing as one would've been fake.  It'd be the same to try and include every intersectional movement out there.

This is not to say that we should write stuff that is intentionally offensive or that doesn't see the world as it is.  However, we can't force it if we want our stories to be readable.  Let it come naturally and let the audience decide.  The outrage mob will always be there, but a group that genuinely enjoys your work will abandon you if you try to be what you're not.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Cutting

I finished a short story this afternoon that I intend to enter into The Writer's Digest Annual Writing Competition.  Actually, I finished the story more than a week ago, but I had to trim it, and by trim it, I mean cut it to the bone.  You see, the competition has a word count limit of 4,000 words, and my story came in at 4,952.  That meant I needed to cut roughly 20% of the story in order for it to be eligible for the contest.

This isn't something new.  I'm an old hand at editing.  I just had to put the story away and come back to it with fresh eyes, so I let it sit on my computer, untouched, for a week.  I then went back in and started cutting.

At first, I thought, This is a breeze.  I found lots of extraneous words, so I was slashing lines like I was a killer from a low budget horror flick.  I hacked and slashed, and by the end, I felt pretty good...except that I was still nearly 200 words over the limit.  That was disheartening.

Going back in this morning, I reworded and cut again until I felt like I wasn't just trimming fat, but rather had reached bone.  I've had a shoulder surgery where they shaved some bone, so imagine that pain, but with a story.  The story is 11 pages, so I had to average cutting over 15 words a page.  By the end of the first page, I'd cut...12 words.  That was when I knew that this would be harder than I thought.

All writers despair at cutting their babies.  We're so certain that our words matter, that the story will lose meaning if we cut too much.  Unfortunately, I had no choice here if I wanted to enter this tale.  So I cut.  And I cut.  Then I cut some more.  Finally, on the far end, I was down to 3993 words.  I still wonder if I left in some extraneous stuff I could've gotten rid of so I could keep more descriptive parts of the story, but it's done.  I will send it off this week, and someone else can tell me how I did.

That doesn't make this any easier.  Cutting a story near and dear to you is always hard, and it never gets easier.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Time To Get To Work

With life and everything, I nearly forgot that I'm supposed to have a book coming out soon.  Wrongful Death is due out June 28th, and I've got a lot of work left to do.  I've got to finalize the cover, finish getting it edited, and get it in the proper format.  Honestly, time snuck up on me.  Best for me to get to work!

Oh, and I promise that my next post will be longer.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

More Praise For Salvation Day!

Salvation Day has made the Best Reviewed Books Of March on the IndieReader website!  I'm thrilled for others to have recognized my work, and I'd love it if you headed on over to check it out.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Trying To Restart

I know I've been a slacker.  I'm trying to get back into blogging, especially since I've been one of the ones so vehemently chastising folks for not consistently blogging. 

It really is like going to the gym - the more you take a day off, the easier it becomes to take the next day off.  And it hasn't just been my blogging that has suffered; I haven't been writing like I want to.  Some of that is work/life related, but not enough to account for all of the non-work.  So, what have I done to rectify this?  For starters, I'm working on a short story to enter in the Writer's Digest Annual Writing Competition.  It's based on an idea I've been tossing around for a while, so I'm actually into it.

I also need to try and start work on either the Salvation Day sequel or the reworking of my sequel to Akeldama.  I've got the ideas for the next installment of both, so just getting something on paper could spur me back into a rhythm.  Akeldama's sequel is done, but it's in serious need of revision, and I haven't done anything with it in a year.  Salvation Day's sequel has been floating around in my head for nearly that long as well.  I've got to pick one and knuckle down.

Part of this could be that I've got a few more books already done.  Wrongful Death is in the final stages of being edited now, and it should be out around the end of June.  I never counted on having finished books as being an impediment to more writing, but I think that not having the pressure of getting something done has lulled me into some false sense of security.

I just have to find the time to do a little bit each day.  It doesn't have to be much, but it needs to be something, even if that something is only 500 words and 15-20 minutes.  But hey, isn't time the bugaboo we all face?

