Sep 212016
 

ww57How’s that for a post title?  Beginnings and Endings… sounds like I’m talking about writing, doesn’t it?

Well, not exactly.  At least, not the way you’re probably thinking.  I’m talking about writing-related activities, but not the actual act of writing.  (Yeah, that clears things up, doesn’t it?)

Okay, I’ll start with the “beginnings” part.  I’m going to begin a new habit.  Or rather, I’m going to resume an old habit that I swore off back in 2011.  I’m talking about reviewing other author’s works.  For those of you who don’t know, I haven’t reviewed a book in five years.  It’s the result of my having critiqued some fellow author’s books as peer critiques, but posting them as book reviews.

For those who don’t know the difference, a peer critique is a very blunt, and usually critical, synopsis of weak points that one finds in a story, whether they be spelling, grammar, plot points, characterization, or whatever else.  They are often (or they used to be) exchanged between writers during the development of a story, during critique gatherings or writers’ group meetings.  I used to be a member of several such groups, both online and in real life, and got used to that style of criticism.  It was a valued tool that we used to hone our craft.

However, they were NOT presented to the general public, and certainly not as a review after publication.  No, a book review is another animal altogether.  Think of it like this… a tough critique is the doctor warning you that there may be some complications with your upcoming procedure.  A bad review is someone telling you that your newborn looks like a monkey, and smells like it’s been flinging its own poo.   Foot-In-Mouth

I made the mistake of posting some reviews that were more critique than review, and in doing so, ended up insulting some people who didn’t deserve it.  I was a rookie in the business, and it was a rookie mistake.

Of course, on the opposite end of the spectrum, there are also those who view authors giving favorable reviews to other author’s works as cow-towing in an attempt to curry favor with one another, or simply trading good reviews in order to boost sales.  Either way, the reviewing author was sometimes caught in a no-win situation.  So, rather than worry about what I should and shouldn’t say, I simply stopped reviewing books completely.  As a matter of fact, the last review I did was a review of Fiends, a collection of stories by Paul Cooley.  I wrote that review five years ago, in July of 2011.

But lately, I’ve come to realize that I’m short-changing some of my fellow writers. Some of their works really deserve to get some attention.  Some of their work is really good.  For instance, there’s a book I’m reading right now, that really deserves a good review.  And in thinking back, this same author wrote another book that I read a few years ago, and that book was also really good.  He deserves to know it.

I read quite a bit, and most of it is either indie published, or one of a few select traditionally published authors.  Why?  Back in the day, I could spend hours at a time in bookstores, exploring various books, thumbing through them to see what looked interesting.  I would stack four or five at a time, often more than that, and buy them because they looked like they might be worth the time investment.  Of course, the books were four or five dollars at that time.

At today’s prices, I can’t afford to just buy any trad-pub book that looks like it might be interesting. If I don’t already know the author is fantastic, and writes stories I’ll like, I can’t afford to take the chance.  For that matter, there are some authors who I know are fantastic, and I still can’t afford to buy their works unless I find them in a used bookstore.  Jim Butcher is a prime example.  I really like his Dresden books.  Unfortunately, I can’t afford them.  The Big 5 publishing houses have priced themselves out of my wallet’s reach.

But good indie authors who cut out the middleman (because that’s what the Big 5 have become), are selling books at prices I can afford.  Many have discovered that putting a book out for free is a good way to get their foot in the door, introducing their work to new buyers, much like the stereotypical drug pusher who lets you have the first sample for free.   Wink    Now admittedly, some indies are pretty dreadful.  But many others are good… every bit as good as the mid-list authors that are traditionally pubbed.  Better yet, there are some who are every bit as good as some of the best Big 5 stuff that’s out there, and I’m coming to realize that they deserve to be recognized.

So I’m going to start reviewing some of the better books I’m reading.  I may even go back and review some of the books I’ve read in the past, if they stick out in my mind… books that have made such an impression that I want to let the world know how much I like them.

