Dec 062018
 

Just a short post here to catch up with everyone.  I’ve obviously fallen off the wagon with regards to posting here in a timely manner.  If you check the dates, you’ll see that my weekly blog post has been missing for a month now.  That happens every year around this time, with the holidays.  Our big one this year was Thanksgiving.  Hope yours was good (those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving). We managed to make a whirlwind trip down to see family for a couple of days. We drove down Wednesday, spent Thanksgiving day at my son and daughter in law’s new home, rested on Friday, and drove back on Saturday.  It was way too brief, but well worth it.  Even more so since my daughters, mother, sister, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and one of my nephews also made it over to visit.  It was the first time in several years that we were all able to spend time together.

Of course, right after we got back, I got sick.  Nothing terrible, just the typical chest cold.  I still have a touch of it, but I’m getting better.  Unfortunately, MBH has it now.  Yeah, I made her sick… even more so than usual. 

Hmmm… what else?

Ah, well, I got a ticket a few weeks ago.  Actually, I guess I need to back up a little bit more for this one…

See, MBH developed some eye issues that made it unsafe for her to drive.  Lattice degeneration that resulted in some torn tissue in her right peeper.  Luckily, she recognized that something was wrong and got in to see an ophthalmologist quickly.  The doc did some laser magic on her eye, and she’s healing up nicely now.  However, there were a few weeks where her vision wasn’t good enough to drive, so Yours Truly did the honors.  It was actually pretty nice, being able to drive her to and from.  But one afternoon, my foot was a bit too heavy on the accelerator, and I found myself on the wrong end of a speeding ticket.  

In other news, I’ve been studying the marketing side of the writing business.  I keep saying I’m going to change some of the things I’m doing with regards to writing.  One of the things I started looking at was why I’m not selling.  See, things have changed a lot since I first got into this.  Back then, you wrote a book, you published a book, you placed the book in a few mailing lists, and then you left it alone while you went and wrote the next story.  That’s not the case anymore.  At least, not if you want to make a living at it.

So I’m having to study some of the new tools available for writers.  I need to learn more about keywords and how Amazon has changed them.  I need to learn more about Amazon Ads, leveraging newsletters, working your title through Amazon’s niche categories so it can climb into the larger categories…  and the more I read, the more daunting it is to realize how far behind I’ve fallen.

So you may see more of the old style “Learning to Write” posts in the future as I go through various lessons and try different things.  Some folks will enjoy them.  Others will likely roll their eyes at the writer tech-speak that will ensue.  Of course, if no one leaves me any comments, I won’t know either way, right? 

Writing progress – 

AP2 – The second Amber Payne novel is mostly finished (I think).  I’ve settled on a new title… “The Payne Before The Storm“.  Or maybe I should drop it to “Payne Before The Storm“… Anyway, all but a few scenes are written. But because of all the cutting and rewriting, many of the chapters are a huge, jumbled mess.  This has, by far, been the most difficult book to write that I’ve done.  But stay tuned for a cover reveal in the near future.

IMR– This was the so-called “sekrit projekt”, and unfortunately, it fell through.  The author who contacted me about it said that his attorney had advised him to not job the project out.  He was going to have me write a prequel series that led into his current series, and there was too much chance of confusing the overlapping intellectual property rights.  That’s a true bummer, since I was actually very excited about the project, and had already written a few chapters and had ideas for six different books.  But nothing written is ever wasted.  What I wrote for that project can be adapted later.  When and/or if I ever get back to the “Warrior Clan” series I was fiddling with, these chapters might fit right in with just a little adjustment.

PE2 – So with IMR off the schedule, it looks like the next book in the lineup will probably be a new Pangaea novel.  Looks like it’s time for Sean Barrow to mount his camelo again. Wonder what he and his friends will run into this time?  

 

And that’s enough.  I said I was going to make it a short one, and that was more than 800 words back.  So I hope you have a wonderful holiday season.  And whether you celebrate Christmas, are in the midst of Hanukkah, or celebrate any other holiday, whatever it may be… stay safe!  

