Jan 102018
 

Sure, it’s ten days late. But it’s the first post of 2018, so Happy New Year.  

I going to try to be short and sweet with this one because one of my personal resolutions is to buckle down more with the writing.

I don’t have a lot of time to read these days. If I have time to read, then I have time to write.  That means I feel guilty for reading and not putting more content out there.  But I do still listen to audiobooks, since I can do this when I’m walking the dog, or working in the house.

And there is something I’ve noticed.

Some of the more successful writers I’ve listened to just really aren’t all that good.  Or rather, they aren’t as good as I would expect, based on their financial success as authors.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some fantastic indie authors out there.  But there are also some pretty mediocre writers that are still extremely successful.

I know, I know, that sounds like the epitome of vanity for me to say something like that.  And it’s not that they’re actually bad writers.  They just aren’t where I would expect them to be as full-time writers who are making a good living at their craft.

And that got me to thinking… what are they doing that I’m not?

Answer –

  1. They produce more titles than I do.  A LOT more.  Sure, they’re usually shorter books, but there are a lot more of them.
  2. They market better than I do. They keep their name and titles out there so that they always have something in the new releases.  And the more the public sees your name, the more they buy your books.
  3. For better or worse, they don’t worry (obsess?) over the quality of the writing as much as I do. The quality of the prose is secondary to the quantity.  
  4. For the most part, they concentrate on a single series until there are several titles under its umbrella before they ever move on to another series.

In short, they’re better businessmen and businesswomen than I am. Now, I can’t do much about the last two items on my list.  It’s in my nature to worry over the quality of my writing and I’ve made myself a promise that I’ll never intentionally let my quality slide.  That’s not to say that I’ll be producing literary masterpieces, but it’s just not in me to do less than I can reasonably be expected to do.

As for the series, I’m already committed to the four series that I have going.  Two are under contract, and the other two make me more money and have established fan-bases, however small they may be.

But I can address the first two items.  I can get better organized and increase my word production.  I’ve already gotten better since the beginning of the year, simply by employing some of the techniques I’ve read about and heard about in various writing podcasts.  In the last few weeks, I’ve almost doubled my average daily word count.  Not only that, but I think I can see ways to do even more.  Fingers crossed here. 

And I can learn more about the marketing side of things.  The problem here is that the marketing aspect of the business is constantly changing.  What worked in 2012 won’t work in 2018.  The marketing tips and tricks I learned back when I started just won’t cut it.  And I haven’t taken the time to keep up with current trends.  I need to address that.

But part of that whole “produce more content” thing also means I need to spend less time on my blog posts.  I need to stop trying to think about something clever to write about, and put my effort into increasing my catalog.  So from now on, I’m going to limit myself on this blog.  It will be a sort of New Year’s resolution… posts will be either shorter than 1000 words, or I will limit myself to half an hour’s time in which to get them written.  On thousand words or half an hour, whichever comes first.

So moving on to other writing news:

Pangaea: Exiles – Severed Press sent me word last week that PE1 has been selected by their audio partner, Beacon, to produce as an audiobook.  Estimated time to release is about three months.

Payne and Suffering – After a few derailments, P&S is really moving along now.  I had a few plotting issues earlier in the week that forced me to slow down and open up some mind mapping software, but it only took a few hours to get things back on track.

Crazy Larry – I had dropped CL into the virtual file cabinet several months ago when the story went stale for me.  When MBH asked me how it was progressing, I had to admit I was stumped.  She brainstormed with me, and helped me see a way out of the bog.  So I made a bit of progress on it, too.  Man, I love that woman.  

And with that, I’m beginning to approach my self-imposed 1000 word limit, so that’s it for today. Stay safe, and I’ll talk to you next time.  :bye:

Dec 062017
 

WARNING – LOTS of foul language ahead.

This post is going to hearken back to the early days of my blog.  It’s going to be a discussion about a writing topic – namely, foul language in writing.  If this offends you, then you might want to pass on this week’s post.  If not, then read on at your own risk.  And if you have a few minutes afterwards, I’d really like to hear what you might think about it.