Sunday, April 1, 2018

IndieReader Review For Salvation Day

Sorry I haven't blogged in almost a month.  Life has been busy, and I've been lazy.  What I'd like everyone to know about is the IndieReader review for Salvation Day!  IndieReader has given it 4.6 out of 5 stars.  Here's a quick sample of the write up:

"SALVATION DAY is a book that blends together science-fiction and fantasy into a tale that has been told for eons, but never quite in this way."

"This story is ambitious in its scope and ultimately very satisfying. The descriptions of things never seen by human eyes are vivid and feel real. The plot is tightly structured, and the ultimate confrontation is full of action."

"The reader can take a journey that is both familiar and original, and a lot of fun."

I was gratified they like it, and I hope some of you will check it out at their page.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Prize Giveaway

Folks, take a look at this picture:

This was my page counter just a few days ago.  As I rapidly approach 100,000, I had an idea - whoever becomes my 100,000th visitor, and sends me a screenshot that shows such, will get my next work, Wrongful Death, free of charge, and in any format(ebook or print) the person so desires.  Will that be you?

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Embarrassment

As writers, we have to be very careful when we write and market our business in order to avoid embarrassment.  A wrong fact or imprecise spelling may seem like not a big deal...until you do it in some monstrous way.

While writing Akeldama, I wanted to include real-world stuff in order to give the novel a more authentic feel.  In one of the scenes, the main character visits a business in Los Angeles that is supposedly acting as a front for a CIA department.  I chose a real-life business - Philippe The Original.  I contacted Philippe's for permission, and they sounded pretty excited to be included in my work.  I was jazzed, thinking that maybe this could lead to some real publicity for Akeldama...only to later discover that I'd misspelled their name(I wrote them as Phillipe's rather than Philippe's).  I was mortified.  I went back to my print and ebook formatters and made the correction, but that was after I'd already sent them a copy.  I want to send them a replacement, but nearly a year later, the embarrassment is still too much for me to show my face to them.

This is why double and triple checking our work is so important.  The right use of something can help, but the wrong use in any way can set us back and even contribute to poor reputations.  And it's far easier to destroy a reputation than to build it back up after it went south.

I've gone back through my other works and looked at any instance I've used a brand name or a historical fact to make sure that I won't make the same mistake, but it's still possible I could miss something.  Now that is happened once, it has me worried what I'll miss next time, as well as whether I could recover from a second mistake in such a public way.

What mistakes have you made that caused you embarrassment?  How have you worked to make sure it doesn't happen again?

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Author Interview - Joe Peacock

Today I interview Joe Peacock.  I've been a fan of Joe's for several years.  He began by publishing chapters of a personal memoir on the internet, and he turned it into several very good books.  Recently, he has decided to take on writing fiction, and his serialized novel, Marlowe Kana, is quickly gaining momentum on Amazon.  He has three parts out for the moment, and an almost perfect star rating(out of 39 reviews, he has 37 five star ratings and only two four star ratings).  Joe is a tremendous writer, and I highly recommend his work if you're into cyberpunk, or even just plain old good fiction.


Your previous books in the Mentally Incontinent series were mostly anthologies about your rather extraordinary life.  Marlowe Kana is totally different.  What made you decide to write it?
I went through a pretty big life upheaval in 2013. After it all happened, I looked back at who I was before, and who I am now, and decided that I wasn’t really into making myself and my memories the subject of all my writing anymore. I was challenged by several friends to try my hand at fiction over the years. It was intimidating, and every time I tried, the work was just meh. Writing fiction is SO MUCH HARDER than writing about yourself or “thinkpieces.” You have to make everything up, then you have to make it all make sense, THEN you have to tell the story in a way that doesn’t bore people. So I always thought “someday, I’ll tell this grand cyberpunk story I’ve wanted to write since I was 16.”
Then one day, a longtime reader and now dear friend, Beth, wrote me to let me know she’s terminal with cancer. You can never feel so helpless as when a friend tells you they’re dying, and there’s literally nothing you can do about it. Your instincts to help kick in, but having had a few friends in my life pass from disease, I knew the conversation couldn’t dive into “Oh, I’m so sorry” territory. So, I offered to write something for her, in her honor. She mentioned a science fiction story I attempted years ago, Marlowe Kana. I facepalmed… Of all the things she could ever ask me to do, that HAD to be it, right?

