Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays (and, yes, I really created this book banner – my apologies)!

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Well, we’re closing in on the end of the year and it really has been a good one. It’s been exciting to have three books out and Jump When Ready, Book 3 will be published next month (working on the follow-up to Streetlights Like Fireworks too, as well as other ideas). But, more importantly, I wanted to thank all of you who’ve read my books this year, those who’ve left reviews (really, thank you so much!) as well as you guys who’ve subscribed to my newsletter (I’ve really enjoyed talking to you and I look forward to receiving emails from you in the future). Thank you for making it such a great year! I thought I’d pay you back by creating possibly the dorkiest book banner ever (notice the fine details on this masterpiece, once again suggesting that a little Photoshop knowledge can be a dangerous thing). Anyway, before I get totally distracted by family, friends, food, presents, food (and more food), I just wanted to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! I hope all of you have fantastic holiday season! See you soon and thanks again very much!

NaNoEdMo (that wasn’t a typo)

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Now that it’s December, I can finally stop feeling like a loser for not joining the NaNoWriMo party last month. Again, don’t get me wrong. I think it’s a fantastic idea and I totally admire and support those who undertook that challenge, whether they met their goal or just kicked off a draft to keep working on. Either way, it’s all about motivation and how could there be anything wrong with that?

As I mentioned in my last post, my goal for November was to finish edits on my new book, Jump When Ready # 3 (actual title forthcoming). Did I make my goal? Well, sort of. I mean, I did finish a first round of editing. Then, a second. Both of those were done last month. Now, I’m on my third (the plan is to finish this weekend). Anyways, it seems to me that it’s only fitting to talk a little about editing. What else could possibly follow NaNoWriMo? Please don’t tell me you guys can both write and edit a novel in 30 days.

As it stands right now, I don’t pay someone to edit my books. Partly, because I can’t afford to and partly because I’m not sure how someone else could straighten out the mess I create for myself every time I draft a novel (even though these days I do use “story beats” to keep me from veering too far off course). I mean, sure, an editor could catch those typos and repeating phrases, all that, but I suspect there would be some serious head-scratching going on, at least following the first draft and maybe even the second. It’s in those drafts that I turn what I thought I was saying into what I actually meant to say. By the time I get that far, I figure I might as well take it the rest of the way as far as line-editing is concerned. I may very well change my mind about this in the future, so don’t hold me to this.

nanedmoI think we can all agree that there’s really nothing very exciting about editing. When I started writing this post, I totally assumed there was no such thing as NaNoEdMo. As it turns out, I was wrong but those folks are on hiatus for this year. Either way, it’s kind of hard to imagine NaNoEdMo creating anything similar to the buzz of NaNoWriMo. Hey, everybody, let’s all get together and celebrate squinting in puzzlement! Let’s delete, move, move again, rewrite, recast, revise, clarify and further develop! Let’s all admit that, at times, we think we’re totally shitty writers who can’t possibly get it right the first time! Or the second, or even third. Woot, woot! Maybe I’m wrong and it’s just me. Maybe, I’m just ridiculous about things like shuffling pronouns around and cutting dialogue tags (for which, I’m once again grateful that I chose to write a series of novels where, at times, as many as five or more people all join in on a conversation). For me, editing seems like it takes forever, and I write fairly short novels.

I don’t mention it often because I know how it can go over. People can really get the wrong idea. But, yes, I went through an MFA program. There, I said it. But, hang on. Everyone thinks you’re supposed to emerge as some sort of literary genius if you get an MFA. Looking back, I think that may actually be one of the biggest problems with MFA programs—that those in them start to think that they should either produce gorgeous gems of literary fiction or bail on writing entirely. As for me, I just wanted to get better at crafting stories (plus, I didn’t have to pay since I was a GTA). Why do I bring up the MFA thing? Not to impress anyone since I’m not producing gems of literary fiction (hopefully, though, I am producing well-crafted stories). I mention it only because I think those workshops—those sometimes sadistic, torturous dissections of our own manuscripts at the hands of others—were really helpful in teaching me how to distance myself from my own work enough to do a decent job of editing, especially when it came to cutting stuff that wasn’t serving any real purpose or advancing the story. Which, come to think of it, might be why I write fairly short novels. Every time I draft one, it ends up shedding a few thousand words by the time I finish revising.

Anyway, all of this is to say that editing is a big part of the process. It’s when the fun stops and the work begins. At least, I bet it feels that way for a lot of people. At the same time, that’s not to say editing isn’t gratifying. For me, it’s a really great feeling when I read the book for the fourth (or tenth) time and realize I finally got it where it needed to go, that it’s ready to be published. Then again, I’d also be lying to say that I’d rather be editing than drafting that next book. I mean, come on, let’s be honest. Editing is a pain in the ass.