The line of thought came about when I read a recent review for Streets of Payne.  It was a Goodreads review, and was written back in July.  But I seldom log on to Goodreads any more, and so I just read it recently.  It was a good review, four stars, but something she said struck me.  During the review, she (the reviewer) mentioned that it made her cringe to see that I went out of my way to avoid “common curses like ‘fuck’ and ‘shit’ and effectively replaced them with ‘fudge’ and ‘sludge’.”

I’ve seen and heard discussions wherein authors get upset because reviewers take them to task for dropping too many F-bombs.  On the other hand, I’ve been told by some people that I don’t curse as much as I should (whatever that means).  LOL.  In my normal life, I don’t curse that much.  That’s just the way it is.  It’s just the way I am. I don’t feel the need, for the most part.  In my writing, well, it depends on the character.  I have some characters who are reserved, and some who are real ass holes.

Charlie Griffe, in Chucklers Volume 1 is a prime example.  He’s a conniving, narcissistic, misogynistic, schizoid douche-canoe with a mouth to match.  Cussing fits his character, and when I read the comment about me going out of my way to avoid harsh language, I had to go back and check to see if I had misremembered.  Nope, I hadn’t.  I shit you not… actually, I shit you a lot.  88 times to be precise.  88 shits, 63 damns, and there were 44 fucks given, most of them from good ole Charles Griffe.

But here’s the thing about Streets of Payne… it takes place more than a hundred years in the future.  I don’t recall exactly what year it starts, and I don’t honestly want to go look at my notes.  I think it was about 140 years in the future, though.  And I actually put a lot of thought into how that would affect how the characters speak.  SoP was published in 2013.  So go back about a hundred years to the early 1900s and think about the idioms of the time.  How many of you would know what “hog-eye” refers to?  What about “purr-tongue?  What if I said my “Mr. Horner” was a “roaring jack”?  And believe me when I tell you that at one time back then, if someone said they wanted to go to the “barrelhouse”, and his buddy said he wouldn’t mind going with him to get a “bit of keg”, they were NOT talking about getting a drink.  

If you haven’t already guessed, all of those words and phrases were considered foul language for the time.  They refer to either sexual acts, or descriptions of genitalia.

So with the idea that language changes, I thought that in another hundred to two hundred years, isn’t it likely that the word fuck would change, as well?  So it… slid.  Fuck became “fuggle”.  I thought, you know… you take the phrase “fuck it all”, slur it around a bit, and it could easily begin to sound like “fuggle”.  And what else might be considered foul in a few hundred years?  Maybe some kind of sewer sludge that smells so rank that it makes the eyes water just to think about it?  I mean, if you’ve ever lived in an area where you aren’t on a city sewer system, and you’ve had to have your septic system pumped, you know just how strong such a stench can be.

Like I said, that comment stuck with me for whatever reason.  And I want to re-iterate that the reviewer was actually pretty complimentary to the book.  But the comment presented an opportunity for me to get back to something that I haven’t done much of lately… namely, posting about actual writing topics.

So tell me, how do you feel about “cussing” in books?  For me, it depends on the story and the character.  Each character and story presents their own special circumstances.  If I write a character that is a straight-laced, Sunday-go-to-meeting devout religious type, it’s unlikely that I’ll have him or her dropping F-bombs on the pages of the story.  But when I write Charlie Griffe in the Chucklers series, well, you’d better believe he’s not going to give a damn about who he might offend.  Not unless he needs to keep them happy in order to get something from them.  That’s just the self-centered kind of character he is.

If you have a few minutes, and you feel so inclined, drop me a comment.  Let me know your thoughts on the matter.

Stay safe.  TTYL.  :bye:

Nov 012017
 

Remember back in WW93 when I mentioned that the IT contract job I was working on might end up getting extended?  Well, it did.  They’ve been flying me back and forth between home in Claremore, Oklahoma, and another of their locations in Columbus, Georgia.  The routine is a little rougher now, starting on Monday mornings at 3:30 AM so I can make a 6 AM flight that gets me to Atlanta, where I rent a car and drive an hour and a half to Columbus.  Needless to say, I’m pretty wiped by the end of the day on Monday.  Then on Friday, I work until about 1 PM, drive the hour and a half back to Atlanta, fly back to Oklahoma, where MBH picks me up and takes me home so I can spend the weekend with her.

