Feb 102014

BICHOK Baby2BICHOK.  If you’re a writer, you may know the acronym.  For those of you who don’t, it’s “butt in chair, hands on keyboard”.  Simply put, it means quit making excuses, and get back to writing.  Post holidays, I’ve been slow to get back into my writing.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve been working on it.  But my progress has been glacially slow, and to be perfectly honest, I’ve felt less than inspired.  It came to a head this last weekend.  If you are a member of the RoTaNoWriMo writer’s group on Facebook, you may have seen my post about gathering the numbers for tax season.  Since it is a private group though, many of you won’t have seen it.  So…

I’ve been gathering the numbers for taxes this weekend, and I’ve been paying special attention to the credit and debit columns that are related to my writing for 2013. There are a few things that this has hammered home for me.

First, 2012 (my first year as a published author) was a fluke. I had an unusually successful year, clearing much more than I had a right to expect. I knew it at the time, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t hope in my heart of hearts for a repeat.

Needless to say, 2013 was nowhere near as successful. Now, my writing did pay for two major trips that I would never have been able to afford otherwise (including a week at WorldCon… W00T!), and I did still end up in the black (barely), but two days of catching up on the paperwork definitely drives home the point that you don’t write because you want to get rich. You write because there is something within that won’t let you NOT write.

So no, I won’t be quitting my day job to follow a lucrative writing deal. At least, not this year.

Of course, there’s always next year!  :)


Yeah, I couldn’t help but be a bit disappointed.  But then, on my way to work this morning I heard something that put my year in a little bit better focus…

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a long time follower of The Dead Robots’ Society podcast.  I found them a few years ago and quickly went through every single past episode, soaking up the trials and tribulations of the hosts as they evolved from writing enthusiasts to writing professionals.  I learned a lot from them, even as the hosts shuffled in and out.  One of the newer hosts, Paul Cooley, is someone I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a few times.  He is a horror writer, writing more psychological horror than gore, and he’s really good.  I’ve actually gone so far as to get a signed hardback of one of his books, something I VERY seldom spring for, so that tells you how much I like the guy’s writing.

So what’s the big deal about Paul Cooley, you might ask?  And what does he have to do with whether or not I had a bad year with my writing?  Just this… I was listening to the latest podcast on my way in to work and something Paul said in passing put my Facebook lamentations into perspective.  Paul mentioned that one of his goals as a writer is to bring his LLC (Shadow Publications) into the black, because it’s “still deep in the red”.

In other words, one of the guys I consider to be a decent role model in the writing field is struggling just as much as I am.  That realization started me to thinking.  I need to stop worrying so much about how well or how poorly I’m doing with my writing financially.  Instead, I need to count my blessings, put my head down, and get my ass back in gear.

So this is me, BICHOK.  Tonight, I knocked out another four or five hundred words on the Chucklers novel.  It’s not as much as I would have liked, but it’s progress.  I also did a bit of research for an upcoming scene.

Additionally, I’ve been listening to auditions for a narrator for the upcoming Half Past Midnight and Road to Rejas audio books.

And Year 12 (the HPM sequel) planning and note taking has begun.  There’s also a new story banging around in my head – something quite different for me… a possible urban fantasy.

So here is my battle cry…  If you’re a writer, say it with me…


Stirred, not shaken…

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Oct 052013

Bella and Cricket

You know how when you buy a pack of eggs, no matter how carefully you check, it seems there’s always one of them that gets cracked on the way home? Well, we typically use them as special treats for Bella and Cricket.  Yep, any eggs that we find broken, we scramble up and cook for our furry, four-legged children. This morning, my better half wanted to try something different. She handed me the egg, pointed to a saucepan full of water she had set to boil, and challenged me to poach the egg for the kids.

Quick confession time – my wife and I are foodie fans. We like to watch cooking competitions like Top Chef, and Master Chef on television and pretend we have a clue as to what the competitors are doing.  Well, I pretend.  My wife is actually an excellent cook, as my girth will attest.

