Apr 052015

So much for my vow to post a minimum of once a month. Shortly after I posted that vow, my father’s health took a turn for the worse. He passed away on February 25th. All I’ll say is that this is not the place to dwell on it.  I’m just glad I got the chance to get up here and spend at least a few months with him before he left us.

But this is my writing blog, so I’ll try to keep to it on subject. As the title says, Chucklers has been submitted to a small press. I won’t post any specific details yet, because I don’t know whether or not it will be accepted. There is a blind acquisition process where the manuscript will be stripped of any identifying information and will go before a group of editors who won’t know who wrote it, judging it based on the merits of the writing. I like that idea, but it also scares me. It’s the old fear that at some point, someone is going to read my stuff and figure out that I’m nothing but a hack. I think many, if not most writers go through the same feelings of self-doubt. I would imagine that any sort of craftsman or artist does. Or am I just that insecure? Thinking

At any rate, this is the first time I’ve submitted to a small press. Until now, everything I’ve done has been indie. So I called to talk to them about the process in hopes of learning what to expect, and just as importantly, what to NOT expect. I already knew the basics. Assuming the manuscript is accepted, the publisher takes care of the editing, cover art and cover design, formatting for e-book and print, and the headaches of the actual publishing. That means I wouldn’t spend the money on outside services that I normally spend on my books. However, it also means that I surrender a significant amount of control over the process, as well as fifty percent of whatever money the book brings in. I also have to get over my nearly obsessive daily tracking of my sales numbers. What it really boils down to is that if they accept my work, they are agreeing to be an equal partner in the business venture that Chucklers represents. In short, they become an investor in the book. It will take some getting used to, but my insecurity is my own. This is simply the way small presses work.

When I sit back and really think about all the ins and outs, the only real concern I have is with the schedule. When I put the money up on my own, I pay for outside services (editing, cover art/design, formatting) and as soon as it’s done to my satisfaction, I publish. Assuming I don’t take too long with my edits, the time from manuscript submission to the editors to publishing the finished product is usually three or four months. Going through the publisher, it’s going to be closer to a year… possibly longer.

Now, that doesn’t mean I sit on my thumbs and wait for a year. It simply means that I have to put Chucklers out of my head for however long it takes to get word on whether or not the manuscript is accepted. It means I need to shift to other projects and get them moving. I need to do things like set up a Mailchimp mailing list, get some backlisted editing done, and get other works written and ready for publication. I received a phone call a few weeks ago reminding me that I had unfinished edits on the short story Ghost Story. I need to pull that out and brush it off. Get it finished and ready for final publication. And it’s time to get going seriously on the sequel to Half Past Midnight. For those who may not know, the name of the sequel is Year 12, and it’s officially going to be my top priority writing project.

There are also a few other writing projects I have in mind, but until I see how things go with Chucklers, I won’t know when I’ll be able to start them. All I can say is that I HOPE to get them done this year. But if I can get on schedule here, I stand poised to get two more novels written (and hopefully published), publish Ghost Story before Halloween, possibly publish another short story, and possibly write & publish another novella in the HPM universe.

So wish me luck. This year promises to be a completely new learning experience on many levels.

Feb 022015

The title pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?  I’ve been busy (of course) and let the time get away from me.  Garden-01I’m trying my hand at some real gardening this year, and that’s turned out to be a major endeavor.  Preparing the garden for spring, learning what plants I might be able to grow in this new climate, planning the garden….

The biggest time sink has been getting the new dirt in the garden.  Since we had no idea what had been in the garden before, I wanted to get a good garden mix and put a nice solid layer in for the spring.  So I ordered a full dump truck load – twelve cubic yards.  Let me tell you, that’s a LOT of shoveling!  And since the dump truck was too heavy to roll over the sidewalk, or even off the edge of the driveway, it has to go from the driveway in the front of the house, to the garden way in the back.

But it’s slowly getting done, despite the freezing temperatures (it’s noon, and a balmy twenty-three degrees – ten degrees warmer than when I got up).   Eek!