Needless to say, I couldn’t say no. My first few drafts were awful -- and I mean true stinkers. A few friends pointed me to a treasure trove of writing education, and I became enamored. I fell in love with concepts like flow, story structure, theme, setting, character development… I couldn’t stop learning (and still haven’t -- every single day, I learn something new). Beth loved the book, and while I feel like I’m just barely past the starting line on my learning how to write, that fact made me happy. She’s still reading, and I’m still writing. Nothing goes to the public without going to her first.


The novel starts off with Major Marlowe Kana being transported in a prison van after being convicted of attempted murder, conduct unbecoming, and treason.  Yet she also has a massive following, and people are still following her “feed.”  Many have feeds of their own.  Can you tell us about the concept of the feeds, as well as what inspired them?

Youtube. Twitter. Tumblr. Snapchat. Every single day, more and more people build their own personal “Feeds” and share them with billions of people. Some even do it for a living. Considering we intake the vast majority of our movies, television, news, and other entertainment via broadband and cellular connections, the idea of news sources, citizens, or just about anything that can connect to the net having a “feed” seems inevitable to me. So does the idea that soon, things like jobs, politicians, and government will be irrelevant. We will someday all work for the same corporation -- should we choose to work, as I also believe advancements in AI, robotics, and automated logistics are going to force us into a Basic Minimum Income societally. To me, the idea that fame and attention being the only currencies that matter is not a question of “if,” it’s a matter of how soon. 

Marlowe Kana is a serialized novel.  Why did you decide to write it that way?

I made a pledge when I first started writing 15 years ago that everything I ever write will always be available for free in some way, so publishing it to the internet was a foregone conclusion. Since this book is vastly different from anything I’ve ever done before, I wanted to give people an easy way to check it out and support it before spending money. I also wanted to give people something to look forward to weekly, but that was more of a crapshoot. I felt like simply hitting the shelves with an eBook, with months between each volume, was going to result in fewer people trying it out and seeing what they think.

There’s also something to be said about having something to look forward to each week!

You say that you don’t mind people sharing your work, so long as they buy the next installment if they like the one they received.  Why do you not mind sharing?  What do you say to those who think you’re missing out on potential sales?

It’s simple: the internet exists. It’s not going away. Every single piece of content created in the modern era WILL INEVITABLY be uploaded to it. You can fight this, but it’s futile. My philosophy is that anyone who wasn’t going to buy it before downloading it wasn’t your customer in the first place. They would have opted to ignore you instead of reaching into their wallet. I’d rather give that person a chance to read my stuff. If they hate it, so what? They didn’t spend a dime on it. And if they love it, there’s a VERY high chance they’ll buy the book (1.99 for an ebook, 6.99 for a paperback, small prices to pay to support a writer you like). It also keeps me honest: I can’t write crap. I have to keep working to make better stuff, or I lose that person who has decided to support me.

Please describe your ideal writing session, and then what reality is for you when it comes to writing.

Ideal: I sit down and the work is already done, in perfect form, and I just look at it and go “oh wow, nice, that came out of my brain-chip and into the computer nicely!”

Reality: at first, it was a chore to write. And when I take breaks for more than a few days, it’s a chore to get going again. But just like working out, or eating right, or learning any new skill, when you make a habit of it it becomes not only routine, but you begin to miss it if you don’t do it.

I currently have a day job, so my writing begins after I get home and have dinner with my girlfriend and spend time with the pups and cats. I grab a cigar and a drink, open the laptop, turn off WiFi (VITAL!!!!) and start pecking away. When the cigar is done, i take a break, then find another cigar and get back to it. Some nights, I produce total garbage. Some nights, I come away with something I think I can work with. No chapter I’ve written has sprung forth from my fingertips in final form. I ALWAYS have to go back and redraft, then redraft again, then flesh out and fix up. Always.

