Goodbye, 2015

Well, here I am, once again.  Staring down the barrel of a new year, waiting for that ominous ‘click’ as the…  wait… sorry, wrong story.  (I keep getting stuck in my action novels)  Let’s try this again.

Well, here I am, once again.  Christmas is over and New Year’s is almost here.  In two days it’ll be 2016 ( and WHERE ARE OUR ROCKET PACKS?!) better known to me as the year of “AAAGH, it’s ’16 already and I’m way overdue on ‘Thundercrest’, help!”

Future2.JPG

But, all things considered, it should be a good year and I’m planning to make it so.  I learned a LOT from 2015 and I’m planning to focus all that knowledge with laser-like intensity on… oh, hey, squirrel!

The old year left me with half-a-dozen WIPS, a finished story, two serial novels, a job, plans to get my welding certification, a truck in need of TLC, a motorcycle in need of some dynamite, and a shop full of tools.  And every single one of those things screaming for attention.  Regardless of what else happens, 2016 is NOT going to be boring.

So, first on the check-list for 2016?  To get “Thundercrest” through edits, in print, and for sale.  After that?  Off into the unknown!!!!!

(ooh, that gave me chills!!)

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, one and all!

 

 

The Author’s Dilemma (And What You Can Do About It)

images.duckduckgo.com

Every ‘professional’ author has an internal debate  (some more than others).  For some, it’s a one-time argument.  For others, it’s a recurring discussion, almost to the point of being an on-going row.  The subject of the argument?

“Do I write what I want to write – what I SHOULD write – or do I write what people will buy?”

The problem is, there’s no clear-cut answer to that question.  Or is there?

Fortunately for authors everywhere, novels are something that you just can’t fake.  Have you ever picked up a book by your favorite author and thought to yourself half-way through that it just didn’t sound like that author’s style?  Sometimes you realize later that it was a joint effort by the author you like and another one.  Sometimes it’s just the author trying a new style.

Regardless, it serves to illustrate a point;  people don’t buy novels just for the plot-line, or the characters, or the happy ending.  Even a computer can tell a  story (with the right programming).  A writer, however, brings something else to the table; the writer is a unique individual telling a story.  THAT is what people pay to read.

So, the question “should I write what people will buy” isn’t so hard to answer, after all.  You could write what people are buying.  But the problem there is you’ll be copying someone else and you just can’t make a perfect imitation of another writer’s work.   The readers know the difference and they won’t stand for it.

Strangely enough, though, you CAN write what people will buy.  You do this (with a lot of hard work and perseverance) by making your writing the writing people want to buy.  In other words, make it your style, your story-telling, that people want.

This doesn’t mean that you need to become a different writer, or change your style.  It means you need to become the best you it’s possible to be.  And the coolest thing about that?  NOBODY else can be a better you.  You are, quite literally, the only writer that can be you.

Hurry up:  We’re all waiting.


Reporting From the Front

It’s been a while since the last report on the doings behind the scenes, so I decided I’d send one your way.


Possible12#First (and most importantly) “Thundercrest” is in the midst of being edited. The red ink is flowing, but fortunately not as much as I feared.  My editor isn’t pulling any punches, but the hard grind of writing it seems to have paid off. I’ve received very little criticism of the story, as far as major changes go.  Most of the complaints from beta-readers have been about phrasing and not much of that, anyway.

I’m hoping to have a proof paperback sometime in December, with final proof and release-ready editions by January at the latest.  We’ll see; plans rarely survive contact with the enemy.  , Everything seems to be going smoothly so far, though.


The second item is “Hunter – Eye in the Storm“.  It’s coming along swimmingly, assuming I’m swimming in a riptide.  The story is hovering around 90K words or so, but the ending has decided it doesn’t want to be the ending.  It wants to be the middle and I’m having a dickens of a time talking it out of that.  With a little luck and a lot of pure stubborness (got plenty of that), I’ll tack the final paragraph on it sometime this month.