So, if it hadn’t been for my better half sending me a reminder that I hadn’t blogged in a while, I might have forgotten it for even longer.  Thank you, wife!  Heart

On the up side, a lot of that time has been spent writing.  I’m happy to report that Chucklers is well over the 100k word count that I set as an estimated length for the novel.  I won’t say that there’s a lot more to write on the first draft, but the parts that are left are pretty tricky, since most of them are sections that are essential if I want to pull the various story lines together into one cohesive unit.  On top of that, I’ve found it necessary to add another major character line.

Ross and his crew were originally slated to be part of the first novel, and were going to be written by Edward Lorn. However, when Ed had to move on to another project, I thought I would try to keep Ross in the background and let more of his story fill the pages of book two. Unfortunately, it has become pretty evident that there are problems with that idea. Basically, I can only see two ways to do introduce a major new POV character in the second book.  I could either do the same as I’ve done in book one, and show what happened to him on “day zero”, or I can introduce him in the second book as if he had already been through his version of what happened to everyone else, and bring his details in slowly through back story.  If I do the former, then I have a timing issue, essentially showing a timeline that the reader has already covered in book one. Granted, it would be events from the POV of a new character, but to me it would be cheating the reader of the progress they made in book one.  And if I try to introduce him via back story, then the story seems out of balance… “here’s what happened to Ross last week”, followed by “meanwhile, here’s what’s happening to the group you already know from book one”.

I know there are ways to work around it, but I prefer book two to have the major characters fully introduced and moving towards an established goal.  This is a SHTF apocalyptic novel. So let’s have the S hit the F in book one, and show how the characters deal with the aftermath in the ensuing two books.  Otherwise, I could conceivably write book after book of nothing but “here’s where I was on that day” stories.  If I let that happen, then Chucklers goes from one overarching story, to a collection of themed short stories.

So that’s it for now.  Time to try to get some more writing done.  I would really like to get the first draft finished this week.  I think it’s possible if I can get some of those plot threads tied together.  Wish me luck, and as always, stay safe!   Bye

Jan 112015

So the “Blog Post” template for Word seems to have worked! This is fantastic. It will make my blogging so much easier and faster. Smile  If anyone is interested in trying it, the option comes standard with MS Word 2013. Simply go to File>New and select the “Blog Post” option. If it isn’t already part of your installation, Word will then go online & download it. You have to fill in some basic info, like the web location of your blog, but it’s only a couple of questions, and they’re very basic. I mean, how much easier can it get than “location of your blog goes here”?

Now, I know a lot of you are cringing in horror at the thought of using a Microsoft product, and that’s your prerogative. But I’ve never been one of those folks that has a problem with them. I know there are a lot of people who think any product sold or offered by a large corporation such as Microsoft or Amazon is inherently evil. As for me, well, call me a sellout, or call me a realist. All I know is that I had a job for nearly two decades because of Microsoft. Most people in the IT field, whether they like MS or not, wouldn’t have a job if it weren’t for them.

So, you can make your own decision regarding Microsoft products. I think I’ll continue to use them. At least, for now.

On the writing front… Chucklers is moving along. The majority of the first book in the series is written, but the devil is in the details. And this book has a LOT of details. The hardest part is trying to meld the timelines of the various storylines in such a manner that I don’t lose the pacing of the story when I piece it all together. Initially I thought I would approach the chapters of the story in a similar manner as I did in HPM. In that one, I began each chapter with a date and timestamp. But that simply won’t work with Chucklers. It’s just way too complex. Much more so than HPM was. HPM was a single storyline, told from a single POV. As such, it was easy to lay things out in a linear fashion and tell the story as it occurred.

Chucklers, on the other hand, is really five or six intertwined stories that include more than two dozen characters, told from the POV of roughly half a dozen of them, and they are all happening at the same time. Trying to keep all that on a rigid timeline is nearly impossible. As a result, I’ve had to temporarily remove most of my time markers throughout the story, so that I can shuffle the various POV chapters around in such a manner that I (hopefully) won’t lose tension when I need it, and will be able to let the reader “rest” at appropriate times.

To that end, I’m using a couple of tools in addition to my regular MS Word software. One of them, I’ve used before, but not nearly as extensively as I’m using it now. That is yWriter5. This program is what I like to call “the poor man’s Scrivener.” It does many of the same things that Scrivener does, but where Scrivener costs $40, yWriter5 is free. And to be perfectly honest, I’ve been perfectly happy with yWriter5… until now. And the lack of satisfaction is because of the second tool I’ve recently begun using.

