Friday, November 29, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 29-Nov-2013 / Being an outlining convert

Yes, you heard me correctly.  I am an outlining convert.

At least for now, and for what I'm doing.

This week I found myself struggling with writing the first draft of the sequel to Beholder's Eye as well as editing Shadowkill.  It wasn't an easy task.  I only have around 5000 words written on the new thriller novel so far.

Then, a thought occurred to me Wednesday: why not outline the novel.  At least try.  So I spent my work day and did it.  I felt good afterwards too, because now I have a game plan for the novel.  Now, all of you staunch outliners out there are sure to pat yourselves on the back--not so fast, sweetheart!  I do see the value in outlining.  But I do love the discovery part of writing as well.

In Shadowkill, I am around chapter 5 in the editing process--and a long ways to go.

But I'll get there.  Keep in mind, we had Thanksgiving this week and another trip to Mayo this past Monday thrown in mix.  And I still wrote.

Also, my mystery novelette Guest of Honor is free today.  If you haven't picked it up yet, please do so.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Silence is golden

Ever since we got hooked up with high-speed Wifi at our house, I've listeneed to podcasts.  There was quite a number of them I listened to.

Then, this past summer, I decided to take a break.  Silence is golden, they say.  Yes it is.

I have a roughly twenty-minute commute to and from work each workday.  I used to spend that time filling my head with various podcasts.  What I did was educate myself not only on the publishing industry and genre writing, but also in financial and career matters.

I chopped the number of podcasts I listen to by quite a number--sometimes, in any given week, I don't listen to any on my daily commutes.  Instead of turning on the radio and listening to Stairway to Heaven for the nine-hundredth time, I brainstorm.

The time I've brainstormed has been valuable.

Recently, I was listening to Mur Lafferty's I should be writing podcast (yes, that one made the cut) and she also said the same thing, that she took a little break from podcast listening--and she's a successful award-winning author as well.  I'm in good company.

I do still listen to podcasts from time to time, but the majority of the time it's just me and my dreams.

Have you tried taking a podcast/radio break on your daily commutes?  Try it and let me know what you think.  Please comment below.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Don't throw the trunk novel away - use it as an outline

I've been reviewing my list of goals for 2014, and one of them is to publish a lot more books.

Trunk novels are stories that authors write and they either don't feel are any good or need a lot of work.  So, they sit and wait--in the proverbial trunk, so to speak.

I have at least four completed novels that are my trunk novels.  Lately, I've been brainstorming how I can go about getting them ready for publication.  The earlier ones need a LOT of work . . . almost to the point where they just need to be rewritten.

Then it came to me: why don't I do that.  Rewrite them.  From scratch.

Using the already written novel as an outline.

So don't throw those trunk novels away.  If you feel they can be salvaged, use what you've written as an outline and rewrite it.

If you do try this, please comment below on your progress.  I'd love to see if this works out for others too.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 22-Nov-2013 / Yet another new cover

Once again, I have a new cover.  This time it is for my ebook novelette Guest of Honor.  Check it out:

Quite a bit better than before.  I didn't like the other one very much--although it was much better than what I could do.

I'm starting the two projects I spoke about previously: first, the sequel to Beholder's Eye in the Central Division Series called Straight Razor.  I've only just started it, and I'm excited for what I have planned so far; second, is the editing to Shadowkill.  I'm in the opening chapters for that one too.

I'm thinking positive that this can be done--working on two projects at once--so we'll see how long it takes befoe I concentrate on just one.  I have a feeling it may not be the case, for the editing can be done while I work at my full-time job (you'd be amazed what I can get done on my breaks and lunches) and the first drafts of Straight Razor can be done in the mornings and some evenings.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Don't forget the basics

Two weeks ago was our local writers group meeting.  There were three of us, and we had a blast.

One member of the group is just finishing up writing the first draft of her first novel--a fantasy/science fiction novel with a steampunk twist.  She has over 100K words so far and I told her I'd love to be a beta reader for it.

As our conversation rolled on, she asked me basic questions about publishing and agents.  These were things I've been dealing with for a while and honestly thought they were common knowledge.  I was wrong.  I've just been studying it for so long, to me it's common knowledge.  It's now up to me to help teach others.

No matter what endeavour you find youself in, keep in mind not to forget the basics.  Back in college, I studied Tae Kwon Do.  Eventually, I earned my 2nd Dan (that's 2nd degree black belt in layman's terms) and it always amazed me, no matter how complex the techniques or forms or combinations I had to do, you can always break them down into basic forms.

Bemidji Tae Kwon Do Master Spencer Brandt (who later became the late Grandmaster Spencer Brandt) always taught us: perfect practice makes perfect.  If you're going to practice something, don't do a sloppy job.  Do it right.  And continuously do it correctly so that it becames natural.