Nov 042018
 

It’s November, and for my fellow writers participating in National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo, as most call it), I wish you all the best of luck.  For those of you who might not know what NaNoWriMo is, it’s a movement wherein aspiring authors dedicate the month of November to the goal of writing an entire novel in a single month.  The goal is writing 50k words in thirty days.  I know a few authors who spend most of October getting ready for NaNo, plotting, planning, writing notes, and when November 1 rolls around, they hit the computer with a fury.

Simple math tells you that 50k words divided by 30 days means NaNo-ers must commit to an average of 1667 words every day.  Sounds simple enough, right?  Except it isn’t.  On days when there are no distractions or interruptions, sure.  Knocking out a few thousand words is no big deal.  But for those people who live in a world with children or a job, or even just the day-to-day minutia of regular living, it can be a challenge to do for thirty days straight.

And while I’ve never participated in NaNo, I know several people who have.  I know many who succeed in their goal every year… and I know many who have never quite made their goal.  Hell, I know a few who finish their 50k in less than a week!  In some of the writing groups I follow, writing 10k in a day is called a “Lowell”.  The term is named after Nathan Lowell, who regularly manages to do this in November.  Nathan is a very successful indie author, one of my favorites, as a matter of fact.  But even he admits that 10k a day knocks him on his tail when he does it.  Of course, there are some who claim to have done even more than that.  I know a couple of writers who claim to have written 20k, 25k, even 40k at a single sitting.  The only one I know personally, who backs his claim under the light of public scrutiny though, is Nathan.

But whether the goal is 50k in a month, or a week, my hat is off to all you NaNo-ers, (or it would be if I was wearing a hat). Go get ’em!  

 

Personal News

A couple of weeks ago, I had the surreal experience that most indie authors live for.  I had given a copy of Pangaea: Exiles to a neighbor.  He had given me permission to use his name in the story, but hadn’t had a chance to read the novel.  So I gave him one of my author copies and he took it on a hiking weekend.  When he got back, he tried to return the novel, thinking I had only loaned it to him, and during the course of convincing him that I had given it to him to keep, he said those golden words… one of his friends had seen the novel, and recognized my name.  He had already read Half Past Midnight, and on my friend’s recommendation, immediately went and downloaded PE1.  Someone recognized my name on a book!  I mean, someone I don’t know.  LOL.  Happy dance!

In other news, the contract job is done.  I finished the project Thursday before last (or at least, as much of it as I could do from a remote location).  Four months of a regular day-to-day (and the steady paycheck that goes with it) helped put life back in perspective.  I was lucky enough to be able to spend lunches with MBH (that was by far the highlight of the job), and work with a great group of people, and that was really great.  But while I really did enjoy the experience, as well as getting the opportunity to dip my toes back into the IT waters again, it really is good to get back to the writing.  I hope I’m not being overly ambitious here, but with the day job behind me for a while, I’m actually hoping to finish the first draft of AP2 by the end of the month. This also means that my Website Wednesday posts will actually go back to Wednesdays.  Which brings me to…

 

Writing News

Yes, I know there are going to be interruptions in the schedule, especially that turkey of a holiday in a few weeks.  But I already have the climactic scenes of AP2 in mind, and I’ve already built the framework to getting Amber Payne and her team to those climactic scenes.  So I really do hope I can stay on track well enough to get it done pretty quickly.

Of course, even if I do, at this point, the chances of actually getting it through beta readers, editing, and formatting, before year’s end are pretty slim.  I’m more likely looking at an early 2019 release date.  I have contacted Streetlight Graphics, the company I use for my covers, to get on their schedule.  We spoke for a bit, discussing cover ideas, and I’m confident that they’re going to have a fantastic cover well before the book is ready to release.  Remember “Cover art lesson #2” from my old “Cover art – from a writer’s perspective” post.