It sucks on its surface, because who in their right mind loves redoing stuff over and over? It’s not misery, mind you. It’s just hard. And we are predisposed to avoid hard things.  But much like any meditation or work worth doing, you learn to love the process.

You’ve published both indie and traditional.  Which do you prefer and why?

Indie for the control and freedom and flexibility. Traditional has its merits -- the publisher handles printing and distribution. They copy edit. They design the books. They make deals with booksellers. But the truth is, even at my highest selling point when I was with Penguin, I was still hustling outside of writing words on the page. I was calling every place I could, arranging book signings myself, trying to get into book clubs and colleges and everywhere I could. And I still had to work with the editor for editing, and I still had to give input on design…

Today, with Amazon and CreateSpace, you can let them do an easy 80% of what any publisher does for you. The missing 20% is the prestige of the name, and with enough hustle and enough people reading your stuff, you can make up for that too. And the best part: every sale is yours. Every part of the process -- from design to when you decide to release it -- is under your control. It’s a lot more work, but again, the work is something you learn to love.  

Once Marlowe Kana is complete, what plans do you have for future books, either fiction or non-fiction?

I think for the foreseeable future, I’ll be working in fiction. It’s just plain more fun than talking about myself anymore. The internet is BEYOND full of people doing what I used to do, and it just doesn’t need another one. But the market for original stories that take you out of your day-to-day and transport you someplace where you can get excitement, adventure, intrigue… See new tech or creatures or ideas you never knew you wanted to learn more about… It’s huge and growing with every single day we have to live through this current news cycle of despair, hate, anger, argument, fighting, racism, violence and other crap.

Finally, what advice would you give to those looking to do this whole writing thing?

READ. A lot. Everyone will tell you, this is the very first step and it never stops. You never get to mark it “complete”. You don’t necessarily have to read about story structure, construction, storytelling, plot, or the mechanics (although I highly advise you do). You do, however, need to learn how to tell a story. You need to learn how to construct it. You need to learn how to advance a plot. And there’s no better way than diving into the work of literally thousands of amazing, talented, brilliant writers who did it their way. I’ve learned more reading Neil Gaiman, Neal Stephenson, William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Issac Asimov, Andy Weir, and dozens of other geniuses than I have from manuals and texts on how to write (but I do have to say, I learned a lot from those too).  


Thanks for your time, Joe!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Tax Man Cometh

As most of you know, I began my business this past year so I could officially start publishing as an indie writer.  The freedom that has come with it has been great.  However, today I finished the one thing every business owner dreads - taxes.

Taxes are a part of life in America.  I'd be paying them regardless of whether I published through indie or traditional.  The only real difference is in how I report them - as income(through royalty payments by a traditional publisher), or through a Schedule C(filed as the head of a business).  As a business owner, I can do things I can't do when filing as regular income, like deduct the cost of inventory and business expenses.  These deductions mean that I have more income that's not taxable.

Make no mistake - I lost money this year.  I expected that.  This was my first year, and I know I still likely have a few more years of slogging through, plus the need of a break, to start showing a profit.  My losses weren't staggering, but they were real.  Lucky for me, I had a few thousand bucks set aside specifically for my business.

The nerve racking thing, however, is the labyrinth of IRS rules, as well as the risk of an audit.  I was very careful in annotating expenses.  There were probably even a few I could've taken but didn't since I was unsure of some.  I played as strictly by the book as I possibly could, mostly because the IRS scares the shit out of me(as it does most people).  That doesn't mean that my caution and double-checking of everything has totally alleviated my anxiety.  The IRS audits about three times as many returns of folks who have Schedule Cs than they do regular folks, so even with my meager amount, I'm at greater risk of an audit.  I don't know about you, but I went into writing to tell stories, not to get lambasted by a government agency.