APUMScoverThird on the list is “A Pawn Up My Sleeve“, the new serial. I’ve already got subscribers, but I’m planning a promotion that I hope will boost subscriptions faster.  As it is, it’s already been worth the effort that’s gone into it.  Huey Spencewood is hilarious to write and I’m well ahead of the installment curve, with over 4,000 words to give me some breathing room.  Of course, if you drop by the webpage and buy a subscription, you’ll upgrade that to “breathing room and lunch money”.  Just saying…


HunterpagebuttonThe Hunter short story “Rock the Boat” has been in the works for over a year now, but it’s almost finished.  A huge part of the time has been spent procrastinating over writing the beastie in it, since it’s a pretty unusual one, but I think I’ve finally got it in workable form.  The story ran on longer than usual, so you’ll be getting a novelette rather than an actual short story.  More story won’t be a problem for anyone, right?


Header17-3On the end of the list, of course, is “Twicebound“.  Who DOESN’T want to hear about “Twicebound“?  As you probably know, I’ve been having a little trouble keeping up with it recently, but it’s pulled through.  Getting called in early for Saturday work at the coffee shop gets in the way of the publishing business.  I really should sit down and write half-a-dozen installments in one go so I’ll have them ready and waiting, but I just can’t find the time.  Regardless, “Twicebound” will continue coming out each Saturday, come rain, shine, snow, or piranhas.

Writing Safari 2#: Starting Out

Writing Safari 2#
Starting Out

126th_Baluchistan_Inf_1912

Once you’ve got all your gear together and you’re ready to get going on your literary safari.  You’re ready for the hunt, ready to face even the fiercest phrase in its natural habitat.

Before you set out, however, your guide gives you some tips to keep you alive and tapping those keys.


Safari Tips

  1. Provisions come first! 
    Your thinking and strength are impaired if you’re hungry.  Struggling to hit the space bar through a pall of starvation is no way to write a novel.
  2. Stay hydrated.
    Plenty of liquid is mandatory, be it water, juice, tea, or coffee.
    Ignore the fools who say coffee will dehydrate you.  Just
    make sure you don’t drink so much your hands are
    shaky and can’t hit the keys accurately.
  3. Writer’s block is in your head.
    Basically, if you think you have writer’s block, you’re going to get writer’s block.
    If you’re badly blocked, get up run around your house three times.
    Your brain will have an allergic reaction to the activity and start
    churning out
    creative ideas in response.
  4. Send regular updates to alpha readers.
    They’re like your compass, sextant, and charts.  If you get
    sidetracked, they can help you get back on the trail.
    And if you take to long to get where you’re going, they’ll
    tell you all about it. For months.
  5. Watch out for Sub-Plot Buffalo.
    You WILL run into them.  And, as every good safari hunter
    knows, a wounded
    Sub-Plot Buffalo is the most
    dangerous prey in the world.  If you must hunt Sub-Plot
    Buffalo, dispose of them in one shot, or they’ll circle around
    and attack you from the rear, just as you’re giving the
    Main Plot its coup-de-gras.


Of course, those aren’t the only tips your safari guide has for you.  They are, however, the ones that he feels you should know before you even reach the trail.  Onward!

Writing Safari 1#: Preparations

 

Most people think writing is like falling off a bike; it’s easy and everybody can do it.  Frankly?  They’re right.  It’s easy (if you know how to type or use a pencil) and everyone can do it (assuming basic reading/writing skills).

Of course, writing doesn’t necessarily mean good writing.  Being able to write competently is like being able to fall off a bike without hurting yourself.  Being able to write exceptionally well is like being able to fall off a bike so flawlessly you get hired as a stuntman for the movies. (And frankly, you’ve got a better chance at being hired as a stuntman than being a bestselling writer. Just saying.)

So, what does being a bicycle-riding stuntman have to do with being a writer? After all,  bicycle talent doesn’t have a lot in common with literary acuity, while authorship doesn’t usually involve broken bones and dare-devil status.