And that’s the “beginnings” part.

As for the “endings”, that’s a real bit of good news.  Things have fallen into place for Year 12, and I hope to be finished with the first draft within the week.  I have several beta readers lined up, am on the schedule for my cover designer and formatter, and I happened to call at just the right time for my editor of choice.  It turns out that they had just had a cancellation, and I was able to fill that slot.  Good news for me, though my beta readers might not agree.  It means that, while I thought I would be able to give them a month to do the beta read, it now turns out that it will be more like two and a half weeks.   Struggle  But that’s the way of things in this biz.  I’d rather get it out sooner than later.

I also got word from the publisher for Chucklers.  It seems there was a misunderstanding on the editing.  They didn’t realize I had already turned in the last round of edits a month ago, and thought they were still waiting on me.  That’s both good news and bad.  It’s good because it means the book should now be in the final stages of being published.  It’s bad because we lost a month, and it might have already been out, if not for that lost time.

Like I said though, that’s the way of things.  I think we’ve got everything straightened out now, and it actually looks like I’ll have three titles out before the end of the year now.  I’ve got Chucklers (the apocalyptic horror novel being published by Severed Press), Year 12 (sequel to Half Past Midnight), and The Burning Land (the short story previously published in the “Explorers: Beyond the Horizon” anthology).

So here’s my little plug… if you haven’t already signed up for my newsletter, please consider doing so now. It’s the easiest way for me to keep people informed about when I have new titles coming out.  I’ll never give your contact information away or sell it, and I ONLY send out a news blast when I have a new title coming out.

And that’s it. I still have a lot of writing to do, so stay safe, and I’ll talk to you next time.  Bye

 

 

 

Sep 142016
 

ww56Just a short post today.  I have a lot of irons in the fire, and all of them need tending.

I just found out today that my oldest granddaughter won her classroom spelling bee, yesterday.  Yay!  Smile  The word was “concrete”, and I’m sorta tickled.  Who knows?  Maybe she’ll be a writer some day.  LOL.

On the writing front, I’m juggling two first drafts, and waiting for word from the publisher on Chucklers – Book 1.  Until recently, I’ve been pushing mainly on End Point Pangaea, and pretty much ignoring Year 12.  But considering how long it seems to take going through a publisher, I’ve decided to begin concentrating more on Year 12.  Money’s getting too tight, and I’ve got to do something to get an income stream going.  I’ve thought about my options, and since Y12 is going to be self-pubbed, it will take less time to get it edited, published, and start earning revenue.

So that’s taking most of my time now.  I know I’ll be jumping back and forth at times between Y12 and EPP, but Y12 will have to be my main project for a while.

In addition, watch for a new short story out in the near future.  In 2012, I had a short story published in an anthology called Explorers: Beyond the Horizon.  That story was The Burning Land, and it was pretty well received. The rights to the story reverted back to me last year, and I’ve been toying with the idea of self-publishing it since that time.

Of course, the catch to self publishing is the fact that you have to pay for editing, formatting, and cover art on your own, then hope you make enough in sales to earn that investment back.  Editing is usually the biggest cost, but this one was already edited before it went into the anthology.  The second biggest cost is usually cover design.  And in order to publish The Burning Land, I would have to invest money in a cover for it.  And since it’s a short story, I wouldn’t feel right charging more than Amazon’s 99¢ minimum price.

Now, if you aren’t an author, you may not know this, but Amazon slants their percentages to encourage authors to charge $2.99 or more.  The way it works is that an author charging $2.99 or more, gets to keep 70% of the money earned on the story.  Anything below the $2.99 price point only earns 35%.  AND they don’t allow you to charge less than 99¢ at all (with a very few, tricky exceptions).

So if I were to get a decent cover for this short story, it would likely cost me a couple of hundred dollars.  Let’s call it $150, for now, just for giggles.  If I charge the minimum of 99¢ for the story, for each copy sold, I get back 34¢.  At that rate, I would have to sell nearly 450 copies just to break even, and since short stories by unknown authors don’t sell well to begin with, that would take more time than it’s really worth.