This is part of life as an indie author.  That doesn't make it any more pleasant.  I advise caution and complete honesty as a business owner, as well as plenty of time to make sure you get things right.  With all of that, even I might not have gotten everything right(I hope I did, but I'm as human as the next person).  This is why it's crucial to know how to run a business and not just muddle through.  I'm sure you'd rather not have your next novel be a first hand account of losing everything in taxes.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Contests

Sorry, but it's tax season, so I'm a bit busy trying to not give Uncle Sam all of my money.  In the meantime, I wanted to let everybody know that I'll be entering both Akeldama and Salvation Day in the Writer's Digest Self Published Book Contests.  Here's hoping that they do well!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Fighting That Feeling

On the heels of my last post, I'm going to confess something that I think a lot of writers feel at times - I sometimes feel like a fraud.

No, I don't mean that I'm plagiarizing anything.  What I mean is that I often wonder if I'm any good at writing, or if I'm just a charlatan.  Do those who claim to love my work really love it, or are they simply being nice?  Sometimes a clever twist of a phrase makes me feel good one minute, and the next I wonder if I just got lucky.  After all, it seems like anyone could've written that.

And when I look back at some of the garbage I've written...bleh.

What I have to remember, and most writers need to occasionally remind themselves of, is that such feelings are natural.  As we grow up, we're used to getting validation - our teachers, our parents, our coaches, etc.  However, with our writing, those authority figures don't really exist.  We have to rely on much more nebulous stuff, and it can create insecurity.  This often goes against the confidence/arrogance we tend to project.

In some ways, this can be a good thing.  It can lead us to better develop our writing, as well as make sure we're pumping out good stuff.  On the other hand, it can also lead to paralysis if we're not careful, agonizing over every word and refusing to put something out there for fear that other people will see right through us.

This phenomenon isn't limited to writers.  Studies have shown this to be common to people in every field of work.  Even the most successful feel that people will see them for the frauds they are.  I wish I knew, beyond insecurity, what causes this.  Maybe it's success we feel we don't deserve.  For whatever it is, it can be maddening.

I guess the takeaway is to remember that you're not a fraud.  Frauds get exposed.  Frauds rely on other people to do the work for them.  If you're putting your heart into what you write, then it's real, regardless of how you feel.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Great Reviews!

I've been getting some great reviews for both Akeldama and Salvation Day!

Regarding Akeldama, on Amazon, VeganTourGuide wrote, "5.0 out of 5 starsI am glad this book was recommended to me and I will be recommending it to others in return. Until now, this wasn't my genre of reading, however I love the action and story and so I'm IN and looking forward to more!"

CC Case wrote, "Imagine if Tom Clancy were running your Vampire: The Masquerade Campaign."

Gregory C. Scrivens wrote, "5.0 out of 5 starsFantastic. Grabbed you at the beginning and kept you holding on. Great seque to historical factish. Read it in a weekend. Great job. Looking for the sequel."

On Goodreads, Vanessa Eccles said," 4.0 out of 5 starsVampires and the church? Definitely an interesting and unexpected read!" 4.0 out of 5 starsVampires and the church? Definitely an interesting and unexpected read!

And Sir Reader of Iowa said, " 4.0 out of 5 starsI got this from voraciousreadersonly.com. Fantastic read! I got hooked since first page of the book."4.0 out of 5 starsI got this from voraciousreadersonly.com. Fantastic read! I got hooked since first page of the book.

Salvation Day is beginning to get similar reviews.  On Amazon, Redskier wrote, "5.0 out of 5 starsUnique topic and handling of various beliefs. But underlying is a story which keeps the pages turning and the mind engaged on your own religious beliefs."

Finally, Tonya Adrian-hill writes on Goodreads, "5.0 out of 5 starsExcellent read, my husband wants to read it as I kept reading sections out loud to him. I would love to hear more of this author’s ideas on God and religion."

Please keep writing reviews - I love getting feedback from readers!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Same Character?

I feel like I'm caught in a trap that many writers face - are my main characters really just the same person with minor variations?

One of the oldest pieces of writing advice is to "write what you know."  Though I think that such a sentiment is often garbage - not many of us have gone to Mars or are endowed with the powers of a witch - there are times the phrase has meaning, and it's usually when you put yourself into your characters.  Most of the folks I write are exaggerations of myself and how I might react in a situation.  I do that because I know my own mind and motives better than I do anyone else's, so it makes the character more easily believable(for me).