Anyway, she already had the water boiling, and was determined that I should poach the egg.  “We should learn how to poach eggs,” she told me. Now, I had watched it done on television before, and it didn’t look like it would be too difficult, but I was curious as to why I should poach an egg, especially for the dogs?  To be perfectly honest, the very idea of poaching an egg has always seemed a bit strange to me.  I mean, it’s basically just boiling an egg without it being in the shell, right?  Wouldn’t it be easier to simply drop the egg, shell and all, into the water?  Okay, not in this case, since this egg had a cracked shell, but the way she said it made me curious.  “We should learn how to poach eggs.

PoachedEggCooking“Um, just why exactly do we need to know how to poach eggs?”

My beautiful wife of nearly twenty-eight years seemed to stammer for a moment. “Well, they’re supposed to be good for you.”

“Better than a regularly cooked egg?”

“Yes, there’s no butter, or oil, or anything like that in them.”

“Better than a boiled egg?”

She stopped for a second, then grinned and shrugged her shoulders. “Old people seem to like poached eggs.  We’re old.  Poach the egg.”

I love my wife, but she didn’t fool me for a moment.  She just wanted to see if I could manage to poach it without making a mess of things.

Well, I managed — barely.  And clumsily.  And not without help. But I did manage to poach the egg.

For the dogs. (sigh)  ?:-)

I guess that sometimes it’s all about the challenges in life.  LOL.


On the writing front: 

IMPs – The plot of the story is moving ahead.  However, I seem to be having trouble with the character’s voice.  Neil started out with a much more formal narrative style, but has suddenly morphed into a much more relaxed and informal person.  I’m not really sure what this means, but I’m afraid it can only lead to re-writes.  (sigh)  I just have to let go of wanting it to be perfect at first.  To paraphrase some of the valuable lessons I learned on The Dead Robots’ Society podcastIt’s okay to suck.  The story really gets written during the edits.

Chucklers – Ed Lorn is buried in his many other projects, and since he is considerably more prolific than I am, has asked that I move forward on this project without him, with the understanding that he will catch up (and I’m confident that it will be pretty effortless on his part) at a later date.  That means no more excuses on my part.  :(

Y12 – The sequel to Half Past Midnight is really banging around in my head lately, so it looks like I’ll be opening a new folder.  I’m excited that I’m going to finally get started on that project, but concerned that I’m spreading my writing time so thin on each project.  I don’t want to spend so little time on each project that I don’t make nay real progress on any of them.  I guess I’m going to have to find some way to get more disciplined with my writing.

All right, that’s enough for now.  Time for me to start some of that discipline and get back to writing on these stories.

Stay safe everyone.  :bye:



Oct 212012

Streets of Payne – My commute to and from the day job each day gives me approximately forty-five minutes to an hour of down time.  Rather than listening to music (which eventually becomes monotonous for me) or talk radio (which almost immediately gets me angry and has me yelling at the radio), I listen to podcasts.  In a way, that’s what got me serious about my writing.  I was listening to Podiobooks on my iPod and heard a sponsored ad in one of them about a podcast called The Dead Robots’ Society.  Their tag line was “for aspiring writers, by aspiring writers”, and I remembered how much I enjoyed writing.  I started listening to the Robots and began learning about the new business model that is modern publishing.  Since then, I have also become a big fan of Nathan Lowell’s Talking On My Morning Walk (personal tidbits from a fantastic indie writer), and Jack Spirko’s The Survival Podcast (because yes, I am very much a proponent of a self-sufficient lifestyle – call it “prepping” or “survivalism” if you like, but to me it’s just common sense).

My kids like to joke about my listening habits, often lamenting that Dad would rather listen to “the talkie men” than to music.  But the thing for me is that between those three regular podcasts, I’ve found a balance between keeping the creative juices flowing, learning more about the crafts in which I am most interested, and allowing my mind to wander just enough to keep the storylines percolating in the back of my head.

But on rare occasions, it stops working.  It usually starts with a slightly uneasy feeling that something is off.  I find myself unable to concentrate on what Justin and company are discussing on the DRS podcast, or on what Nathan was just talking about on TOMMW.  Sometimes I find myself getting too caught up in what Spirko has to say on TSP, and forgetting that I’m also supposed to be letting a plot air out in my hindbrain while I listen.  Whatever it is, I’ve learned to recognize the symptoms by now and whenever I spot them in myself, I know what I have to do.  The iPod goes off, gets packed into the console, and I refuse to allow myself to listen to any more of my “talkie men” until I figure out what’s bothering me, and what I need to do to fix it.