But last month I won a contest.  The prize was a free cover by author and cover artist Denise Lhamon.  Woohoo!  And that means that I can afford to publish TBL after all.  So while it won’t make me rich, by any means, it will mean at least a little money in the coffers while I continue working on the other books.

That’s all I have for now. Time to get back to work. So stay safe, and I’ll talk to you again next week.  Bye

Sep 082016
 

ww55Hi folks.  Yes, I’m a day late with this one.  Sorry.  Between having family members visit, and the holiday weekend, I simply got a bit mixed up on the days.  By the time I realized it was Wednesday, it was too late to post anything.  I missed some other things, as well, so don’t feel like I’m picking on you.   Big Smile

For instance, I was asked to answer some interview questions for friend and fellow author, T.L. Haddix.  She’s a prolific writer, and all around great lady, and if you like stories of romance and magic, you should check her out.

Anyway, when I realized I had forgotten to answer her interview questions, I pulled out her list and started working on it.  Now, to those of you who know me, it probably comes as no surprise that I almost immediately went off on a tangent as I began filling out her questions.  But when I started to delete the tangential stuff, I realized that there were some things in there that I really thought needed to be said.

And since I forgot to blog yesterday, why not put it in a post, and just let it out a day late?  So here we go.

One of the interview questions was in regard to character development.  To paraphrase, she asked “are your characters an extension of you, the author? If yes, in what way?”

I began with stating that, while characters may embody some of my characteristics, they were usually exaggerated versions of the characteristic in question.  Then I went off on a tangent about how our life experiences form who we are, and how we have to make our characters more interesting than the average Joe, because people read in order to escape the average, everyday life.  What follows is where it went from there.

________________________

Me?  When I first thought about it, I didn’t think there was anything interesting about me at all.  I mean, I’m a middle-aged, happily married, overweight man who’s really not suffered a lot in his life.  Compared to the hands that others have had dealt to them, what about me is remarkable enough to hold a reader’s attention?

So as a writer, what could I really have to say that would allow the reader to relate to someone like me?  At first blush, my life looks to be pretty ordinary.  But as I began to write, I realized that the things that have interested me throughout my life, have also helped shape me as an individual. And that word is key… individual.

What is it about me that makes me different from most other people?  We all have things that shaped us, molded us into the individuals that we are today.  I’ve studied a variety of martial arts since I was thirteen years old.  I’m of mixed race, grew up as a white kid in a black part of Houston, and was taught at home about my Cherokee and Choctaw family history. As a result, I’ve seen racism from a LOT of different angles.

I’m grew up in a devoutly religious family, but rebelled at a young age.  While still a teen, I decided that I was an atheist, but later realized that I had no more proof that there was no deity, than religion had that there was.  This taught me the true meaning and nature of faith, as well as the futility of arguing with people who have their minds made up, whether they be theist or atheist.

That realization, in turn, taught me the true meaning of respect for other people and their beliefs.  Whether you agree with someone else or not doesn’t mean you’re right.  To go through life thinking that you have all the right answers is the very epitome of vanity.

I’ve seen births.  I’ve seen deaths.  I’ve seen people injured, both physically and emotionally.  I’ve seen

________________________

Now, unless you want to read a pretty depressing view of the state of humanity, I suggest you stop here. I started to riff on the above, and things take a bit of a downward spiral from here.
________________________

So above is where I realized I had jumped the shark, so to speak.  But it made me think about how many people I see online spouting about how this group of people are racists, or that group is homophobic, or you shouldn’t do this because you’ll hurt someone’s feelings, or if you vote for this person you’re crazy, or a vote for that person and you’re contributing to the downfall of society.  And it’s all based on little more than news spin from one side or the other, that’s intended to do nothing more than keep us all at one another’s throats.