Aeon Timeline – Aeon is an incredible timeline management program that allows me to track all the different scenes in my story in a visible, time stamped, color coded, and easily juggled format. And it can now be synchronized with Scrivener. And what that means to me, my friend, is that instead of writing my chapters in MS Word, copying them into yWriter5, looking at the POV frequency and pacing in Aeon, juggling the beat points in Aeon as necessary, then going back and moving entire chapters in yWriter5 and MS Word, then renumbering the chapters as necessary, I could simply make a change in Aeon or Scrivener, and synchronize them on the fly.

I have to say, that is an EXTREMELY tempting proposition. Especially since the book I’m working on is the first in a series of similarly complex stories. The only thing that has been keeping me from making the purchase is the fact that by all reports, Scrivener has a bit of a steep learning curve, which would delay my writing while I learn the software. But would it delay it more than all the back and forth that I’m doing now with the clunky method I’m using? I don’t know. I’m still on the fence with this one.

If any of you read this and have used the Scrivener / Aeon synchronization tools, please let me know. I would love to hear your experiences, good or bad.


And that’s it for now. I need to get back to writing. So as always, stay safe. Bye

Jan 052015

I keep talking about the fact that I need to blog more often. The problem with that is that when I’m in front of my computer, it’s almost always with the intent to write. And even though I tell myself that it would only take a few minutes to write a quick blog entry, I tend to forget that there is the matter of logging in to the blog’s administrative page. And once I log onto the admin dashboard, there are all the notifications of things I need to do for maintenance… spam to clean out, updates to various plugins, updates to the site software itself, and all the other minutia that go into running a blog. And now that I’m on a limited internet “budget” (10GB / month), I need to find ways to limit the amount of time that I’m online.

So here is a test. MS Word has a blogging “template” that will supposedly allow me to write my blog entries off line, and then (in theory) automatically post with minimal online time. I figure at worst, I will have a journal of sorts, from which I can cut and paste my blog entries. We’ll see how well it goes.

 Posted by at 10:39 pm
Jan 032015

Well first of all, Happy New Year!    Party

Yes, it’s that time when we all go crazy and make promises to ourselves that we seldom keep.  Or maybe that’s just me.  I have a tendency to make resolutions that at the time seem perfectly attainable… get in shape, or prep enough food and supplies for a year (for those of you who might not know that about me, I’m very into what a lot of people call “prepping”, though I simply call it being more self-sufficient), or write however many thousands of words, or publish this or that.

But the old adage tells us where that road of good intentions leads, doesn’t it?  Wink  No matter how reasonable or well-intentioned my resolutions seem at the time, I always seem to overlook Murphy’s influence on my life.  And to be perfectly honest, I tend to get easily distracted and discouraged… often to the point that I fall so far behind in my goals that I get discouraged and simply quit trying.

The new homesteadSo this year I’m going to try to take a more practical approach to things.  If you read my last few entries on the blog, you know I’ve had some major life changes in the last several months.  I left my job of more than fifteen years, left my home of more than fifty years, and moved from Texas to Oklahoma to help my parents out.  Since my last posting, we’ve gotten a new home in Claremore, Oklahoma.  It’s a small town a bit northeast of Tulsa, and so far, it’s been great.  The picture above is taken from the back corner of our fence, and I’m really looking forward to what all we can potentially do with this property.

There are two really big differences in my life here.  First, the people are just so freaking friendly.  Now, I had some great friends in Houston, don’t mistake my meaning here.  But until you get to know someone in a larger metropolitan area, people tend to treat you more suspiciously.  And if you watch the news there, you can easily understand why.  But here? You seldom see anyone frowning.  Waiters and cashiers greet you with a smile and seem genuinely happy to talk to you.  I’ve only been in this house a few weeks, and I already know more of my neighbors than I did in the house I left in Houston – and I lived there for fourteen years.  Is that their fault, my fault, or simply the learned caution of someone who has lived their entire life in a major metropolitan area?  I don’t know.  But I know that it’s much different here.  And I know I feel more welcome here, anywhere I go.