What they DO have in common is one very important thing; practice.  Or more specifically, the courage to keep practicing.

This is the first in a new series of articles “The Writing Safari”, about practicing writing and building the courage to keep practicing, no matter what.  So, pull on your pith helmet and load your gun for dictionary-size words and dive in!  Just keep a careful eye on the tall grass; you never know what sort of snarling grammar rules might be stalking us in the literary darkness.


Writing Safari #1
The Preparations

126th_Baluchistan_Inf_1912

 Pretend, for the moment, that you’re following a dapper gent like this into the wild, uncharted territory of the imagination.  Most people charge blindly into this wilderness, with the idea of hunting down their story and displaying proudly on their trophy shelf, but without any real idea of what they’re getting into.  This is where your safari guide comes in.  He’s hunted many a wily novel, tracked even the toughest of epics across the trackless jungles of the mind’s eye, and come back alive almost every time.

You’d best listen to him, especially before setting out.  He knows that being prepared is the best way to ensure you survive your expedition.  Here’s his list of items you should have before setting out.

Survival Gear
(must have)

  1.  Basic Plot 
    (a beginning, middle, and end are required, even
    if the details are very fuzzy and subject to change)
  2. A Character
    (Never start a story without a character in mind.
    C
    haracters set the pace and tone for the story.)
  3. A Setting
    (Even if it’s a globe-spanning adventure, there
    needs something that ties the story-world to the plot.)
  4. Notepad
    (Unless you have a eidetic memory, keep
    something handy for jotting down details.)
  5. Printer Access
    (Do NOT try writing a book without it.  Our brains
    are hardwired to miss mistakes on a computer screen.)

The Guide’s Recommendations
(good to have, like a tent in a rainstorm)

  1. Alpha Reader
    (Someone to read as you write,
    just help keep you on track)
  2. Sticky Notes
    (Sticky notes are the universe’s gift to writers.)
  3. Multiple Colored Pens or
    Microsoft Change Tracking
    (You need ’em.  Trust me.)
  4. A New Book
    (Nothing gets old faster than writing your own book.
    Keep a new novel on hand to refresh your imagination.)

All the Comforts of Home
(you want it, even if you don’t need it)

  1. Tea/Coffee/Chocolate
    (SOMETHING to distract you, reward
    you, and
    comfort you, every step of the way)
  2. Workout Regimen
    (Physical activity really helps creativity. And
    it counteracts the sedentary habits writers develop…)
  3. Someone To Brag To
    (Getting to brag about milestones is good for the ego)
  4. Stapler/Binders/Folders
    (not mandatory, but nice to have)

 

You’ve got the list written down?  Head over to the supply depot and load up, then check back next week for the next stage of the Writing Safari.

Sneak Peek: “Thundercrest”

SneakPeekThe whining roar of the jets firing up drowned out even the blast of the gunship cannons. Fuel poured into the hot engines, blasting fire as the afterburners lit. Metal groaned and the craft shot skyward, slamming its passengers into their seats.

Chizon gritted his teeth, fighting the acceleration blackout. His knuckles went white. Entry and extraction were the worst parts of any mission; relying on someone else to keep him alive wasn’t something he did well. The only thing protecting the passengers from enemy fire was the pilot’s skill and the aircraft’s armor.

Of course, he had to admit that protection wasn’t the only thing that mattered. Return fire was equally important. The craft shook as the gunner opened up with his cannons, laying down suppressing fire. Chizon’s smile was cold. With two gunships in the air and raining high-explosive rounds on the forest, the Russians didn’t stand a chance.

The pilot leveled off, speeding the craft west, away from the battle-zone. A few seconds later, the thud of the cannon ceased. Glancing around, Chizon could see that the whole platoon was as relieved as he was. They’d survived extraction.

Someone started a cheer, but the captain raised a hand, a frown flickering across his face.