How’s NaNoEdMo going for you? We’re at the same party now, right? Guys? Are you with me?

 

Image via Creative Commons (adapted):

https://www.flickr.com/photos/roland/with/11165885236/

NaNoWriMo Guilt

conGifSo, yeah. First of all, I think NaNoWriMo is a fantastic idea. I’ve heard the criticisms from those who feel differently but I don’t agree with that point of view. How can something not be great if it motivates people to do what they’ve been meaning to, in some cases, for a very long time? Why would you want to rain on that parade? But there’s another side to NaNoWriMo—the dark side. Yep, guilt. It’s like that diet that never quite happens or that promise to hit the gym more that doesn’t pan out (notice passive voice there). It makes you feel like a loser. That’s me and NaNoWriMo. Every year, I really want to participate. Honestly, I totally do. I want to have that nifty word count gauge proudly displayed on my blog. I want to show the world that I’m creating a new novel in less time that it takes most people to rake their lawn. So, what’s stopping me?

That’s exactly what I keep asking myself. This year I told myself I’d plunge in and join the fun. Okay, I did just finish a new novel last week. But it took me two and a half months to write it. I know. I probably shouldn’t admit that publicly. That’s considered ridiculously slow these days. But, for me, that’s pretty darned good and I can thank people like Johnny, Sean and Dave (fellow indies, you know who I’m talking about) for enlightening me to the effectiveness of “story beats.” Damn, who knew outlines actually worked. I always thought they were for the weak. For the record, I will never pants my way through anything again. The result (for me, at least) is that I basically I’ve had to rewrite the whole damned thing and that’s just a total waste of time. But you might notice here that I’ve digressed. Am I maybe avoiding the NaNoWriMo question? I kind of get the feeling I am. So, what’s my excuse?

Is it fear of failure? Well, no. I don’t think so. I can deal with failure. I fail at many things. Sports, for example. Yeah, I’m pretty bad at most of those (although I’m a decent swimmer and an active person—just for the record). Maybe it’s fear of public failure? That actually might be closer to the truth since I totally know there’s no way I’m going to produce even a decent draft in 30 days. There, I said it. That’s the truth. Okay, maybe if I quit my job and totally ignore my family. Then, I think I might be able to pull it off. Otherwise, I’m pretty sure I’d fall far short of the goal. Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure there are lots of people who can produce quality work in that timeframe, even as they balance other demanding aspects of their life. I’m just not one of those people.

That’s my problem, not yours. I’ll just have to deal with it. So, I guess this is my way of saying to all of you who’ve committed to the NaNoWriMo endeavor that I admire you. I support you. I envy you a little. Most of all, though, I wish you all the luck in the world and can’t wait to read your novels! Meanwhile, I’m hoping to finish editing my new book by the end of the month. Should I admit that it takes me that long? I realize that’s not very impressive but it’s just the truth. I’ll be lucky if I finish my edits that quickly (probably, I won’t). You can see here why I can’t possibly feed Amazon sufficiently as so many seem to be attempting by publishing a new book every month or so in response to the “30 Day Cliff.” I honestly have no idea how that’s even possible but I do know it’s not possible for me.

So, I guess I won’t be going to the party again this year. I’ll be staying home, struggling with guilt and the sense of being a social media outcast who can’t rightfully employ #NaNoWriMo in any of my Twitter posts (but I can retweet to show support, right?). I’ll be slowly slogging my way through the new novel one paragraph at a time, hoping to polish it up and make it worthy of publishing. I guess that too is something of an admirable goal but I fully realize it’s not nearly as cool or exciting. Still, please wish this slowpoke good luck and I will do the same to all of you. Good luck, guys! Maybe next year. Maybe…

Zombies Invade Carytown (Again)

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When we first moved to Richmond, we hadn’t heard of the annual Zombie Walk. So, it came as something of a surprise one evening when driving through town to suddenly find ourselves surrounded by the walking dead. We were with friends on the way to an event and I remember our reaction was something along the lines of, “Hey guys? What the hell?” As it happened, we were with people who’d lived here for a while so they knew the deal. That particular year, I remember it was getting dark so they must have once held the Zombie Walk a little later than they do now. It definitely added a creepy dimension but I’m glad they’ve since started scheduling it earlier in the day. Mostly, for the sake of the zombies who a few times seemed in peril of getting struck by cars at intersections (I mean, I don’t think they’re real zombies).