Now, at this point, I could easily go off on a tirade about politics, but I find that too distasteful.  Besides, it’s not up to me to make you see things my way. As a matter of fact, that’s exactly the opposite of what I’m promoting, here.

The point I really wanted to make is back on the nature of faith.  Faith isn’t simply a religious concept.  Faith is simply the acceptance of something that cannot be proven.  These days, it has been corrupted to mean something that that cannot be proven, but that has enough belief behind it that a large percentage of people believe it to be fact.  And I find it ironic that people who deride “faith”, don’t seem to realize that they’re using faith to argue against it.  In essence, their argument is “the news source I have faith in, bolsters my argument against the news source that you have faith in.”  And it’s all simply so people can feel superior to one another.  We’ve lost the ability to think for ourselves.

And it tires me.  Worse still, it’s damaged my faith in my fellow human beings.  It’s petty much completely destroyed my faith in our society.  Politics, society, economy… everything is so intertwined now, that I don’t see how we can unravel the knots and extricate ourselves from the tangled mess that is human society.  As long as we focus on the stupid, little, divisive sound bites about whether or not it’s right for some rich celebrity to remain seated during the national anthem, we’ll never come together long enough to resolve the real issues in the world.  Hell, most people don’t even know that anything more important than politics and celebrity gossip exists in the world.  And until we sit up as a whole and take notice of what’s going on around us, we’re going to continue circling the drain.

Yeah. Downer of a post.  But hopefully, it will make some of you think… really think, and not simply take what you’re told as the truth.

Cry

Aug 312016
 

WW54aI got a little sidetracked with End Point Pangaea this week.  I’m still working on it, and still making good progress, but the plotting issue I was having with Year 12 resolved itself in my head while walking the dogs, and I’ve been compelled to get it back on track before I lose the thread.  It’s going to mean a lot of rewrites (I think), but will once and for all resolve the thematic and plot problems that have kept me from completing the book for the last several months.

Sometimes you just need time away from a project to let it percolate. I’ve found this in the past, and other authors have told me that they’ve run into the same situation, so I guess it’s not an unusual thing. And I’ve known for a long time that I really should have multiple projects going at once, so that when I get stuck on one, I can set it aside and work on another.  But any time I think I should try that, it’s at a time when the books I’m working on are so very different that I’m afraid the tone of one might “leak” into the other and screw it up. So yes, I’ve been afraid to really commit to trying it.

But “fear is the mind-killer”, right?  I’ll never know if I can successfully juggle until I give it a real try.

(SNIP) / EDITAt this point in my blog, I had already written another five or six hundred words, but I was hesitant to publish it. As I often do, I got sidetracked into what kind of research I had done, talking about the differences in archosaurs, Rauisuchians, Crocodylomorphs, Pterosaurs, and the true dinosaurs – all of which were competing for niches in the emerging ecology of Triassic Pangaea.  And while it was interesting for me, I realized that it wasn’t really something that you’re likely to want to read about here. 

And then MBH texted me:

MBH No bloggies today?
Me Been working on one, off and on, but it got VERY technical and dinosaur-ish.  Didn’t know if that was really a good idea for a blog post.
MBH nope
Me Need to chop it up and make it more “user appealing”.   Wink
MBH Short and sweet, butt in seat. Writing. Have a happy and safe holiday weekend!
Me I like that!!

So you can thank My Better Half (MBH) that you aren’t being subjected to the differences in various Triassic flora and fauna, and how Hollyweird has been getting it all wrong. Instead, I’m going to steal from my wonderful wife…

“Short and sweet, butt in seat. Writing. Have a happy and safe holiday weekend!