And if Friday’s flight home is delayed by three hours (like last week), then the day goes on even longer. 

Then Monday morning at 3:30 AM, it starts it all over again.  I don’t mind the work, but those Mondays!  

The up side is that the job is paying (at least for a little while) some of the bills that were beginning to pile up.  The down side is that it impacts the writing. Of course, I already discussed this, too, back in WW93. So nothing new there.  But while the writing has been greatly slowed, it hasn’t completely stopped.

Writing –

Payne and Suffering – The new Amber Payne novel is a bit over 7500 words.  Not huge, but it’s moving.  I picked MBH’s brain a couple of weeks ago regarding some of the threads that were stumping me.  Many writers talk about their “muses”.  I don’t need a muse.  Ideas and inspiration aren’t my problem.  I have trouble with the more mundane minutia (wow, talk about your alliteration).  I tend to let the details of a story keep me from progressing… the old “can’t see the forest for the trees” thing.  I get an idea or a scene, and I lock onto it, trying to work it into the story, and when it doesn’t work, I can’t seem to see my way around it.  When that happens… when I find myself banging my head against the same wall, over and over again, I can usually count of MBH to guide me through a doorway that I simply didn’t see.  This time was no exception, and she once more helped me find a new path through a winding and overly convoluted story line.  Yes, once more, I was making things more complex than they needed to be.  Thank you, wife.  

Pangaea Exiles – Nothing new to report here.  Final edits were turned in to the publisher more than two months ago.  As far as I know, cover was approved, edits were done, but no word on an actual publication date.

Year 12 – The audio version of Y12 is also moving very slowly.  In this case, I know what the hold-up is.  When you find someone who is willing to work on a royalty share basis, slow production times are the trade-off.  After all, the voice actor also has bills to pay, and he or she has to give priority to those jobs that come in that offer an up-front payment.

Crazy Larry – No change on this one.  I hit a brick wall, and haven’t opened the manuscript back up in almost two months.  I think I know what needs to be done with it, but the changes entail a LOT of extra work.  And it had already gone from a project I was enjoying, to something that turned into a frustrating chore.  I began to think of it less as a story, and more of a justification.  So for now, it still sits.

So that’s it for writing news.  How about a random pic?

RPotW

The Random Pic of the Week for this week is another of the many sunset pictures I find myself taking.  I don’t know why, but we just seem to get some amazing sunrises and sunsets here in Claremore.  The colors… the texture of the clouds… it all makes for some incredible sights.  As much as I loved living in Texas, I find that I love my new life here in Oklahoma even more.  And as beautiful as the sunrises and sunsets are, the star-filled sky on a clear, crisp night is even more breathtaking.  We never had skies like this around Houston.

Okay, that’s enough gushing.  Time to get back to it.  You guys take care, and stay safe.  I’ll talk to you again soon.  :bye:

 

Aug 302017
 

This week’s post has nothing to do with writing.  No reports of progress or lessons learned in the business. This week is about Hurricane Harvey.  It’s about the friends and family that MBH and I left behind in Houston when we moved to Oklahoma three years ago.  It’s about recognition of the way they, and Texas in general came together in the face of one of the worst natural disasters in recent history.

BTW, if any of you ever wondered why I’m such a strong proponent of prepping, look at the picture here.  That was taken the day before Harvey made its first landfall. This is typical of store shelves just before a disaster.  I’ve been through a few such events, and seen this repeated in most instances.

But moving on…  For the most part, our friends and family have come through without any serious damage.  My son & his family evacuated when things got close, but they got out before any water got in, while it was still safe to do so.  And as it turns out, they made it through without the water actually getting in (though like so many others in the Houston area, it came REALLY close to coming in.