For writing, it's to know the basics.  To teach the pros and cons about finding an agent, querying them, and/or even taking the self-publishing route.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sometimes the best thing your story needs is time

The first novel I ever wrote, as I've said before, was a deer hunting horror story.  I love deer hunting, however over the years my time spent at this activity has dwindled.  A few years ago, I actually didn't even hunt at all--something I honestly thought would never happen, but hey life happens and I had to work, for the good of the family.

What has struck me as odd is that this story never had a brother or sister or even a distant cousin.  This horror story, centered around deer hunting, was the only story about hunting I could come up with.  At the time.  For years since then, I've wracked my brain, working hard to come up with more stories.  The ones I constructed weren't very good, with the exception of one or two minor stories--I believe those are still sitting in the mental trunk.

Over a week ago, on November 9th, I went out hunting with my fifteen-year-old son.

Not only did I come up with a detailed plan to rewrite my first horror story, I came up with another one as well as a mystery/suspense series.  Roughly a month ago, I also wrote a deer hunting short story--my next submission to the Writers of the Future contest.

Then I realized that all I needed to construct these stories was time.  Time and life experience.  It's not necessarily a bad thing to set something off to the side because you're not ready.  When Stephen King came up with the idea for 11/22/63, it was in the early 1970s and he knew he wasn't ready to tell a tale of that magnitude.

So he waited.

If you're having troubles with a story, set it off to the side and do something else.  Because time is not necessarily a bad thing.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 15-Nov-2013 / A strange thing happened while deer hunting

My first novel--a deer hunting horror story--was, by all conversative accounts, a 200,000 word novel.  I wrote it back in college, Bemidji State University, and I completed the first draft roughly nineteen years ago this month.

There were a lot of things wrong with this novel.  Most of which I didn't realize until several years later.  I still learned many lessons with that first novel, ones I still carry with me to this day.

As I sat in the deer stand this past Saturday--for Minnesotans, this time of year is practically a statewide pasttime for many of the forests and fields are littered with spots of blaze orange--I thought about this story.

Then I came up with a plan to rewrite it.  Completely.  From scratch.

The basic story is still good, but it was way too long.  I also had so many plotlines running through it, I failed to utilize the K.I.S.S. principle: Keep It Simple Stupid.  Now, this story may not even be written (over from scratch) in 2014 for I have tons of other projects in the works.  By all accounts, I'm probably looking at a 2015 date to work on this.

Sitting in the deer stand with my son, I also came up with a few other story ideas: a new mystery/suspense series, based on a character I wrote about in a short story in my novelette Guest of Honor, and another story that I'm calling Wild Hogs meets Duck Dynasty.  Right now that's all I'm going to say about that--about either one.

I've started editing Shadowkill.  I'm only on the fourth chapter at this point, out of an overall 50+, but things are going well so far.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Book review: A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish (4 out of 5 stars)

A month ago, I won a Goodreads contest where I recieved an ARC (advance reading copy) of David Dalglish's A Dance of Cloaks.  This is the first in his Shadowdance series.  It is a fantasy book, in much the same vein as George R. R. Martin, R. A. Salvatore, and Brandon Sanderson.  If you like fantasy books, Dalglish is a young writer you'll want to check out.

Here is my Goodreads review - I gave it 4 out of 5 stars:

I will try make this as spoiler free as possible.

First, the prologue was like something straight out of Game of Thrones.  I then wanted to know much more about the character Aaron Felhorn--and you got much, much more about him throughout the book.  His character growth was astonishing to read.

For those who love their fighting scenes to be blow-by-blow, much like R. A. Salvatore, then you will not be disappointed.  For me, these scenes wore on me.  At times, there also seemed to be too many point-of-view characters, and even those characters seemed to be thin.

This is the first of a trilogy, and even though I do give it a 4-star rating, Dalglish has produced a gritty world like one of Martin's Game of Thrones world or Sanderson's first Mistborn book.  The highlight of the book was the planning of the takeover of the Kensgold, a one-day event where the three kings of the Trifect meet to discuss trade agreements.

And the ending led me to want more of this story.  Well done, David Dalglish.

Here is a link to the Amazon Kindle store for A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Book review: Writers of the Future Volume 29 (5 out of 5 stars)

Ever wonder who the best new writers to watch for? Look no further than the Writers of the Future Volume 29..

I purchased this book because I wanted an idea as to what stories were accepted, as I too have been submitting to the quarterly Writers of the Future contest.

Like most anthologies or short story collections, not all stories connected with me. But, what few I didn't like someone else undoubtedly will, and the ones I liked outweighted the ones that didn't. Hence the 5-star rating.

Among some of my favorites were "Cop for a Day" by Chrome Oxide (love that pen name!), "War Hero" by Brian Trent, "Master Belladino's Mask" by Marina J. Lostetter, and the grand-prize winning "Twelve Seconds" by Tina Gower.

Aside from the wonderful stories, the illustrations were well-worth the price of admission.

Tucked within the book were also essays by Dave Wolverton, L. Ron Hubbard, and others. Hubbard's "The Manuscript Factory" was sheer brilliant, and Nnedi Okorafor's "The Sport of Writing" put a unique perspective on the craft of writing.

Link to the Amazon Kindle page: Writers of the Future Volume 29

Monday, November 11, 2013

Closing out 2013 / Thinking ahead to 2014

I had 18 distinct goals for 2013.  As of this sitting, I have completed 10 of them.  Not bad.  I'm very happy with where I'm at.  In reviewing some of my goals, a few I did not even continue to pursue--namely a novel I had written years ago and was going to edit for publication this year, however its writing needed A LOT of work, so I decided to put it on hold for now.

How is your list of goals for 2013 coming along?  Please feel free to add your comments below.

On to 2014, I have brainstormed quite a list I'd like to accomplish.  Now, in the upcoming weeks, I'll refine it and tack it up so I can see it.

One goal I didn't even come close to hitting is my exercise goal--actually, it's a weight goal I wanted to hit.  In speaking with my wife and sister-in-law recently, I have decided to join the local gym.  But not yet.  There's a small financial matter to settle first as my wife continues treatments down at the Mayo clinic quite often.

But that is a goal I will be pursuing in 2014.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 08-Nov-2013 / No NaNoWriMo for me

The month of November is NaNoWriMo.

"NaNo . . . what?  Rhino?"

No, silly.  NaNoWriMo - short for National Novel Writing Month.

"Oh, okay.  What's that?"

For the month of November, participants are committed to write 50,000 words of a new novel--this comes out to roughly 1,667 words a day.

Even though I'm in the process of editing a novel and writing the first draft of a new one, I'm still not participating.  Officially.  I do believe participting in NaNoWriMo is good for someone just starting out, who has never written a novel.  It's a good way to set a daily goal for yourself, to get in the habit of writing everyday.

Good luck to all NaNoWriMo'ers.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Amazon's new Kindle Countdown Deals - worth checking out

Recently, Amazon has announced a new feature on their Kindle store: Kindle Countdown Deals.

This allows Kindle-exclusive ebooks to be discounted for a limited time.

The following link provides an in-depth look into this new feature.  One of the high points of this program, I see, is that there is a special list that these books will appear.  Here's the link.  I'm going to try this out, and will let you know what I discover.

Some of the features are:

1) deals are time-based - hence, the name countdown.  Not only does the author have control over how much time is left, the readers see that time as well.

2) royalty rates are retained at the lower price - this is an incredible feature, for typically ebooks selling below $2.99 have a much lower royalty rate than those priced $2.99 or higher.

For those self-publishers out there, you might want to give this a try.

Here's the link explaining the new program.

Note: my thriller novel Beholder's Eye (Central Division Series Book 1) is currently on the Countdown program.  It is normally $2.99, so if you want to pick up the book for less, please click on this link to pick up the book on the Amazon Kindle store.

And here's a copy of the new cover.  Let me know what you think:

Monday, November 4, 2013

Eyeballs on your work

What all writers, new as well as seasoned, need are eyeballs on your work.  You need more and more people to read what you write, and to crave it, so that when you have something new come out, they can't wait to pick it up.

It's as simple as that.  It doesn't matter if you're Stephen King or a new writer who just started her first blog post, all of us writers need readers to read our work.

And the more people read your work, the more money you can make.  You may never get up to the level of success where instead of asking if you can afford the latest Lamborghini, you ask what color, but if you don't put yourself out there, you may never achieve your dreams.

Write something.

Send it out--whether it's on a free blog post or self-publishing on the Kindle or even submitting to a professional market.

Then write something else.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

The world depends on it.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 01-Nov-2013 / My 500th post!

This is my 500th blog post.  Hard to believe I've written so much on this blog, and even when I go back, I'm astonished at what I've written.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Writing a novel in a year - setting goals (this post was the fifth one I ever wrote, and it shows how one can take a task as daunting as writing a novel and complete it sooner than one thinks)

Use your favorite author as inspiration, not a boundary (this one sums up why it's unwise to say, "I want to be the next Stephen King" - because your goal is to be better than them, not to use their success as your boundary)

Simplicity (post regarding getting good at one thing, then branching out - i.e. Stephen King writes horror novels or John Grisham writes legal thrillers)

Writers Groups - the good, the bad, and . . . the weird (self-explanatory - about writing groups)

Shoot for the stars (where I introduced the "pie in the sky" goals)

There are a ton more, so for now these are a few highlighted ones.  I hope you've enjoyed it so far.  Now, onward to the next 500!

And beyond!