The other big difference is the weather.  In Houston, I seldom ever had to break out anything heavier than a light jacket during the winter, and that was usually only for a few days.  Here in Claremore we’ve already had a couple of light snows this year, and the temperature hasn’t climbed much above forty degrees for several days.  As I’m writing this, it is almost 2:30 in the afternoon, and the temperature is precisely forty degrees Fahrenheit.  And this is warmer than it’s been in several days.  It’s supposed to drop to nineteen degrees tonight!   Shock

Yeah, this is going to require some serious adjustment.  I’ll have to learn to “winterize” the house, the cars… even myself.  I had to scramble to find gloves last week.  It had been so long since I’d needed them that I wasn’t even sure where they were.

But I’m learning. Adjusting.  And the time I’m getting to spend with my wife and parents is great.  I’ve gotten closer to them all than I’ve been in quite some time, and that (as the commercial says) is priceless.   Big Smile

So back to the whole resolution theme that I started with.  I’ve learned my own version of the adage about the best laid plans and entering the battlefield.  Last year most definitely didn’t work out the way I had planned it.  But it all seemed to fall together at the end, so I can’t complain.  This year though, after taking stock of my life – of where I am chronologically, geologically, and financially – and trying to take into account some of the effects that Murphy can have on my plans, I’ve decided to set some relatively modest goals.

Writing goals:

Chucklers – This is the one that Edward Lorn and I began over a year ago.  It’s had a rocky road, and I’ve learned that collaboration with another author is both easy, and difficult. Chucklers grew from its inception as an online chat discussion, to an amazingly complex story composed of several interwoven storylines that look like they will likely span at least two, and probably three books.  But Ed recently contacted me and told me that he has a huge project in the works, and that he was going to have to leave Chucklers behind.  He has graciously given me his blessing in continuing with it on my own.

So resolution #1 is to complete and publish the first Chucklers novel.

Year 12 – I recently began working on the sequel to HPM again.  There isn’t a lot of it done, but there are a decent first few chapters.  I want to complete and publish this one in 2015.

Crazy Larry – There is a novella that’s been banging around in my head for a while.  I’ve had several people ask me how Larry was able to raise an army to attack the town of Rejas in HPM.  Now, since HPM is told from the first person perspective of Leeland Dawcett, then anything that Leeland didn’t know, simply couldn’t go into the novel.  But believe it or not, I do have an explanation.  So I thought I might put Larry’s story behind its own cover.  I want to do this in 2015.

Other: There is also an anthology coming up that I’ve been given permission to submit to, and the world in which it takes place sounds absolutely fascinating.  So I want to try for that anthology in the next few months, and see if I can get in.  And since this one is someone else’s property, that’s about all I can say about it for now.

And that’s it for my writing goals; two novels (one of which is already mostly written), a novella, and a short story.  Like I said, modest goals.

As for my more personal goals:

Blog more – This blog has suffered quite a bit over the last couple of years.  For a long time, I posted every week.  Then it dropped to once a month.  In 2014 I started out well enough, three or four posts in the first couple of months, but like I said, Murphy…  The last few blog entries were six months apart, and that’s just unforgivable.  So this blog will get at least one entry per month, come hell or high water.

House – For the new house, I plan to get a good garden going this spring, and get some fruit trees in the back yard.  Every long-term food source is part of that self-sufficiency thing I mentioned earlier, right?  And the more food I can produce at home is that much less we have to buy in the store.

Weight – Also, let me hit on an oldie, but a goodie… I plan to lose twenty pounds by May.  And more importantly, I will keep it off all year-long.

I think they are all relatively simple goals (except maybe the weight thing, but I only have myself to blame there), and I’m going to work on keeping these resolutions this year.  So wish me luck.  And please comment here.  I recently updated my anti-spam plugin for the blog here, and I’d like to know if it works properly.  I’ve had it update in the past and begin blocking EVERYONE who tried to comment.  The only way I know it’s not doing that again is for someone to leave me a comment.  If you try and you can’t, please send me an email at jlbDOTauthorATgmailDOTcom.


So that’s it for now.  Have a great 2015, and stay safe!   Bye