Friday, August 30, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 30-Aug-2013 / Last day of summer (for those with school kids)

I love the summer months, but as it gets closer and closer to the day after Labor Day--when school starts here in Minnesota--I'm loving the proverbial end of summer.

During the summer, the kids get to bed later, which means Dad--me, in other words--doesn't get to his writing until much later.  This wouldn't be a problem normally, but the city-run pool in our town closes at 8pm.  Which means the kids are usually swimming until the eight o'clock hour.  Then, it's a bit of unwinding before taking baths/showers and going to bed.

Many nights, it's after ten when this happens.

The upside to my morning routine is as such: the kids don't normally get up before eight--unless my son has football practice or weightlifting, which he does for most of the summer--so this means extra morning writing for me.

You need to find the time for writing wherever you can.  If you need to go to bed earlier and get up earlier, do it.  If you need to cut your night short a little, do it.  Be aware of your body telling you if you're overdoing it.  I used to be a nightowl.  Many nights I'd be up until 1 or 2 in the morning hunched over my computer.  Nowadays, I'm finding the morning to be a better fit for me.

If you need to make a change to your routine, do it.  How much time do you need for your writing?  That's up to you.  Even if 15-30 minutes is all you can spare out of your busy day, you'll be amazed at what you can accomplish when you devote those precious minutes entirely to your writing.

What's cooking for me?

I finished a round of editing for inspirational novella titled (temporarily) Obituary of a Loser.  I am also working on editing my next short story submission to Writers Of The Future.  Things are going well, and sales for Beholder's Eye are trickling in--if you haven't picked up your copy on the Kindle, the link for it is along the side.  You can even borrow it if you're an Amazon Prime member.

I also have the first five chapters up for free on this site too--the link is next to the Amazon link.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Do you have an Amazon author page?

Do you have an Amazon author page?

Yes or no.  You either do or you don't.  There's no sort of here.

This is my Amazon author page: Mark S. R. Peterson

Having this link in all of your books, blogs, and correspondence is a great landing page for someone who wants to know what you publish.  You can list blogs you write, have a schedule of guest appearances, videos, even your Twitter posts.

How do you set it up?  Easy, if you have an Amazon account.  Click this link for Amazon's Author Central to get started.

Then, with each published book, make sure you add it to your author page.  Somehow Amazon does not do this for you.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The importance of book descriptions

I recently revamped the book descriptions for both Beholder's Eye and Guest of Honor.  Check them out:

Beholder's Eye: A Thriller Novel (Central Division Series, Book 1)

Guest of Honor: A Novelette

When you self-publish on the Amazon Kindle, you have roughly 4,000 characters (the equivalent of 28+ full tweets) to use.  You don't have to use them all, but you should use quite a bit--unless you're Dan Brown or Stephen King, in which case they can just get by on their name; you can't.  Now, there's nothing wrong with using the full allotment of characters--an estimated 700 words, based on popular belief.  But overkill on a description may be too much.

If you have testimonials, put them in.  Awards?  By all means, add them.  Brag upon yourself, if you must.  Not only flowery and don't let yourself sound like a used car salesman.

I'm no expert in book descriptions, but I will quickly lay out the method I used for both of mine.  If you find another way, use that.  There is no one way to do so.

For Guest of Honor, I start with an overall view of the main character's world, then get into the story.  Originally, I had a chronological view of the story--it didn't work.  For Beholder's Eye, I go with the huge "what if" surrounding the genesis of the story.  Whatever works for you, do it.  Read an assortment of book descriptions in the same genre to get a sense of what they sound like.

Some say to make it sound like a movie trailer.  I agree--to a point.

Do whatever works for you.  Give it to a few people and ask what they think, if it will get them to buy the book.  Ask for honest feedback.  Because, as a self-published author, you can change it.

You can always change it.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 23-Aug-2013 / New "Guest of Honor" ebook cover

Guest of Honor recently got a face-lift.  Here was the old cover:

Now, I have a new professional cover.  Check it out:

Pretty cool, huh?
You can purchase it through the Amazon Kindle store for near the same cost as a cup of coffee.  Cheap coffee, that is.

What else is going on?  First, I'm going through and cleaning up the book description for Beholder's Eye.  I'm also working on editing my inspirational novella titled Obituary of a Loser.  I'm about 75% done with it, and I need to add another 1500 words to get it to the 17.5K word novella mark.

Maybe by next week it will be done.  Not sure if it will be ready for publishing yet . . . but it will be close.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A caregiver's guide to writing

For those people who care for the needs of others, I know how it feels to have your time sucked away.  This is beyond the normal needs of children and loved ones.  This is for those caring for people dealing with debilitating diseases like cancer and even Alzheimer's, but not just limited to those.

How does one find time to write?

The short answer: very carefully, and if it's only in short bursts, then do it.

It's how I write.  Now, as my wife has been cancer-free from her leukemia for the past 2 years, she still deals with many of the side effects, such as tiredness.  She's been going through severe eye problems these last few months too--she did back in October 2011, and things have progressively gotten worse this summer.  And because of this, I end up doing the majority of the daily chores along with the kids.  Keep in mind, I don't want pity from people nor do I want anyone to feel sorry for me.  That's not the point of this post.  What I want is to encourage those caregivers out there that you can do it, you can still realize your dream while at the same time care for the needs of others.

Are there times when I get frustrated and so tired from the long hours that I don't feel like writing?  Yes.  Do I still put words down on the digital paper.  Sometimes.  Depending on the day, most days I do, but mostly on the weekends I do not.

Your writing time may be limited as a caregiver, but even five minutes here and ten minutes there can add up over time.  Be deliberate about your "free time."  Commit to writing even 100-200 words a day if needed.  A typical 75K novel at 200 words a day will be completed in 375 days--just a little over a year.  Increase that amount of 250 even, and that number drops to 300 days.  If you can't write daily, set weekly goals.  Write those goals down, and track your progress.

You can do it.  Don't be discouraged.  Be deliberate with your time.  Commit to doing the work you were meant to do.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Books are like kids

For a disclaimer, I have three kids--all of which are still at home.  My oldest is a 9th grader and the other two are in elementary school (we have no middle school in our district, and if we did, one would be there).

So, how are books like kids?

Prior to sending it out into the world, either traditional publishing or self-publishing, you pour over the first draft, then edit it so many times, getting it just right.  The same with children.  You give them all they need (shelter, food, clothing, guidance), and then, when they reach that age, you send them out into the world.  Maybe, as teenagers, we give them a bit more freedom.  The same with a book.  We let a few choice readers go over it and give an honest critique.

Depending on the type of parents you have, most don't interfere too much in your life nor do they contact you several times a day.  They give you immense freedom.  I mean, how often should parents be in contact with their middle-aged children anyways?

The same with book publishing.  Once they're out on book shelves or in electronic readers (i.e. Amazon Kindle, iPad, Nook), how often do you see how much progress they're making?  Depends on what type of author you are.  How often do you check the Amazon ranking?  How often do you read the reviews?

Me?  There was a time where I was checking the Amazon ranking for Beholder's Eye every few hours.  I was excited when, after being out for two days, I started getting sales.

But I need to move on.  I need to continue writing.  And so do you.  Obsessing every single hour about where the ranking is will only distract you from doing what you need to do: write.  Write another story.  Put it out there.  Then write another.

Like a parent, you need to trust that the story is written well-enough and will handle itself.  Now, you do need to be marketing the book--I will not deny that--but make that part of your writing process.  Take the time to market it.

Then write.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 16-Aug-2013 / What next?

Beholder's Eye is out on the Kindle.

I have also enrolled it in the KDP Select program so you may borrow it, if you're an Amazon Prime member.  I'm not doing the "free thing" (yet) as I have nothing else out in the series.

But I'm working on it--the next in the Central Division Series.  I'm still undecided yet if I want to do the "free thing" or not.

I got it uploaded Sunday (after getting a cover done by a professional) and already I've gotten a few sales.  Not bad for a relatively unknown author.

What's next?

I'm holding off on the Beholder's Eye sequel for the next few weeks as I have two projects I'm working on: an inspirational novella tentatively titled Obituary Of A Loser and a short story to be submitted next month for the Writers Of The Future contest.

The Obituary novella is about a third complete in its edits, and should be closer to complete by next week.  The short story has a little more work to it.  When Obituary is complete, I will be uploaded it to the Amazon Kindle too.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Part 6 of 6 Publishing Hurdles: PUBLICATION!

Last but certainly not least is publishing your work.  This is the very last hurdle (although that could be up for argument, I'm keeping this simple).  Publishing nowadays takes on two forms: self-publishing or traditional.  There is a third form, which is a blending of the two.  That's called a hybrid author: one who has their foot in both the traditional and self-publishing camp.

In the traditional route, by going to a publisher, there are usually two routes: direct or through a literary agent.  Agents are the gatekeepers and typically know what editor likes what.  If you're lucky enough to be able to talk to an editor, you may be able to bypass the agent avenue.  Then again, agents can help navigate contracts and selling various rights, like audio or foreign.

Self-publishing is an entirely new beast--and one I'm in.  This means putting it up on the Amazon Kindle site and Kobo, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, etc.

I'm not going to go into depth on either one here, but I have written about it plenty and there are several resources out there, many of them for free.

Publishing is a hurdle that stops many a writer from realizing their dream--if you've exhausted every traditional route and still feel your work is good, by all means, try self-publishing.

What can it hurt?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Beholder's Eye now an official Kindle ebook!

Back in the summer of 1997, I attended a seven-week law enforcement skills training in Hibbing, Minnesota.  At the time, I already had one completed novel under my belt--a deer hunting horror story--and was at work on editing it as well as brainstorming my second novel.

As I sat in one of the classes, an idea struck me: what if a serial killer videotaped his murders and then sent that video to the cops?  But what if it was also one cop in particular?  Why was he targeted?  Hence Beholder's Eye was born.

I didn't start writing this thriller until 2003 or 2004 (yes, it's been a long time since that day), and after God knows how many edits, it is completed and now an official ebook on the Amazon Kindle.

Here's the link to the Amazon Kindle page.  I'd also be grateful if you'd review it.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 09-Aug-2013 / One step closer to publication

I'm keeping this one short today.

I am one step closer to self-publishing Beholder's Eye on the Amazon Kindle.  All that's left, quite frankly, is the cover.

Then, it's ready to be uploaded.  This is very exciting for me, as my other two self-publications have covers of my own creation.  This time, I'm spending a little money to have it done right.  And when it is, I'll probably explore having new covers for my other two publications too.

Until then . . . please enjoy the first five chapters of Beholder's Eye--for free on my site!

Also, here's an excerpt from my novelette ebook "Guest of Honor".


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Part 5 of 6 Publishing Hurdles: the dreaded critique

Nobody likes to be criticized, to be told they're wrong, but as writers we need to welcome others critiquing our work.

Do we need to listen to them and take all of their advice?  By all means, no.  However . . . if enough people say the same thing, you should consider it.  Depending on what it is.  You could have a good reason for it, and just need to make it clearer.

In a nutshell, a good critique is one where it spells out what they liked about a certain piece, the highlights and what went well (realistic dialogue, great descriptions, good pacing) and what didn't (choppy dialogue, poor pacing, not descriptive enough).

Do you know someone who reads a lot?  Ask that person to read it and give their opinion.  This is what I've done and it's worked out well.  Asking other writers may not work as well because, frankly, they're working on their own piece and do not have the time to review yours.  But if you can snag one, in exchange to critique some of their own work, do it.  This is what writers groups are for too.

It's healthy to let others read what you have written, for they can give you a perspective you didn't see.  I've been told I write good dialogue, but I didn't know it until it was pointed out.  So, I use that as a strength in my writing, but also by not ignoring where I lack and am improving upon.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Sometimes it's okay to start over

Years ago, you have a book you had written.  It's okay.  But you know you can make it better, so you set out to work on it.  In order to do so though, the books needs changing.  A lot!

This is exactly what I'm going through right now as I write the sequel to Beholder's Eye.  It's a story that, honestly, I started nine years ago--December 2004, to be exact.  I had a prologue, the first three chapters complete, and the beginning of the fourth.

I kept the prologue--after a heavy revision--and I have thrown the rest of it away.  Well, not completely.  There are a few bits here and there I'm keeping, but by and large I'm starting over from scratch.  And it's turning out much, much, much, much better than before.

Whenever you're in a situation where you're doing a lot of heavy revision on something you wrote years ago, try this: write it over, completely from scratch.  See how much better it turns out.

This isn't the first time lately I've been doing this.  I have a novel I wrote before Beholder's Eye (my fourth completed novel) that is going through major changes as well--I've stopped working on it so I can continue in the Central Division Series, with Beholder's Eye as book one.

(Beholder's Eye will be published shortly, as soon as I can get a cover completed.  I'm getting the money squared away and I'm crossing my fingers that this week I'll make it happen.)

Friday, August 2, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 02-Aug-2013 / Loving the silence

A few weeks ago, I said I was going on a podcast hiatus.  Here's the status of that: I'm loving the silence.

I usually spent a lot of my podcast listening time in the car, going to and from my day job.  Roughly 45 minutes each weekday.  Now, I brainstorm stories and the direction I need to take with my writing.  I'm accomplishing much.

First, I'm into the first draft of the sequel to Beholder's Eye.  I only have about 2800 words written so far, but this is the one I started back in December 2004.  Aside from the prologue, the rest of it has been changed--and I mean entirely.  Now, I only had 4-5 chapters written, but those have been stripped away.

I'm also in the process of editing my next short story for the Writers of the Future contest, due October 1st.  Also, I'm working on editing my soon-to-be inspirational novella I wrote in June.  I have 15.5K words written and need to bulk it up to at least 17.5K in order to make the novella word count mark.

Also, I'm in the process of revamping my previous submission to Writers of the Future from ealier this year.  I wasn't picked--not surprising, given the tough competition--but after examining it a bit more closely, I'm finding areas where it can be improved.  I won't resubmit it to WOTF, but I will try my hand at the professional markets instead of self-publishing this one.

Also, as we speak, I'm in the process of nailing down a cover for Beholder's Eye.  By next week--or even this weekend--I will definitely have it prepared to upload to the Amazon Kindle.