Just recently, I felt that niggling in my hindbrain… the lack of concentration that let me know something was off.  I’d had a decent run of writing, reached the end of a sub-plot arc, and then stalled.  Something was wrong and the plot wouldn’t gel for me.  In order to force my mind to focus, I decided that my commute time would be better served by concentrating on SoP and the problems I was having with it.  So I put the iPod away and began the mental exercise that forced me to openly concentrate on identifying the problem.  It took almost a week before I realized that the antagonist in my current work in progress (Streets of Payne) had some conflicting motivations.  He was acting against himself, and my subconscious had evidently been screaming to get my attention.

Finally!  Step one was completed.  I had identified the problem.  But that led to another problem.  Once I examined the character’s motives, it turned out that he wasn’t really the antagonist after all.  So who was?  What character had sufficient motivation and strength of character to serve as a worthy antagonist to my protagonists?  It took another week and a half before I was satisfied with my conclusions, but I finally figured out who it was.  More importantly, they told me how they pulled it off.  It’s taken some tedious rewrites to make sure the plot and character changes worked, but I’m pretty excited about the changes.

And I pulled my iPod back out.  Once again, my daily commutes are filled with the musings and teachings of my chosen instructors, and SoP is flowing again.  I still don’t get much time to write, but I hope to finish the first draft by the end of the year.

12P – What is 12P?  It’s the designation I’ve given to the HPM sequel that won’t leave me alone.  Part of the reason it took me so long to figure out the problems with SoP is that as I tried to work my way through the problems there, 12P kept intruding.  Every time I started my commute with the intent to hammer through my SoP issue, my mind would detour to what needed to happen in 12P.  It was both exhilarating and frustrating at the same time.

SoP sequel? – Yes, to top it off, I had an idea for another SoP book.  Not sure when I’ll get to it, but there it is.  Yet another book for the idea factory.

All right, that’s it for now.  Time for bed and I really need that beauty sleep.  Stay safe, everyone. :bye:

Jul 182012

Someone recently asked me how I came up with the world of The Burning Land.  I’m sure most of you haven’t read it, but the few who have, know that some of it takes place on a rather colorful world.  It’s a world of green skies and orange seas, where the jungles are filled with plants of various shades of red.  (And of course, if you want to read about it, it’s in the Dead Robots’ Society’s anthology, “Explorers: Beyond the Horizon“.) ;-)

Beta Carotene molecule - 3D representation

Beta Carotene molecule – 3D representation

It started with a dream in which my muse took on the relatively complex idea of interweaving two related stories told from two VERY different perspectives.  For some reason, the biggest question on my mind when I awoke was, what color would the sky be on this world?  Well, some of you may not know this about me, but I’m a bit of a research junkie.  I love to try and figure out how things work.  I’m not saying I retain that knowledge, mind you.  But when a question like that occurs to me, I have a tendency to start googling right away.

In this case, that simple question about the color of the sky on an imaginary alien world took on a life of its own, and what I earlier referred to as “a relatively complex idea” suddenly became EXTREMELY complex!  That one thought led me down a rabbit hole of research trying to determine how the various factors that affect the color of the Earth’s atmosphere could have turned out differently.  I read more than I ever wanted to know regarding atmospheric density, Rayliegh scattering, types of photosynthesis, Stellar classifications and the frequency of the various star types in our galaxy, molecular composition of transluscent atmospheric particulates…

I researched possible alternate conditions for an alien world capable of sustaining human life in an attempt to justify the world that I envisioned.  In the end, I had a system that presented enough viability for me to accept that it could possibly work.  And it answered my original question – the sky would be green!  And the thought processes dominoed from there.  You see, it seemed reasonable that changes in the visible light spectrum from an orange dwarf star being filtered through an oxygen rich atomsphere could ultimately favor beta carotene over chlorophyll as the basis for photosynthesis.  If that were to occur, then plantlife wouldn’t reflect green light, but rather reds and oranges!

My imagination went nuts with all the possibilities.  So much so that it was difficult to reign it back to a 5000 word short story, as was required for the anthology to which I was submitting.  But in the end, I did it (obviously) and the story was evidently intriguing enough for the editors.