Annual Richmond Zombie Walk

Annual Richmond Zombie Walk

Since that first time when we  happened upon the event, we’ve made a point of going each year to watch the parade of zombies as they stagger along Cary Street in a part of Richmond known as Carytown. Carytown, by the way, is pretty cool. It’s basically the more trendy part of Richmond with lots of restaurants, shops, record stores and, of course, the historic Byrd Theatre (which is reputed to be haunted). Carytown is great place to spend the day. It’s even better, naturally, when zombies shuffle about.

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Doctor Who Zombie

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Lego Zombies (Zombie Walk is a family event, sort of)

The Richmond Zombie Walk is a fitting way to usher in Halloween and loads of people turn out to either watch or participate. Those taking on the role of zombie for the day generally aren’t messing around. Most of the costumes, as you can see here, are really well done. There are plenty of creepy, gory, more traditional zombies but there are many others who bring a touch of humor to the event.  This year, we noticed one young man who even paid tribute to Doctor Who (sorry I didn’t get a better shot since people were crowing around him to take pictures). As Doctor Who fans (yep, there’s that theme again), we enjoyed seeing the Doctor represented (by the way, the boy was dressed as the eleventh doctor, zombified of course).

We also spotted a Game of Thrones character zombie, a squire zombie and Lego zombies, to name a few. The Zombie Walk is a family event, by the way, so there are a number of children and families taking part both as zombies and as spectators. Although, there was one young girl nearby who was clearly terrified and I couldn’t imagine why her father didn’t take her home. That poor kid will probably have nightmares for a month.

Squire zombie

Squire Zombie

Those of you who stop by this blog may have noticed that it’s been straying from writing-related topics a little. Not that there’s anything wrong with that  but my excuse for this post is that several of my YA novels involve characters in an afterlife setting while another involves, at least partly, continuing visits from a ghost. So, it seems to me there’s room for a few zombies here as well. Who knows, maybe I’ll write one of those books too. Actually, I started one and stopped when the movie Warm Bodies came out since it shared so  many similarities. I wondered if people would think I’d ripped off the movie. I don’t know, maybe I’ll dust it off and take another look at it. It seems like zombies are here to stay.zombie_gameThrones

Moffat Assures Fans That Doctor Who Finale Will Be The Same Old Impenetrable Bullshit

David Pandolfe:

Technically, this is writing-related but either way I couldn’t resist. Are you starting to sense something of a Doctor Who pattern on this blog? Yep, we’re big fans. Anyway, this spoof is for my fellow Whovians.

Originally posted on Blankfire Bulletin:

Steven Moffat holding the season finale script that is written on a papyrus scroll.

Steven Moffat holding the season finale script that is written on a papyrus scroll.

Steven Moffat has assured Doctor Who fans that despite several new writers coming in offering fresh, original interpretations of the show, the series finale will be as impenetrable and obtuse as viewers have come to expect.

Production assistant Anne Incider said that Ste-mo was relishing the chance to show the world how clever he is yet again. “It has been nice to have some fresh faces like James Mathieson and Frank Cottrell Boyce about the place giving the show a breath of  fresh air but Ste-mo has been quick to point out that in the long run their stories ‘don’t count’”

“Ste-mo has come up with a season finale so complex that anyone who walked past his office and saw his planning board would immediately collapse and have severe seizures. He’s become a bit Russell Crowe…

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What’s Next for Authors United?

David Pandolfe:

Agreed, it would be wonderful if Authors United worried more about actually uniting authors.

Originally posted on David Gaughran:

authorsunitedAuthors United has been spectacularly unsuccessful in its supposed mission to get Amazon and Hachette to agree a deal.

By contrast, Simon & Schuster was able to agree a deal in just three weeks – without the intervention of Douglas Preston’s group.

To be fair, Authors United has been very good at one thing: getting media attention.

Perhaps it’s time for Douglas Preston to widen the aims of the group and start campaigning on issues which actually matter.

It would be great if Authors United could get the media to focus on any of these problems. Alternatively, Authors United could continue to focus on propping up a broken system which only rewards those at the very top (like Douglas Preston, surprisingly).

1. Diversity in Publishing 

Publishing is very white and very middle class. And, at the upper echelons, often very male too. One of the many knock on effects of…

View original 786 more words

That Isolated Writer (You’ve Seen Him Too)

writers400So, we watched one of those movies last weekend that had a writer in it. You know the story. The writer is a lonely guy. He stares at the “blank page” waiting for the muse to visit. At times, he gazes through tired eyes out at the ocean (writers always live at the beach, right?). He is, of course, an educator, once adored but now tarnished. He struggles with self-doubt and depression. The writer relies on booze for inspiration. In fact, the writer relies on booze entirely and, of course, ultimately acts like a drunken fool in pubic, humiliating himself by stumbling around in a bar where he causes a scene. Ultimately, more bad things happen to the writer since he’s such a tortured soul.

Why does this trope keep getting perpetuated? It’s just so strange to me since most of the writers I know work other jobs and don’t sit alone all day staring at their computer screen with one trembling hand reaching for the whiskey bottle. In fact, none of them drink heavily. By the way, only one is an educator. None of my writer friends live an isolated existence (although one does live at the beach and I’m a bit jealous of that). Like me, these writers are married, they have kids. They have a positive outlook and, sure, they’re obsessed with writing their books, their book reviews and book sales. To a degree, they’re just obsessed with books in general. But these writers care more about the people in their lives than their writing. In some cases, writing is their career and in others it’s a career in progress (hopefully). All the same, their children come first, as do their wives or husbands.

This representation of the solitary writer made me start thinking about why most writers start writing to begin with. While Hollywood often portrays writers as self-absorbed and aloof, I think most writers create fiction so they can reach out and share the stories they imagine (in which there is always a piece of themselves, of course). It’s not about ego and validation as much as it’s a desire to connect with others. What’s really wonderful to experience as a writer are those moments when you realize that’s actually happened. It’s incredibly meaningful to learn that you’ve had a positive impact, through your writing, on the life of someone you’ve never met. This happened to me recently when someone left this comment about Jump When Ready: “…I’d been living in a state of stasis more or less the last few years, not exactly like the group in your books. Recovering from illness and battling the daily uncertainty of depression which I’ve had to deal with the majority of my life. But those lines about jumping back into it again (life) with all uncertainty, fears, anxieties, laughs, time spent with real friends …really hit me and gave me a way of looking at it that made sense! It’s time for me to jump.” I can’t tell you how moving it was for me to read those words and realize I’d contributed something meaningful that touched the life of this person. I felt both honored and a bit stunned. What greater compliment could a writer ever hope for?

Recently, someone else left this in a review of Streetlights Like Fireworks: “I could feel through the characters and their journey how faith and following one’s heart can take us exactly where the universe wants us to go, and I was left feeling charmed and uplifted. Bravo! One of the best books I have ever read (and I just finished all five “Song of Ice and Fire” books, so I read a lot). A total breath of fresh air.” Every writer loves it when they receive praise, especially through a favorable book review. But, again, in this instance I felt incredibly humbled at the thought that something which sprang from my imagination altered someone’s outlook in such a way. Honestly, it just amazes me.

So, sure, writers may spend a fair amount of time alone. I guess that’s pretty much required since it’s extremely challenging to write while the kids are trying to get your attention (I know, I’ve tried many times). But in the end the writing is not about the writer but rather that imagined reader who, hopefully, ends up being a real person out there in the world someday when you finally publish that story or novel. It’s all about connecting, reaching out, not withdrawing into that lonely shell stereotype that Hollywood keeps dragging out of the closet. Okay, that’s it. I just wanted to share my thoughts on that. I’m off to the bar now for some time alone.

Yeah, right. I’ll be spending some time with my family first. Later, I’ll get some writing done. Cheers.

Not the coolest thing ever, but still very cool…

hot new 2This isn’t the coolest thing that ever happened to me. After all, I have two kids. But this is really cool. The new novel, Memories From a Different Future, showed up today as an Amazon “Hot New Release” in the Time Travel category! I really hope this doesn’t  sound like I’m bragging. I’m just excited and wanted to share since I know full well how things go and how data shifts. By tomorrow, this blip might well be over and someone else’s book will pop into that same position. That’s all good (okay, I probably won’t really feel that way). For tonight, though? Yep, that’s my new book sitting right there where I would not have imagined it being. Thanks to all who have read and reviewed so far!

Memories From a Different Future (and other news)!

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So, kind of a roundup of what’s been going on lately (some pretty cool stuff). Most of this is book-related but not all (I’m not entirely convinced a writer’s blog should only be about writing and I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on that).

First and foremost, the second part of the Jump When Ready series, Memories From a Different Future, is now published!! Yes, I’m kind of excited about this as I am each time I’ve published a new book. So far, it’s not getting any less exciting for me. This one will be exclusive to Amazon for a while so my apologies to you Nook and Kobo readers. The book will be available in print, of course, so that’s always an option. Also, I’ll let you in a secret: those who subscribe to my newsletter have learned about other options in the past. If you subscribe, give me a shout and we can talk.

Another milestone this week for me: Streetlights Like Fireworks crossed the 50 reviews mark on Amazon (and so far it seems like people really like that book)! I know there are writers out there with hundreds, even thousands, of reviews but, for me, crossing the 50 line is a first. I’ve only been at this about a year, so I guess that’s not too shabby and reviews from readers make all the difference in helping books get noticed by other readers. So, thank you to all who have read and reviewed so far!

SubCategoryWeirdnessAnd there’s this bit of ridiculousness to share with you guys. I was peeking at Streetlight’s sub-categories last night and saw this. That’s right. My book next to George R. R, Martin’s. Now, to put this bit of algorithmic strangeness into perspective, Mr. Martin’s book is evidently not for sale yet. Still, how it bumped into mine in a subcategory is something of a mystery. Either way, I guess it’s something like Robert Downey Jr. driving past you on the highway. You might say, “Wow, I’m on the same road as Robert Downey Jr!” Which just means that Robert Downey Jr. drove past you and obviously you’re not going to end up at the same party. All the same, how could I resist grabbing a screen shot of that one?

doctor-who-capaldiNow, this really has nothing at all to do with writing but the new season of Doctor Who kicked off last weekend featuring Peter Capaldi in the role of the doctor for the first time. Why am I including this here? For no reason other than we’ve become geeked out Whovians over the last year or so, which means this event was on par with how some people feel about the Super Bowl. We had a family Doctor Who night and did not come away disappointed. In fact, we unanimously agreed that Peter Capaldi is going to make a fantastic and intriguing new doctor and we’re totally on board for another season of adventures in time and space.

Okay, well it’s Labor Day weekend for those of us in the US. grilling-burgersDoes anyone else feel that this is the lamest holiday of the year? I don’t know about you, but I don’t really get too excited at the prospect of the pools closing, the kids going back to school (well, that part does have its upside but I know they’re not happy about it) and the raking starting (we have tons of trees). Have I also mentioned that I love fireflies? Obviously, I love summer. Oh, well. Cold weather does make for more writing time so there’s that to look forward to. Anyway, have a great weekend everyone!

Geronimo!

Capaldi

Some things I’m excited about lately: I’ll start with something that has nothing to do with writing but it’s just true: Season Eight of Doctor Who kicks off this coming Saturday, which for this family is a MAJOR event. Make your own conclusions about my family (as in, maybe we’re total nerds?) but we adore that show and cannot wait to see how Peter Capaldi fares in taking the reins from Matt Smith, who we thought couldn’t possibly top David Tennant but kind of did—or, at least, put a totally new spin on things (we still love you, David Tennant—in our opinion, you rescued the show).

On the writing front, things have been going nicely. I ran an Amazon free promo on Streetlights Like Fireworks after having not been in KDP Select for a while and the book saw over 17,000 downloads and stayed in the Top 100 free list for the entire week, which kind of blew me away. I always have mixed feelings about that type of promotion since you just never know but it’s been gratifying to hear that people have been enjoying the book and leaving kind reviews (much appreciated!). But, from there, I was even more pleased to see Streetlights holding its own nicely in both US and UK rankings. I’ve never had that happen before to that degree and it was really exciting. I know this will fade (Amazon is Amazon, after all, and new books come out every day). All the same, very cool.

Best part: When I told my wife and kids how well Streetlights was doing in both markets, I received a genuine (no eye-rolling involved) ovation. I will never forget that moment and will always treasure it, no  matter what, as the pinnacle of my publishing journey. You just can’t top that kind of memory, no matter what.

Oh, and I was off last week and we did summer things as a family. We hung out at the pool, took a few day trips, spent time with friends, saw some movies (Guardians of the Galaxy, much recommended—my son laughed like crazy). Just a great week.

Lastly, back to one of the earlier points: I know this might make me sound simple but I’m always blown away to learn that people are reading my books and saying nice things about them. This was the dream after all (really, all I ever wanted from this whole adventure). It could be that for more established writers, finding out that people enjoy your books not only in your own country but in countries you’ve never been to is no big deal. I can’t say and maybe, like me, they remain amazed. I certainly hope they do. For me, it’s just the coolest thing ever.

Meanwhile, I’m working on Jump When Ready, Book 3 and Memories From A Different Future (Jump When Ready, Book 2) will be coming out in September.

Yes, I’m having fun and couldn’t be more excited about the future. Especially, this coming Saturday when the new doctor learns how to fly the TARDIS.

Geronimo! (well, that was Matt Smith’s line). What do you have for us, Peter Capaldi? Cant’ wait to find out!