Of course, the danger here is that the characters in a series of novels can end up being pretty similar, and that's frustrating.  I want to branch out into more interesting people, but my lone attempt - the first draft of Wrongful Death, where I tried to make the main character a high school girl - went so poorly that I had to start over.  It turns out I have no idea how to realistically portray a high school girl, but I remembered what I was like in high school, so I changed the main character to a high school boy with little difficulty.  Was that a cop out?  Sure, but it was also the only way I could produce what I needed to produce in a compelling way.

But how do we fix this issue?  Once a writer gets into a groove, it's tough to shift.  I think the solution is to ask your beta readers to look at your characters and figure out if they're the same person.  Do my scientist and my vampire hunter do things the same way?  Can I distinguish between the historian in my science fiction and the vigilante in my war about a new American Civil War?

It takes outside eyes to look at a work and figure out if, compared to other works by the same author, the main characters are the same person.  This critique can be crushing for a writer, but the sooner you figure it out, the better.  After all, while I love Jack Torrence, I doubt he'd have been as compelling fighting Pennywise.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Enjoying Work

On the heels of my last post(I know I missed earlier this week...sorry), someone asked me if I read my own books.  The only thing I can say is...well...yeah.

No, I don't obsess over my novels, lovingly caressing them before bed each night, but I look at them off and on, and for several reasons.  First off, both Akeldama and Salvation Day have upcoming sequels, so I have to make sure I can remember various pieces for the sake of consistency.  Readers remember the original well enough to catch flaws in new work that the author may have forgotten about.

Beyond that, though, I just like them.  I've often spoken of writing what I want to read, so why wouldn't I enjoy going back to my own work the same way I've read Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince or Guns of the South over and over?  Authors, I hope, don't write something and then think, "Wow, that's crap.  But I hope people still buy my book."  Just as any reader does, I get attached to my characters and like to remember their travails and triumphs.

In addition to that, going back and re-reading my own books reminds me of where I was in life when I wrote them.  Ask any writer, and he or she will tell you the energy and life circumstances that went into writing a novel.  I can look at a chapter, a plot line, or a character and remember, Yup, that's what was going on at that time.  I can then see how the book evolved as my life evolved.  It's also fun to retrace the evolution of not just my life, but my writing style.  You can find what you did not as well, and how you might change it today.  It aids with growth as a writer.

This is not to say I read only my own books, or even that I do so very often, but I do it, and it'd be dishonest not to admit that.  I'd wager that any writer worth his or her salt will cop to that.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Arrogance Required

Arrogance has gotten a bad rap.  When someone is seen as arrogant, the connotations that go along with that moniker are almost always negative.  In a lot of cases, that negativity is deserved.  Those cases are usually when someone pipes up about something about which they know nothing, or regarding an activity they've never done but claim to be expert at.

However, regarding our profession - or any profession, really - arrogance is a trait that is necessary to achieve success.  Think about the brass tacks it takes to believe you have what it takes to play football better than anyone else on the planet.  Or that you are the person who is best to lead the country.  Or that you have what it takes to tell a story that lots of people will not only love, but will pay good money for...

When it comes to writing, that's what we're basically saying - we're so good at telling a story that audiences will sit enraptured by our tale.  It's necessary for us to put our work out there and market it so that other people will fork over their hard earned cash for it.  Yes, I know that many writers are pretty insecure when it comes to their stories, but folks simply won't be successful if we sit on our insecurities and don't try to get other people to buy them.

Think for a moment about authors like Stephen King or JK Rowling.  Do you have any doubt that they honestly believe they can tell a horror story or spin a tale about a wizard and world of magic better than anyone on the planet?  I know what you're saying, that they actually can write those tales better than anyone, so that level of arrogance is justified, but that doesn't mean that it's not arrogance.  Reaching the top of the profession requires it.