Learn to manage the timing of publication.  There are some tasks that are prerequisite to others.  For instance, the book must be written before it can be edited, and it must be edited before it can be formatted for publication.  However, the cover art can be done as soon as you know your novel’s theme, tone, setting, and characters.  Once you have a feel for what you want on the cover, I recommend that you begin working towards getting your cover done.  This will eliminate the frustration of having your novel written, edited, and files ready for publication while you have to wait on your cover.

At this point, I’m beginning to plan my next projects.  2018 has been a bad year for my writing.  The Year 12 audiobook completely fell through, Crazy Larry stalled at about 90% completion, and AP2, (the Streets of Payne sequel) fought me SO much more than I anticipated, and is turning out to be the longest book I’ve written.  When I look back on the year, I really did a poor job of it.  In fact, the only thing I managed to complete and turn in on time was a short story for an anthology.  And that anthology is currently five months behind on publication.  In short, I haven’t gotten anything published in 2018.  Nothing. 

But that also means I’m poised for multiple titles to be released in 2019.  My goal at this point is to publish three novels, and at least two novellas next year.  I have to contact a few people to hammer out details on what these next projects will be, but I have several options.  If one doesn’t pan out, another will.  My goal remains the same… three novels and two novellas.  As badly as I did in 2018, I plan to make 2019 my most productive year to date.  I’m thinking of it as an early New Year’s Resolution.

With that said, time to get to it.  Stay safe, and I’ll talk to you later.  :bye:

Sep 122018
 

Endings seem to be the theme of the post today.

  •   The End of the End of the WIP

You’ll notice that the progress bar for Payne and Suffering took a drastic reduction.  The manuscript was sitting at 98%.  But the last several chapters I had written didn’t sit well with me. What I was writing didn’t feel “right”, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on exactly why.  Well, I recently had the chance to go back and begin re-reading the manuscript from the beginning, and I was finally able to put a finger on where the story zigged when it should have zagged.

Bottom line? I had tried too hard to force the story into a set word count.  I was shooting for a 90k to 100k word count, when the story wants to be more like 125k to 150k.  I didn’t really want to write anything quite that long, but I finally realized that everything I was weaving into the story wouldn’t work unless I gave it free rein.  Besides, in all the time I’ve spent trying to wrangle the word count under that 100k self-imposed restriction, I probably could have already written the full 150k words I was trying to avoid.

So, I chopped of the end of the manuscript, nearly a quarter of what I had written, and brought it back down to where I had last been happy with the story as a reader.  That brought me down to just under 78k words.  Then I started re-writing the story as it wanted to be told.  I’m currently back up to 85k, and MUCH happier with the way it’s progressing.  I hope you, as readers, will be happy with the result.

 

  • The End of the Laptop

Yes, I had to retire an old friend.  He was a Dell XPS 17″ L702x laptop with a 750 GB primary drive and a 2 TB secondary drive… a real workhorse of a machine.  I bought him back in January of 2012 and it’s now September of 2018.  That’s six years and nine months of tireless work.  And I HAVE worked him hard.  The only criticism I have of him is that he was a bit overweight.  Hauling that 17″ behemoth around was rough on the back… especially as I get older.

Technically, he’s still working.  The problem is that one of the hinges is giving up the ghost.  Anytime I try to open or close the lid, the hinge separates from the screen, popping and scraping, and leaving bits of plastic as it tries to break completely.  And there are only so many times you can continue to try to force the lid up or down before entropy finally wins.  So for now, he is still set up in the office, still powered up.  If not for the fact that the power button is beneath the lid, I would keep him hooked up indefinitely, using him as a desktop.  But I will still have to open the lid (at least enough to reach the power button above the keyboard) any time I want to power him back up.  Eventually, that hinge will go.