My brother from another mother, James Husum, lives in The Woodlands, just north of Houston, and was house sitting when Harvey hit.  He was trapped away from his home, with several dogs, while the water rose and trapped them in.  But other than a leak in the roof, there was no water damage in either his home, or the one where he was staying.

Another friend posted on Facebook that he and his family had been forced to leave their home and had taken shelter in a local high school.  And my cousin Brenda Jackson, who is an awesome amateur photographer, has taken all sorts of pictures from the area where, until three years ago, MBH and I called home.

The picture to the right shows a strip center where we used to stop pretty often. The pic is taken from a freeway overpass through a rain-streaked window.  Just to the left of the frame of this pic, there is (or at least, there used to be) a Smoothie King where we would occasionally stop for a light dinner or lunch.  Now to be perfectly honest, this picture isn’t that much of a surprise.  The area has flooded several times in the last few years, a victim of all the construction that’s popped up around them.

This picture (to the left) hits a little closer to home, though.  It’s taken from hwy 249, and you can see the water is up onto the freeway.  If I’m not mistaken, this is near the exit for an HEB grocery store we used to shop at quite often.  It’s where we used to buy our buffalo flank steak for grilling.

By the way, you can always click any of these photos to see an enlarged version.

The picture below to the right shows a strip center near my sister and brother-in-law’s place.  We’ve eaten at that Gringo’s restaurant on a few occasions.  I honestly don’t recall it flooding before, but since it was a little farther from our home, I’m not as familiar with the area. I found this picture online.

Another picture from Brenda here (left).  She called this one, Boat on the Feeder.  Yes, that’s the feeder road to a freeway.

It’s a shame that it took a flood of such magnitude to wipe the previous flood of political crap from our news feeds.  But since the goal of our media “services” is to sensationalize everything, it takes something huge to refocus them.  The message I see repeatedly coming out of the news now is that people are helping one another.  Joe Everyman is grabbing his fishing boat, kayak, canoe, or fishing waders… if he’s high and dry, then he’s moving to where he’s needed.

I’ve read numerous accounts of people launching their boats and helping out wherever they can, and I’m proud to know so many of them.  To the right here, my cousin, once removed (Brenda’s son Jason) is helping a friend get a family and their dog out of danger.

One of my former martial arts instructors has been posting videos on Facebook as he has worked for the last few days, helping to get people and animals to dry land.  I know others who have worked (and are still working) at getting supplies from surrounding areas into the shelters where they’re needed.  As a matter of fact, the church where my parents went for years was just recently remodeled.  It’s been closed for months during the process.

But they’re open now, supplying food, clothing, and shelter to those in need.

This is the America I recognize.  We pull together, lift each other up, help those who need help.  It’s how I was raised, and I’m so glad to see that it is apparently also the way a lot of other Texans were raised.

 

RPotW – 

Let me wrap this up with a “not so” Random Pic of the Week. I don’t know who took this one, but it’s been running around the interwebs for the last day or so.  It’s a powerful image, and doesn’t really need any comment so I’ll just leave it right here for you.

Stay dry everyone.  Stay safe.  I’ll talk to you next time.

May 242017
 

WW83We lost a good friend this weekend… a member of the family.  She was a pretty girl who was as loving as she was stubborn.  In the end, it was the stubborn that got her.  But I suppose we all have our faults, don’t we?

Cricket loved her family, of this I have no doubt.  She loved having her belly rubbed, as most dogs do, her ears were silky soft, and she had eyes that you couldn’t  help but smile at.  For those of you who have followed me for a while, you may recall that Bella and Cricket have had a long history of getting into dominance fights.  It got so bad last year that they had three bad fights in three months, and we were so afraid for Cricket’s safety that we actually tried to find another home for her.  The problem was that even though she was half Bella’s size, she was the one who kept pushing for dominance, which resulted in increasingly severe fights between the girls.

When MBH found a description of our problem in a book about dog behavior therapy, we found out that we had unwittingly been the cause of those fights.  We had two dogs of the same sex whom we treated equally.  We treated them like children.