This doesn't mean you don't go out and try to improve your craft, or that you're unwilling to take honest criticism.  It means that when you write a story, you have to believe it to be so good that people will want to spend time reading it.  If you don't believe that, why are you even writing?

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Quality Versus Quantity

I've been having a debate with a few author friends recently, and it basically boils down to how often and under what circumstances a writer should publish new books.  One friend is of the opinion that writers, especially new writers, should put out as many books as possible as quickly as possible in order to create an inventory that can start making money.  The thought there is that flooding the zone creates more opportunities for people to buy your work, so give as many as possible.

The second school of thought is that while creating an inventory is nice, quality matters more since people aren't like to buy your inventory if what you write is crap.  In other words, don't publish unless you're certain that you have something of quality that everyone will like.

Some writers are extremely prolific.  Even as prolific as they are, they still manage to write wonderful books that demonstrate a remarkable degree of talent.  Others write wonderful novels but only publish every few years.  They meticulously go over every detail until it's just right.

I think I come down somewhere in between.  I've written four novels that are in serious need of rewriting.  Yes, I could publish them now and increase my inventory, but folks would then likely skip more of my work since really good stuff would be intermixed with absolutely horrible stuff.  In my opinion, bad stuff is so damaging to a reputation that it's hard to overcome it with good work.  People get skittish about picking up one of your books since they have no idea if they'll get a diamond or a mound of compost.

As a parallel, many people love the Calvin & Hobbes comic strip.  Back in my day - you know...eons ago when dinosaurs roamed the Earth - people couldn't get enough.  However, the strip's creator, Bill Watterson, was adamant about rewriting poor work so that the quality was high.  Despite demand, he felt that poor strips would turn people off and reduce his audience.  I feel the same way about putting out lower quality work.

That's not to say that writers can just sit back and await perfection.  Although some writers strike gold on their first foray, and can thus afford to be more selective, most of us will acquire a small but loyal fan base.  And since that fan base isn't large enough to bring us to the NY Times Bestseller List, we need volume to create a steady stream of income.
(on a side note, if you're retching right now because you think that the "art" should be done just for its own sake...grow up.  Most of us have funny needs, like "food" and "heat," so actually selling our work is sort of a big deal)

I think that once one achieves success, it then becomes easier to take larger breaks between works.  However, especially at the beginning, we have the double burden of needing to be both prolific and good.  Just don't sacrifice one for the other.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Great Review For Salvation Day!

Self Publishing Review just gave me a tremendous review for Salvation Day!  It's never easy to solicit feedback on your work, but I couldn't be more thrilled with what they said about my work.  Check out the review for yourself, and if you haven't read it, pick up a copy today.  I hope you'll enjoy it at least as much as James Grimsby did.

Plus, if you're interested in reading more about me and the crazy inside of my mind, check out their author interview with me.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Two Space Or Not Two Space

In researching for this piece, I've discovered that there's a controversy in the writing world I never knew existed - whether or not to put two spaces between sentences.  Feelings run unexpectedly high on the issue, from some folks saying absolutely not to do it, to others who say that it's steeped in rich grammatical history.  Some have gone so far as to say that it's a sign of being old(or at least over 40) if you use two spaces after a sentence.  What began as a quirky little post became a journey into a surprisingly passionate subject that pit nerd against nerd, and grammarian against grammarian.

I learned, eons ago when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, to use two spaces at the end of each sentence(or a semicolon).  It became so ingrained in me, and I've been doing it for so long, that it's as natural now as breathing.  In fact, I have to make a deliberate effort to only use one space, and I've found that effort so disrupting to the flow of my work that I stopped worrying about it.  But why did that rule ever come about?

Apparently it was all a result of our use of typewriters.  In the olden days, before computers, typewriters all used the same font and spacing.  The letter "l" used the same amount of spacing as the letter "w."  In order to create separation between sentence and provide for better flow, what I call the "rule of two" came into being.  And it was used for a long time.  It became standard practice in both classrooms and media offices.  School after school that taught typewriting - which was nearly every high school in existence prior to 1995 - drilled the rule of two into everyone's head.  This made it a natural reaction.