“Hold it, lads. You hear that?”

The compartment went quiet as the soldiers strained to hear. A crackle from the pilot’s speaker drew their attention.

“We’re free and clear, guys. No tails and no missiles, either. Good extr…”

He broke off as something exploded in the distance. For several tense moments, the blasts continued, with no word from the pilot. Finally, the speaker buzzed again.

“The Russians just shelled their own encampment, gents. Looks like you made yourselves too unpleasant to keep around. The whole place is a big crater already, but the shells are still coming down.”

Hydraulics hummed and metal squeaked, then a rush of wind battered the platoon. The loading ramp was opening. They stared out, eyes wide as they watched the defenses they’d just evacuated dissolve in a blaze and cloud of smoke. Rounds still screamed out of the sky, pounding the wreckage into dust and ash.

Benz shot a strange look across the compartment at Chizon.

“Whose cards just hit the table, sir? Yours or theirs?”

The captain looked back at him, expressionless.

“The world’s afraid to call my bluff, sergeant.”


What do you think?!  This excerpt is the fifth scene from Chapter Four, right in the middle of the action.  Here’s hoping you enjoyed it! 

Toss back a drink for me when you get to the mess hall.
I’ve got to dive back into the gritty job of editing this beast!

Also, if you’d like to read more from “Thundercrest” before it comes out, sign up for the newsletter.  This month’s issue will contain a special preview from the novella!
Sign Up!

 

Image Thundercrest Cover Reveal!!

I’m taking the plunge!!  I’ve finally got both versions of the cover (print and e-book) to where I’m happy with them and the beta-readers are in the middle of the initial draft.  It seems as good a time as any to do the cover reveal.

Without any more wasted time… here it is!!
~


~

~

~

~

~
~
~

Possible12#

The artwork, done by Natti Guest, is not only precisely what I needed, it’s even better than the scene I had imagined for it.  Ms. Guest is still working on the back cover, which is primarily cloud cover to match the front.  The text effects are my work, with the help of a lot of style advice from my mom.

This cover… looks amazing.  Of course, that’s the author’s opinion, so it’s biased, but I think I’ve got good reason for thinking it’s awesome.  What do YOU think?

First Draft Done: Thundercrest

I. Am.  Done.  With.  Thundercrest.

Best words I’ve written this week.

I’ve been working on it for a while now, but the story’s on paper at last.  The rest is editing and that’s not too hard. “Thundercrest” was hard, for a new reason: it’s the first story I’ve written that I got half-way through and began struggling to keep the plot rolling.

Fortunately, I broke through the writer’s block and hammered out a good story. (I hope!)  Beta-readers are perusing it as we speak.  Well, as you read, I guess.  You’ll be getting the obligatory new novel sneak peek VERY soon, as well.

One really cool thing about the timing is that the artist I hired to do the cover art finished the front cover at almost the same time I put the last words on the story!

This was the placeholder graphic I slapped together when I first started writing “Thundercrest.

parachute

What’s the completed cover look like, you ask?

qmark

You’ll have to wait and see: the cover reveal is next week!!!

Possible Serial Novel Launch?

As most of my readers know, I’ve been writing and releasing the serial novel “Twicebound” for nearly a year now.  It’s still a long way from completion (totaling less than 30,000 words) and might run for several more years.

What most of my readers don’t know is that I’m planning a new serial novel.  It will run alongside “Twicebound” but in a very different genre.  However, the key difference will be that the new novel won’t be published in the same free-to-read format as “Twicebound”.  I’m planning to run it as a subscribe-to-read serial, at about the same price you’d pay for the standard trade paperback ($10.00) for a full year’s subscription.

It will be released on a weekly basis, with installments averaging 1,000 words each.  I’m still working out the delivery details, but it will probably be released as a PDF download.