I’ll talk to you next time.  Bye

 

Aug 242016
 
WW53b

Children often have trouble when they’re learning to speak, and some of those troubles lead to fun little sayings that stick with your family for many years. Most of you have probably experienced this. A prime example in our family is when my oldest daughter was about nine. At that age, she used to occasionally mix up song lyrics, as we’ve all done from time to time. But some of hers were so memorable that they became ingrained in the family history. For instance, the chorus to the old song “When Smoky Sings” by ABC, begins with the line “when Smoky sings, I hear violins.” To this day, my wife and I can’t think of that song without remembering it as “when smokin’s a sin, I hear firemen…”   ROTFL

When my son was at that stage of his life, he had trouble with “yesterday”. For him, moving back in time consisted of going from today, to this morning, to last night, to “lasterday”, (which does have a kind of logic to it, right?)

For a great-niece, dogs were “goggers”. And for our youngest daughter, the color yellow was “lellow.”  (Ironically, she just got her BFA in painting, and depends quite a bit on the color palette.)

Now we’re on the next generation. When my oldest granddaughter was younger, and still learning to talk, she loved penguins. But for whatever reason, the word “penguin” evaded her grasp. Instead, she called them “poogins”. My dad loved that so much, that he began calling her Poogin, and even though that was a good four or five years ago, she still remains “Poogin” to us.

Well, now she’s nine years old, just starting fourth grade. As a matter of fact, last week was her first week back in school after summer vacation. When we spoke to our “smokin’s a sin” daughter, we asked her how Poogin liked the fourth grade. She told us that she had asked the same question when she’d picked the little one up after her first day. And with all the drama that a nine-year-old can muster, she related the tragedy of her first day…

“It was absolutely horrible!”

“Why? What happened?”

“I lost my tooth!”

“Well, that’s all right. You’ve lost teeth before.”

“No mom, I lost my tooth… and then I lost my tooth!”

“Oh. You mean you lost it, lost it?”

Poogin nodded woefully. “Somewhere on the playground. I looked and looked, but I couldn’t find it.”

“Well that’s okay, baby.”

“No it’s not. How is the tooth fairy going to know I lost it, if I don’t have it to put under my pillow?”

Grin

You have to understand, Poogin is a very smart young lady who speaks with a vocabulary beyond her years. That conversation was a reminder that, while she might speak with the conviction and vocabulary of a teenager, she still has the beliefs of a nine-year-old. We got a good chuckle out of her mom relating that the tooth fairy was a lot like Santa Claus, and that she would know about the tooth, whether it was actually under the pillow or not.

WW53aBut the real kicker was when Poogin decided that just to be safe, she should leave a note for the tooth fairy…

Dear tooth<>fairy,

I have lost a tooth today, (literaly) but if you are still generous enouph, mabe you could still give me the money. (‘.

So does the mercenary nature of the note come from the child, or the adult struggling to come out?   Big Smile  Either way, I love the fact that she didn’t simply give up on the lost tooth, and that she turned to writing as a solution.  She’s a Poogin after my own heart.   Cool

And speaking of writing… (how’s that for a segue?) …another round of edits for the first Chucklers book is done.  Better yet, I received an email with a proposed new cover on it, and it’s looking really good, folks. I sent back a request for a few tweaks, but I think we’re quickly approaching a publishable product.  Woohoo!! Want a sneak peek?  Here you go….WW53b

How’s that for a tease?  Grin

My other big project, End Point Pangaea, is still moving well (you can see the progress meter at the top of the column to the far right), and though I did stall for a couple of days, I’m back on that horse and riding for all I’m worth.  I’m still waiting for that magical mental and emotional breakthrough where everything falls into place just right, and I’m suddenly consistently breaking the 2500 word a day mark.  So far, I haven’t seen that breakthrough.

And I can tell you that today isn’t very likely to be it, either.   Wink   But the progress is consistent, and I’m happy with it, as it is.  Of course, just like my Poogin, at the end of the day I just can’t help myself.  When it’s all said and done, I just really want to see that big payoff.   ROTFL

But that’s not going to happen if I don’t get back to writing.  So take care, and stay safe everyone.  I’ll talk to you again next week.  Bye