However, when computers came along, it became moot.  Office programs made it so that the spacing now no longer relied on manual typesetting, so one space was plenty good enough to see the difference between sentences.  Typesetters even began discouraging two spaces after a sentence as it created extra work for them.  This has not been enough to overcome some of the (older) inertia.

I use two spaces.  I probably always will.  I independently publish, and I still think that two spaces provides a good break between independent thoughts, but I'm not opposed to those who use one space.  But bring that up in a group of writers under the age of 30 and you might as well have set a sack of puppies on fire.  Talk about angst - sheesh!

So where do you fall, and why?  Are you a two-spacer?  Or do you believe it's one space, and all two-spacers are secret members of a Satanic cult?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Just Write The Damn Story

Folks, I've done my best to stay out of politics.  I don't comment on the current President, just like I didn't comment on the last one.  I don't talk about Congress, or the federal budget, or the latest polls and what they may or may not say about an upcoming election.  I even stay out of topics sensitive to readers on all sides regarding same-sex marriage, abortion, and the war on drugs.  However, I'm going to stray a bit here, because some stuff is creeping in that affects actual writing.

The biggest takeaway is that writers are writing scared.  Far too many are getting so worried about not offending people that it's getting in the way of writing good stories.  Some folks are going so far as to have sensitivity readers look at their work so as to ensure that no one is offended and all the proper PC etiquette is observed.  Remember the saga of The Black Witch?  Laurie Forest endured scathing criticism of a novel that most people hadn't even read yet.  One reviewer talked about how the book was culturally insensitive, and suddenly the McCarthyites came out of the woodwork.  You'd have thought she penned a new Mein Kamp or something.

Then there is "cultural appropriation," a term which makes me want to vomit.  This is the belief that we're all supposed to stay in our own little world and not write about that which is from another culture different than ours(as if one culture or another "owns" something, or readers even know which culture is doing the writing in the first place).  This is idiotic from several standpoints, not the least of which being how limiting it is to both the writer and the audience.  Who gave anyone the right to tell us what we can and can't write?  If writers stayed only within their own world, we'd be denied some tremendous stories...stories that belong to all of us, not just select members of a certain group.  There's also the myopic view that this creates, limiting us to only what we know and never allowing us to explore outside of it.  Isn't the whole point of exploring other cultures to get to know them?  What is the point of diversity if it can't enrich us all?  Further most of those talking about not culturally appropriating things are referring less to real culture and more to skin color, which is an awfully stupid way to assess which culture someone came from.  I know folks of all races from all cultures, so assuming someone's culture by the color of their skin is only slightly less racist than...well...nothing.

I've come across a lot of writers that won't engage on certain topics or viewpoints because they're worried they may upset the wrong group of people.  Doesn't this keep us from writing good stories?  What's wrong with writing what you like and then letting the audience decide if it's any good?  So many classics throughout time have been maligned as wrongthink, from Huckleberry Finn to I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings to A Wrinkle In Time, that if those writers had listened to such scolds, we'd have been deprived of some amazing work.

Write what you're comfortable with and think is a good story.  I didn't write Wrongful Death from the point of view of a high school girl, but I originally tried, and I wouldn't begrudge anyone, man or woman, who could pull it off.  I doubt JK Rowling was ever an eleven year old boy or a wizard, but she did a great job with Harry Potter.

This isn't just a political issue - it's an issue of freedom.  I thought we'd long since moved past the era of book burnings, but today's scolds are trying to accomplish basically the same thing, which is to prevent a larger audience from enjoying a certain work because the scold finds it to be heresy.  Where we used to worry about fundamentalist churches banning books, now it's "sensitive" people who somehow know what's best for our entire society.  What a joke!  If you don't care for a book, don't read it!  However, acting as judge and jury because you think you're all "woke" is incredibly conceited and stifling.

Writers should write.  Let the audience decide what's good and what's not good.  I promise they will.  Beyond that, don't worry about what a bunch of overly sensitive ninnies who wouldn't know good literature if it smacked them will say.  Just be creative.

Okay...rant over.  Now go back to your lives...