The question YOU want answered, though, is “what is it about?”.  Rather than answer that right away, I’m going to let the anticipation sink in for a while first!  The only hint you get right now is the title and a teaser.  The title is:

“A Pawn Up My Sleeve”

We all play games.  That’s life.  Lots of little games all going at once.  Some of us play chess, others play poker, or backgammon.  Everyone turns life into the game of their choice.  Some of them even win at it.

Me… I stole the rulebook.  I don’t play the game, I play the players.  And I always win.

FreeStyle Writing Challenge

Lauren Gunter, of “Making the Novel a Better Place”, nominated me to join in a FreeStyle Writing Challenge last week.  It’s a pretty interesting idea and I needed a post for Tuesday, so I took up the challenge.

Here are the rules of the Freestyle Writing Challenge:

  1. Open a blank document.
  2. Set a stop watch or mobile phone timer to 5 or 10 minutes.
  3. Your topic is at the foot of this post. DO NOT SCROLL DOWN TO SEE IT UNTIL YOU ARE READY WITH YOUR TIMER!
  4. Once you start writing, do not stop until the alarm sounds!
  5. Do not cheat by going back and correcting spelling and grammar using spell check. (The challenge is only meant for you to reflect on your own control of sensible thought-flow and for you to reflect on your ability to write with correct spelling and grammar.)
  6. You may or may not pay attention to punctuation or capitals.
  7. At the end of your post, write down “No. of words = ____” to give an idea of how much you can write within the timeframe.
  8. Copy and paste the entire passage on your blog post with a new topic for your nominees, and copy / paste these rules along with your nomination (at least 5 bloggers).

Here’s the topic Lauren gave her nominees:
Your two main characters from two different WIPs happen to meet. What are the circumstances? What happens? Which setting do they land in?

Here’s my entry, written in ten minutes, with the main characters from the “Hunter” series and “Thundercrest”.


My trench-coat flaps wildly in the breeze.  Or gale.  Heavy leather doesn’t flap in just any wind, you need a pretty stiff blow for that. That’s beside the point, of course.  What concerns me just now is the man standing across from me.  He’s a military gent, that much is obvious.  The deep blue and green of his BDUs, his combat helmet, and backpack aren’t the giveaway there; anyone can wear the gear. 

It’s the way he’s standing, heavy pistol leveled at me, and the look in his eyes.  He’s definitely been on the receiving end of a lot of gunfire.  Like me.  Except I don’t wear camo.

“Got a name?”

He considers that, but his pistol doesn’t waver.  

“Chizon.  Platoon captain, with Bastion & Firestorm.  You?”

I stare at him from under my fedora.

“I’m the guy with the snappy fedora and sawed-off shotgun.  ‘nough for you?”

‘Captain’ Chizon doesn’t even blink.

“No.”

I sigh and drop my pistol.  Someone here has to be the voice of reason and, much as it goes against the grain, I figure it’s gotta be me.  Scary, huh?

“Hunter.”

HIS pistol doesn’t move.  Oh, well.  A guy’s gotta try.

“Pretty funny name, Hunter.”

I raise my head and let the flash of his pistol-light glint green off my eyes.

“It’s not a name.  It’s a job.  MY job and I’m it.”

Chizon’s eyebrows rise slightly when he sees the glint, but that’s all. The guy’s got nerves, that’s sure.

“You’re a Hunter, eh?  What do you hunt?”

“Hunt, not hunt.  And from the look of things, I’m Hunting the same thing you are, just now.”


Interesting… there was a lot less shooting than I was expecting from the meeting of Hunter and Chizon.  I wonder what that means… it could just be that 272 words wasn’t enough time for them to get around to killing each other… yeah, that could be it.

Here are my nominees for the challenge:
Nate Philbrick
Jenna Willet
Nathalie London

*
*
*
*
*

You’re just minding your own business, writing along, (ruining some poor MC’s life) and the cops kick your door in and haul you off to stand trial for committing crimes against fictional characters.  What would the transcript of your trial sound like?