Here’s a word of warning, people.  Dogs don’t think the same way we do.  Deep in our minds, we know that they are pack animals, and that they adopt us as members of the pack.  But all too often, we don’t know what this really means.  We call ourselves alphas, without understanding that this implies a ranking system.

The book explained that you can’t treat all dogs equally.  If you don’t establish which dog is dominant in the pack, they will often try to figure it out for themselves.  And the way they do that is by fighting.

We began a recommended training regimen, putting ourselves above them by not allowing them on the furniture, and not allowing ourselves to get on the floor with them.  Some of the fights had occurred when we were sitting on the floor with them, or when one of them was on the furniture with us.  According to the information we read, this encouraged them to think of themselves as our equals.  We refused to pet them when they nudged our hands (and this one was really tough) because it meant that they were initiating the affection, in essence telling us what to do.

We stopped petting them at all unless they first “earned” the affection by sitting, laying down, or in some other way doing as they were told.  This taught them that good behavior was rewarded.

And for the safety of the whole pack, we had to choose one dog to be dominant over the other.  Since it was painfully obvious that Bella could kill Cricket if it came down to it, we picked Bella as “top dog”.  We fed Bella first, let her go to bed first, walked her in front of Cricket… even showed Bella affection first.  It was hard not to think of the new regimen as “cold” or “mean”, but dogs are more comfortable with an established pecking order.  And while it was difficult not to love on the cute little girl when she looked up at you with those eyes, we had to realize that the reason we did it was to keep her from picking fights that she couldn’t win.

And it seemed to work.  Their last fight was almost a year ago… until this weekend.

We got complacent.  They had behaved so well for so long that we felt it was under control.  When Cricket got a “hot spot” on her tail and flank, we could tell she was hurting some, so we felt sorry for her.  When I saw her on the couch, instead of a stern scolding, I shooed her off with a voice that was almost apologetic.  When we doctored her hot spot, we once again treated her like we would a sick child, comforting her and showing her affection without always doing the same for Bella.

We weren’t in the room when the fight started this time, so we don’t know for sure which dog started it.  All we know is that it started on the furniture, where neither of them was supposed to be.  Even if we had seen it start, that doesn’t necessarily mean we would know what really happened.  There are unspoken cues between animals that we humans simply don’t have the capacity to understand.  At one point last year, I thought Bella was the one starting the fights.  I later realized that Bella was silently being challenged by Cricket, when the smaller dog would claim Bella’s bed as her own, or in some other subtle way try to assert dominance on her larger packmate.

So perhaps Cricket was on the couch, challenging Bella.  Or maybe Bella was trying to assert her dominance over Cricket, and so attacked Cricket.  What we do know is that Cricket has always been the more aggressive of the two.  Bella has always been our marshmallow with people, even refusing to bite either of us in the midst of their fighting when we’re trying to break them up.

Not so with Cricket.  When she started fighting, she would tear into anything or anyone within reach of her teeth, and I have the scars to prove it.  Like I said, we all have our faults.  Whatever the reason, they got into it again, and this time she was wounded too severely.  The vet told us she might live, but that she was unlikely to fully recover.  She also warned us that the fights were likely going to continue to get progressively worse.  In the end, we had to make the hard decision.

So we loved on her the way she always wanted, and we cried as she left us.  Hell, I’m crying now as I write this.  But we got several good years with her.  I’ll try to concentrate on that.

The irony now is that Bella keeps going through the house, as if looking for Cricket.  She’s still limping a little – she didn’t get out unscathed, by any means.  But she doesn’t give the impression that she’s stalking an enemy.  I’ve heard it said that dogs don’t hold grudges for most things, and I think for Bella that must be true.  I don’t know if I’m just putting my thoughts into her actions, but to me it looks like she’s wondering where her pack mate has gone.  She goes from room to room, and afterward she’ll come find me and lay down on the floor where she can keep an eye on me.

Yeah, we’re going through a rough patch here at the Brackett household.  So I mean this with all my heart… love your family, love your pack.  Not just in a way that makes you feel good, but in whatever way they actually need.

And stay safe.   :weep:

Here’s the way I’ll remember her.  (Our Girls Playing 20161016_091056)