So I had to make a decision.  I had saved up enough from the book earnings to fund my next book.  For the first time, I was going to be able to afford editing, cover art and design, formatting… all the publishing expenses, completely off my royalties.  But not if I bought a new laptop.  At least not if I bought another workhorse like the XPS.  So, as in so many things in life, I had to compromise.  I bought a good, business class laptop… a Dell Latitude 15″ 5590.  It’s not got anywhere near the drive capacity of the old XPS, and the drive is slower (5400 rpm vs 7200), but it’s a mid-range and dependable business-class laptop.  It should do the job.  As a matter of fact, I’ve had it for almost a week, am working on it as I type this, and have zero complaints with it.  In fact, my back really appreciates the difference in weight.  LOL

  • The End of a Business Relationship

It’s been more than a year since I commissioned the audiobook version of Year 12.  For whatever reason, the narrator I commissioned has still not delivered the audio files, and it’s time for me to sever the relationship.  For the longest time I was patient as he claimed personal issues.  Truth is, he has a wonderful voice, and I really REALLY wanted him to do the book.  But he’s stopped answering emails, and the contract called for the book to be completed in July of 2017.  It’s now September of 2018.  That’s a year of lost income, and I guess the time for patience and understanding is pretty much past.  So I’ll be severing ties with him.  

I’m not sure yet what I’ll do with regards to a Y12 audiobook… put it back up for audition?  Do the narration myself?  There are pros and cons to both options, and I need to think it over for a while.  In the meantime, I have other books to write.

And that’s it for now.  Time to go from all these ending to beginnings.  Like, beginning to get myself back to work.  

So take care, and stay safe.  I’ll talk to you again soon.  :bye:

Jun 062018
 

As you can see, I finally got the final monitor working.   The external graphic card adapter I bought worked like a charm.  As a matter of fact, if I ever decide to go crazy with them, this particular card is capable of concurrently synchronizing up to six monitors at once.  Of course, you have to buy a new adapter for each one, but it’s nice to have options, right?  LOL

And it seems to already be making a difference as far as the head- and neck aches are concerned, so it looks like this was definitely a good decision.  Thanks, Better Half.  

I have a new mystery.  Not a story I’m writing… a real life, honest to goodness, mystery.  You see, I had an outing last Saturday.  The outing itself isn’t really germane to the story.  But when I got home, there was a package from ‘Zon waiting on the porch.  I was a bit confused, since I didn’t recall ordering anything, but hey, my name was on it so maybe MBH had ordered something & I just hadn’t known it.  I brought it in and sat it on the desk without thinking too much of it for a few minutes.

But when I asked MBH about it, she was as much in the dark about it as I was.  So I opened it up, and found an item I had looked at on Amazon on more than one occasion.  You know, one of those, “if I only had money to spare” kind of things.  It was a Goal Zero portable solar charger and battery core with some USB attachable accessories.  Now, I’ve looked at various Goal Zero products in the past, so I had to make sure I hadn’t accidentally clicked something and ordered it without remembering. (Yes, I’ve done that in the past, so I had to be sure.)

Nope.  Then it occurred to MBH & I that maybe it was an early Father’s Day or birthday present from one or more of the kids.  But they didn’t know anything about it either.  I called my sister & brother-in-law, and they hadn’t done it.  And since my mom lives with them, I checked and she hadn’t bought it, either.

Like I said… mystery.  

The only other thing I can think of is I had just written up a bunch of product reviews for the monitors, graphics adapter, cables, and a bunch of other items I had purchased on Amazon.  I’ve heard that ‘Zon sometimes sends customers items to review.  But if that were the case, wouldn’t they at least send me an email letting me know they had done so?  At any rate, I’ve got a very nice little portable solar panel and charging setup that I’ll be playing with.  And yes, I’ll likely do a full review on it, too.

 

Writing news –

The latest Amber Payne story just keeps going and going.  I’ll probably break 70k by the end of the day, and the characters still don’t even know what the real problem is, let alone the solution.  I have a feeling this one is going to take some serious cutting to bring it down to size.  To give you a comparison, Streets of Payne was right at 90k.  That was my target goal for this one, too, but like I said, I think I’ll probably bust that limit by a considerable amount.