And that’s it.  Not very exciting, but it’s a glimpse into the way my crazy mind works.

That’s it for tonight.  I know this is a rather short post, but my daughter is visiting for a few days, and I want to spend a little more time with her.

So forgive me for now, but goodnight.  And as always, stay safe. :bye:

Jul 092012

Well, it’s been quite an eventful week.  Starting with last weekend, my wife and I went shopping for a decent desk for me to work on.  I currently have an old Ikea computer desk that I really outgrew several years ago.  It has little surface area, and no drawers at all.  My better half convinced me that if I’m going to take this writing stuff seriously, I need a real desk with real storage in it.  So we went shopping and found a great U-shaped desk with a credenza, hutch, lateral file drawers, bookshelves, and about triple the surface area that I currently have.  However, since we’re also looking into getting new carpet, we need to wait for the furniture until the new carpet is in.

Oh well, patience is a virtue (or so they tell me).

Then on Monday, I was honored to be one of the guests on the Dead Robots’ Society podcast!  It was so cool to be part of the podcast that rekindled my interest in writing to begin with.  In case this is the first time you’re reading my blog, I was on DRS because I had a short story (The Burning Land) in their anthology, Explorers: Beyond the Horizon.  I urge you to get a copy, and not just because I have something in it.  I’ve read about half of it so far, and there are some really good authors represented in it.  And as icing on the cake (for me), the anthology has received its first review:

Jul 05, 2012

Anita King        rated it        4 of 5 stars false

As a fan of the Dead Robots’ Society podcast, I have long anticipated the release of their anthology project, and it does not disappoint.If I could give halves, I would give this a 4.5.
Overall, this anthology is a very enjoyable read. While a few of the stories have darker endings, the book carries a thread of hope and optimism throughout, especially appropriate for an anthology that focuses on exploration and the very human drive for discovery.
A couple of the stories near the end didn’t really strike a chord with me, but most of them were just what I was hoping for. A few that I especially enjoyed are “The Burning Land,” by Jeff Brackett, “A Mournful Rustling,” by Court Ellyn, and “Beneath an Orange Sky,” by Andrew Hawnt. This book has given me a whole new list of authors to look out for in the future.

Wow! I feel like pulling a Sally Fields – “you really like me!”  Thanks, Anita.

And of course, this week was also the 4th of July.  So belated Happy 4th, everyone!  It sucked that it fell in the middle of the week this year, but c’est la vie.  The worst part of it was that our dogs don’t much care for fireworks, so we got little to no sleep, then had to get back to work on Thursday. (sigh)

Thursday I saw a great piece of artwork online, and was able to find the artist.  I contacted Ana Fagarazzi about doing a cover for me for Streets of Payne, and will hopefully have the cover in a few weeks.  I’m really looking forward to this.  Ana’s artwork is phenomenal.

And I got an email from my editor regarding “The Road to Rejas.”  She says she’s finished the story, has her notes, and we are scheduled to discuss round one of edits tomorrow evening.

I just finished my first installment in “EBS”, the book that Ed Lorn and I are working on together.  It is shaping up to be quite the fun tale.  It’s finally reached the point where I’m no longer writing the characters – they’re now telling me how the story goes.  I’ve never been involved in a project like this before.  We have a cast of characters, and Ed and I have split them up.  He writes some of the characters, and I write others.  What’s really intriguing about this process is that we work off of each other’s pieces – Ed writes part, sends it to me, and after reading it, I write my character’s response.  Then I send mine to him, etc.  It keeps the story fresh and interesting for both of us.

And speaking of Ed Lorn, I mentioned a few weeks ago that he had asked me to write a guest blog for him on the subject of prepping.  Well, I finally did it, and he’s posted it on his website.  Read “Ruminating on: Jeff Brackett on Preppers” and leave a comment.

I’ve also gotten a little more done on Streets of Payne.  Working to get cover ideas to Ana has helped clarify some points about the protagonist, Amber Payne.

On a more personal note, my better half an I sanded, spackled, taped off and painted three rooms in the house.  We’re now officially empty-nesters, and are responding appropriately – we’re rebuilding the nest.  :)

That’s it for now.  It’s midnight, and I have to get up in five hours to go to work.  So until next time, stay safe. :bye: