Monday, April 29, 2013

Why I am on a news strike

A few years ago, I'd spend at least a few hours each night watching the news.  This was a ritual my wife and I had been performing for several years up to that point.

I never grew up in a household that watched the news, except for the local news at 10.  I remember in the summer of 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait, we had to ask a few neighbors of ours what in the world was going on--keep in mind, in those days, CNN was about the only 24/7 news organization, and people by and large didn't sit with their noses glued to the speeches of Wolf Blitzer until this point.

Over the years, I became more and more immersed in current events.  I didn't want to be left in the dark.  Whenever presidentail debates occurred, I was right there watching the whole thing.  Then, probably about the time my wife was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (in April 2011), I quit watching the news--or even TV in general--altogether.


I had more important things to worry about.  Like my wife and our life together.  Our family.  I realized that current events are going to happen, no matter how tragic, and there is very little I can do about it.  All it did was bring down my mood.

I was determined to change that.

And I did.

No more Wolf Blitzer for me.  I'm in control of my life--and you are too--by the power of your finger over the POWER button on the remote control.

(by the way, I don't watch reality TV shows either - I believe the same rules apply there, despite my mother-in-law's crusade for me to watch Duck Dynasty.  Frankly, I devote a certain amount of time for writing, and TV watching is too time-consuming for me).

Friday, April 26, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 26-Apr-2013 / Best advice against using pseudonyms for writers

Recently, I heard what is, hands down, the best advice against writers using pseudonyms.  This is from The Roundtable Podcast segment featuring Hugo-award winning author Mary Robinette Kowal.  She made the analogy towards actors working in different genre movies.  Would Will Smith or Jim Carrey go by a different name when they starred in movies that were different than what they were originally known for?

Not a chance.

Several of the best known actors will purposefully turn down roles because they've "done that movie before."  Steven Spielberg, after such successful movies such as E.T. and the Indiana Jones franchise, delved into other movies that were so far off from what he used to.

Why don't writers get the same treatment?  Why can't writers cross genres without having to adopt a pseudonym?  Readers are not stupid, and I truly believe we should not treat them as such.

If your reasons for doing so are valid--for you, and they very much could be, depending on the genre--then by all means do it.

One of my favorite actors is Robin Williams.  Talk about a genre crosser!  The man can literally play any kind of character, from funny to serious to scary--and he does it well!

I've been working diligently on my alternative history military thriller.  I have almost 39,000 words written in 33 chapters.  I'm very pleased with my progress.

What's next on the stove?  I'm planning out--yes, some of you could say outlining, but I just call it brainstorming at this point--an inspirational-based novella.  That one shouldn't take too long to write, as it'll be slightly longer than "Guest of Honor" and after that . . . I'll start formatting Beholder's Eye as well as working on editing a previously written novel.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

When life throws you a curveball, do this!

It's easy not to do something when life gets you down.  But in the long haul, you're going to suffer.

In other words, when life throws you a curveball . . . DO SOMETHING!

Two years ago, my wife Melissa was diagnosed with acute myleoid leukemia.  The next day, we found ourselves 372 miles away from our hometown down to Rochester, Minnesota, home of the world-famous Mayo Clinic.  The long and the short of it: they saved her life.

In those two years, I could've sat back and just done nothing.  But I didn't.  I started this blog just prior to her diagnosis, and within those two years started looking for ways to take writing to a serious level--I had always wanted to be a successful writer before, but for some reason things didn't start clicking into place.  I had already written five novels and over a dozen short stories, but could just never seem to get traction on them.

But I kept working at them.

I kept writing.

In the end, I did something.  I moved forward.  I will admit, life is hard.  Just punch it in the face and move on.  In the words of the great philospher El Nike: "JUST DO IT!"

Monday, April 22, 2013

Take the time to do it right

You've devoted months--if not years--of your life writing a book.  You've sent it off to beta readers, filtered through the feedback, and now you believe you have a polished manuscript.  You may have even shopped it around to agents and/or publishers with no bites.  Now you wish to self-publish--a movement that has been growing these last few years.

Without thinking, you upload it onto the Amazon KDP and/or Smashwords site, not even bothering to read up on formatting, etc.

Bad, bad move.

Much like the actual writing of the book, take a little time to format it right.  I learned this the hard way--almost--when I started formatting Guest of Honor.  Let me be up-front on this though.  The formatting and preparing can be a pain in the butt.

But it's worth it.  Take the time to research and do it right.

Check out a sample even of Guest of Honor, and please give me an honest review of it.  Heck, it's only $.99.  Less than a bottle of pop, and it'll last a lot longer.  I even have a short story added and a sample chapter of Beholder's Eye.  Cheap entertainment.

Friday, April 19, 2013

My apologies


Stop the presses!

I messed up.  Again.  This will only affect a handful of people out there, ones who have purchased my Guest of Honor ebook, Kindle edition at this point.  Today, I was putting the finishing touches on the Smashwords edition and realized . . . I misspelled a word.  I misspelled copyright.

I spelled it copywrite.


I feel like such a complete moron.

To remedy the situation, I am uploading a newer version tonight, but I want to offer something for those who have already purchased it.  Please send me your e-mail address at:
And when my thriller Beholder's Eye is ready to be uploaded onto the Kindle site I will send you a copy of it for FREE.  It will be in a MOBI file, unless you'd like a PDF version as well.

Once again, my deepest apologies.

Happenings In The Outhouse 19-Apr-2013 / What do the movies "Pacific Rim", "Real Steel", and "Zero Dark Thirty" have in common?

I have over 33,000 words written so far in my alternative history military thriller--something I am now pitching as Pacific Rim and Real Steel meets Zero Dark Thirty.  Intrigued?  I sure hope so.  Soon I'll even share the title of this tale.

I'm also in the process of formatting Guest of Honor up on Smashwords.  There's just a few more front material items that needs to be added to their edition in order for them to accept it, and I'll announce when it's uploaded.

Speaking of Guest of Honor I also have the first of a number of blog posts up from my Twin Cities Crime Blogger site, this one titled Tragic End at the Walnut Hotel.  This is my fictional blog centered around some of the characters from Beholder's Eye, which are now included in my novelette.  More will be added to this down the road.  Part of this blog post actually appears in the novelette as well.

Beholder's Eye is marching ever-so slowly towards self-publication.  I've received a number of rejections back from literary agents, a few so kind as to say they really enjoyed the piece I sent them but were booked solid and couldn't justify taking me on at this point.  I'm still brainstorming a cover design, and then it's the task of formatting and uploading.

Lastly, I'm . . . casually reading the fourth novel I ever wrote.  This one I felt before may be another close one that I could self-publish.  Now, after reading two-thirds of it, I'm finding I have a lot of work to do on that one.  It could still be done, but I'm finding POV (point of view) problems as one of my biggest hurdles.  Not to mention that when it was originally written, technology as it is today was not as prevelent.  Now it seems to consume everyone's life.  That also needs to be added.  Sorry to sound so cryptic, but that one is not ready to be shared with the world yet--it's a horror/coming of age story set on Lake Of The Woods.

P.S.  Today my grandfather Ray is celebrating his 90th birthday.  I can't help but think of what a milestone this is.  Also, having raised five children to be productive members of society and remaining married to his "ever-precious angel" for several decades before her life was robbed due to Alzheimer's, he probably could write volumes of books on the subject--I think I may need to tap into his mind to see if he could share his secret.  Happy 90th Birthday Grandpa!!!!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sorry, it's not for me

Over this past weekend, I watched two movies that I borrowed from the local library: The Avengers and Lincoln.  One I liked and the other one made me yawn.  Can you guess which one?

Steven Spielberg's Lincoln won all sorts of awards, but it bored the ever-loving crap out of me.  Truthfully, it took me three nights just to watch the whole thing.  Then again, it wasn't made for me.  The Avengers on the other hand was awesome--a little confusing in places, but overall a great flick.

When you're writing or creating whatever work of art or even in business, you need to knowwho your customers are.  Not everyone is going to buy from you.  Not everyone is an Apple lover or wants to eat lunch at McDonald's.  If you're writing a thriller, your potential audience will probably not consist of those who are into erotica--unless your thriller is bent in that way.

Remember that when you're creating your project.  Not everyone is going to love it.  But you need to find out who will.

Speaking of creating something, I want to remind you that last week my novelette Guest of Honor is up for sale for $.99 on the Amazon Kindle store--in the near future I'll be uploading it to Smashwords, and I'll announce when that's available as well.

Here's the cover below:

And here's a link to purchase it:

Monday, April 15, 2013

One's opinion of crap is another's great love

There isn't a single book or movie or other form of art out there that everyone loves.  Someone out there is going to call the it crap--even the Sistine Chapel.

Over a hundred years ago when the pulp magazines came out, they were criticized by scholars for their lack of literary merit.  The same is true with comic books.  But despite the so-called lack of literary merit--which I think is a BS statement--they did serve the purpose of entertaining and sparking the imaginations of millions.

Nowadays with the gatekeepers in the traditional publishing business keeping as many doors closed as possible--not literally but this may be emerging simply due to cut-backs and the overworked jobs of editors and agents--writers are seeking the self-publishing route more than ever.

The big issue that emerges is this: with this new flood of writers, the level of "crap" being published is up, so therefore all self-published stories are crap.  This is completely false.  Sure, I will admit, there is a fair level of self-published works that could use an editorial hand or a new cover or just be scrapped altogether.  But there are gems out there.

We just need to find it.

Oh, by the way, a lot of so-called "literary" literature set up on pedastals I feel are a bunch of crap.  Just my opinion.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 12-Apr-2013 / What's next on the stove?

On Wednesday, April 10th, I uploaded my ebook Guest of Honor to the Amazon Kindle site.  Here's a link to the ebook here: Guest Of Honor.  And it's only $.99.  I have also included a short story titled "Hatchet Harry" and an excerpt of my thriller Beholder's Eye.

There's a lot more I could say about the publishing process . . . but I'll wait for another blog post where I can go more in detail--or, it might be a series of posts, as the process can be quite complicated.

Now that the ebook is done . . . what's next?

Or, in other words, what's cooking next on the writing stove?

Thinking of stories this way seems to be very interesting.  Stories can be deep in the freezer, chilling out in the refrigerator, thawing out on the counter, simmering along the back, or cooking well in a pot of boiling water.  Now that Guest of Honor is complete, I can move on and rearrange the pieces.

What's next?

First and foremost, I'm heading back to my alternative history military novel.  That one is boiling well along the front of the stove.

Simmering along the back is Beholder's Eye.  I'm still waiting to hear back from a handful of literary agents, and by next month if I get either no response or no request to see more, I'm going to start the process of formatting it and self-publishing it.  Also simmering is Guest of Honor to be uploaded onto Smashwords.

I am also looking ahead and reviewing some of the novels I've already completed, and for one reason or another is sitting in the deep freeze.  One such novel I'm taking out and thawing out--this would be my third novel, a horror novel set up in Lake Of The Woods, in northern Minnesota.  I'm currently rereading it to see if I can get it ready to go into the realm of self-publishing this year.

I also have a book, being it novelette or novella in length, which is more inspirational/Christian based.  I'll keep this one under wraps for now, but I think once I get the opportunity I can crank it out in no time.

I have a lot cooking in various stages.  What do you have cooking?  Please share.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Kindle KDP Select or Smashwords

My ebook novelette Guest of Honor is near ready to go.

But where to put it?

I already have an ebook out there, which I published on the Kindle KDP Store a year ago: 99 Ways To Have A Memorable Wedding On A Shoestring Budget.  I've kept it on the KDP Select site, which allows me to do promos for it from time to time.

Guest of Honor is going to be treated a little differently.  Instead of exclusively on Amazon, I'm going to try my hand at Smashwords as well.  If you do not have a Kindle (there are a few out there, right?), and purchase ebooks through Sony or Nook or the Apple store, those ebooks would be available through Smashwords.  I'm still going to put it up on Amazon, but it won't be exclusively on the Kindle store.

I've been doing a lot of research this past year regarding self-publishing, mostly on The Creative Penn and the Self-Publishing Podcast, and even though Amazon is a viable source for my indie authors, one shouldn't put all of your eggs in one basket.

Hence the reason I'm going to self-publish on both sites.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Balancing family time/housework vs. writing time

I'd like to say I have the magic formula for juggling spending time with the family and organizing/cleaning/miscellaneous household chores versus writing time.  I don't.  It's not as simple as: for every hour spent with the family should be an hour writing.  Or: 25% of your "free time" should be spent on your craft.

Your situation may vary from mine, and even then each day or week or month seems to be different.

Take this past weekend for myself, for example.  I'm nearing the end of editing my novelette Guest of Honor which I thought I'd finish Friday night.  Didn't happen.  Okay, I got more done Saturday morning, so Saturday I'll finish it.  Nope.  I did get more written, but it was after the kids went to bed.  Ask me how much writing I did Sunday--the Lord's day of rest, mind you.  Go ahead ask me.

Very little, until the kids were in bed.  Why?  Too much other household chores to do, which seems to always get in the way.

Then, to top it all off, I have a laptop computer that's so darn old I'm beginning to wonder if my youngest was born after we got it (she's in 1st grade; my daughter, not the computer).  The reason I bring this last one up is because there are times when the computer tries to do more than one thing it'll lock up for the next 15-30 minutes.  Not fun.

Every artist/writer experiences struggles in their life.  What are you doing to cope?

What do I do?  I write.  Whenever I get a chance.  Some days may be an hour here and an hour there, others I may have 3-4 hours of uninterrupted time.

The key is where your priority lies.

(Final note: I finished editing Guest of Honor this morning)

Friday, April 5, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 05-Apr-2013 / Get your facts straight when it comes to geography

I learned a valuable lesson Thursday--one that would've been embarassing if I let it slip through.

I'm currently in the final editing stage of Guest of Honor, my 10,000 word novelette inspired by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the 1974 film version, not the 2003, although the newer film does hold some merit).  As we speak I am roughly halfway through it.  On a whim, I launched onto Google Maps Thursday to look at the town the story is set near--note that I did not say set in; it is actually set 4 miles south of this town, which really does exist.  I took a small tour on the Google Street View, then for some reason I went to the town's Wikipedia page..

Then I saw it.  A glaring error in my story.

In the beginning, there is an eighteen-year old girl hitchhiking down towards the Twin Cities.  A cop picks her up and gives her a ride to the county line.  There's only one problem: the county line in real life is really only a mile south of the town and in the story it's more closer to ten.


Good thing it hasn't been published yet.  That would've been embarassing.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Hard copy vs. soft copy edits

By next week, I will be releasing a novelette ebook titled Guest of Honor in the Amazon Kindle KDP program.  I have finalized the cover, and am even including two bonus pieces to go along with it.

Where I'm at right now are the final edits.

My editing process has changed over the past six months, with the finalization of my thriller Beholder's Eye.  It seems to have changed for economic reasons, because before I would print the hard copy, do my edits, make the changes on the soft copy, print and repeat--it got to a point where I was printing a TON of paper.

With Guest of Honor I've done much of it on the soft copy.  I thought it was near perfect, and was leaning towards not printing and not going through the hard copy . . . and then I decided what the hell, let's print it up--all 43 pages of it.

I am so glad I did.  I didn't get through the first page without murdering the page with my pen.  Every page so far hasn't been spared a ruthless killing.  And that's a good thing, because that means I'm making the story better, tightening up sentences.

In the spectrum of hard copy vs. soft copy editing, I fall somewhere in the middle.  Where do you stand?  Are you one who needs to print everything out and cannot do anything on the computer?  Or are you one who never prints and does everything on the computer?

Or are you like me, a middle of the road writer?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Monday, April 1, 2013

What I listen to - The Roundtable Podcast

Literary alchemists unite!

Ever wonder how a writer comes up with a story?  Ever wonder how the creative mind works, melting and mashing ideas and plots together to form the next (or so they hope) bestseller?

Never fear, The Roundtable Podcast is here and will serve up the literary gold we are so yearning to achieve!

Hosts Dave Robison and Brion Humphrey do something a little different with The Roundtable Podcast.  They typically run two shows a week.  The first one is called "20 minutes with" and they interview a writer or editor or podcaster or publisher about their work.  Then, that guest will return for the second installment where they workshop a story.  This second show features someone who needs help with their story and use the creative mojo of Dave, Brion, and the guest host to turn that idea into . . . LITERARY GOLD!

The Roundtable Podcast is on their second year (congrats!) and the energy that Dave brings to the podcast is infectious--in a good way!  His introductions to guest hosts and the workshop author are legendary, and his rich energizing voice will keep you coming back to the podcast for each and every installment.

You do not want to miss The Roundtable Podcast.  Add it to your growing list today.