Guess I’ll just have to see where the story takes me.  For now though, it’s time to get back to writing.

Stay safe, and I’ll talk to you next time.  :bye:

May 092018
 

We finally got a storm shelter!  Ever since our tornado scare two years ago, MBH and I have been trying to figure out how to fit a storm shelter into our household budget.  Luckily, the Choctaw Nation has a grant program for tribal members that covers the majority of the cost.  And of course, yours truly is a member.

Yep, if you didn’t already know, I’m a member of the Choctaw Nation, and very proud of my heritage.  Even more so, now that I’ve seen first hand what they do to help their constituents.  Yes, there’s a bit of paperwork, and several months of wait time before approval.  And it took several more weeks for us to be able to get the actual shelter… ironically, because of the weather.

For those of you who might not know, storm shelters are typically pre-manufactured, then transported in pieces before being assembled at the installation site.  In our case, the installation site was our back yard, and intermittent rain over several weeks kept the ground pretty wet.  Much too wet to support a heavy truck with a mini-crane and a the shelter on it.  It turns out that such a load typically runs over fifteen tons.  And if you tell them to install and they get stuck, guess who’s responsible for getting a heavy-duty wrecker out to get them un-stuck?

So we had to wait until we had several consecutive days of dry, sunshiny weather before we were able to finally get it in the ground. And that didn’t happen until last week.  But it’s here now, and just in time for tornado season.

Such a huge relief!

Writing news – 

Payne and Suffering – I mentioned in my last post that I was having trouble tracking the plot and motivations in the latest Amber Payne novel.  The story was threatening to stall for me, and I was really beginning to worry that I was on the wrong track.  Then I had a dream about it.  I’ve mentioned before that I actively try to think about my stories as I go to sleep when I’m having trouble… sort of guiding my subconscious in an attempt to get it to work the problem as I sleep.

Sometimes it works, sometimes not.  To be perfectly honest, it usually doesn’t.  But if it doesn’t work one night, and I don’t solve the problem during the following day, I simply try again the next night.  This time, after several days of minimal progress, and nights of… well nothing, I had my eureka dream.

I realized that I was trying to force the wrong antagonist into a plot that didn’t fit them.  Not only that, but I realized who my antagonist really was, and what their motivations were.  Suddenly, the story is flowing again.  Woot!! 

 

IMR – The sekrit projekt I mentioned last month in WW105 looks like it’s going to really happen.  It’s still in the early stages, so of course I can’t really talk much about it other than to say I’m really, REALLY excited about this one.  We’ve had preliminary discussions, and the contract is being drawn up, so technically, it isn’t a reality quite yet.  But we have verbal agreements in place, and things are looking really good.  As for the story itself, the more we talked about it, the more convinced I was that this was going to be an incredibly fun project.  It’s going to be a lot of work, and will of course impact my writing schedule for the foreseeable future, but I have to admit, I’m looking forward to it.

Watch for the new meter, (IMR) to begin moving when the final details are hammered out and the projekt begins in earnest.

Fringe News – 

This one isn’t really related to my current projects, but rather to a past one.  Streets of Payne was (I think) the first book I had produced in audio format.  It’s available on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes and was narrated by the magnificent Joy Nash.  At the time, Joy was a “struggling actress” in Hollywood, having been in a few shows.  At that point, her most notable role was Simone on The Mindy Project.  Since then, she has gotten several other roles and seems to have finally hit it big with a starring role in AMC’s new series, Dietland (co-starring Julianna Margulies and Adam Rothenberg).

So while I’m incredibly happy for Joy and her success, it looks like I’ll probably have to find a new narrator for the next Amber Payne novels.  

 

And that’s it for now.  Time to get back to writing.  Take care, everyone, and stay safe.  :bye: