Friday, February 28, 2014

Happenings In The Outhouse 28-Feb-2014 / Don't hold back. Push the envelope.

This past weekend, I was at a crossroads with two shows I've been watching on Netflix: Dexter and Breaking Bad.

At the end of season six of Dexter, someone discovers Dexter Morgan's secret.  At the end of the first half of season five of Breaking Bad, someone discovers Walter White's secret.  Both characters are at a crossroads, a dead-end for their careers, it would seem.

However, in Walter's case, there are six more episodes left in the second half of season five.  In Dexter's case, the mild-mannered blood splatter analyst for the Miami Police Department has two full seasons left.

Not quite a dead-end.  And I know they don't spend those episodes/seasons behind bars.

Many times in both shows--and others--the characters face obstacles that appear to have no favorable outcome for them.  Yet, they move on.  They overcome them.  When writing your own characters, don't be afraid to put them in situations where it seems like they're impossible to escape from.  Don't hold back.  Push the envelope to the limits.

Then, write them out of it.  It makes for a more interesting story.

You can always tell when the author cops out and doesn't quite push the characters--I bet a story just popped into your mind, something you read and almost (or maybe you did) threw the book away in disgust.

Now, not everything has to be this no-holds-barred thrill ride.  But hitting a level of tension that seems impossible to overcome does make for a more interesting story.  If you disagree, then why were so many people reeling when the final episode of Breaking Bad aired?

(BTW, Netflix has now finally released on their streaming service the second half of the fifth and final season--it took me about 48 hours to binge-watch them all.  It was worth it.  My hat--pork pie hat, in other words--is off to Vince Gilligan and the entire crew of Breaking Bad for creating such an incredible story).

Monday, February 24, 2014

Write at your own pace

There's been a lot of talk lately about writing fast.  A number of bloggers, podcasters, and authors lately have sported the importance of writing fast and how this seems to be the only way to get your work out there.

I tried it.

It didn't work for me.  At least, at this point in my life it didn't.

Honestly, I thought I was doing something wrong by working on one project at a time--editing Shadowkill instead of writing the first draft of book two in the thriller Central Division Series.  I tried for a few weeks to write the first draft in the morning while at night work on my edits.

If I wrote full-time, I could possibly juggle more than one project at a time.  But with juggling family, work, and writing, I had to cut back and do what is important.

You need to write at your own pace.  Now, I don't mean to write whenever you feel like it.  I believe you should do something every single day, whether it's writing or editing.  If you can do both, great!  If not, do one.  Work on one project at a time, if you need to.

What got me thinking of this was a podcast featuring fantasy author Myke Cole.  He advised that you need to take the time to do it right, not just speed through it.  So, that's what I did.

(Thanks, Myke Cole, for giving me permission to do it right, even if it means sacrificing a bit more time)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Happenings In The Outhouse 21-Feb-2014 / The quest for beta readers

I recently joined Wattpad.  It's an online social network revolved around reading and writing.  If you want to follow me, please click on this link on Wattpad: MarkSRPeterson.

Recently, on a few podcasts I listen to (the few I actually do listen to now, since narrowing my list down), the authors mentioned Wattpad and how they're using it as a testing ground for their writing.  In examining my own work, I would love to have a number of readers go through and let me know what works and what doesn't.

Hence, the reason I joined Wattpad.  Nothing will replace having a handful of readers to send my work to, so if you are interested, please drop me an e-mail.

I am in this writing gig for the long haul.  I'm not looking to get rich quick (of course, it would be nice but I'm not expecting it).  To think that is unrealistic.  However, I have seen postings from those who complain about their lack of sales, yet they only have one or two books out there.  They're waiting on some magic spell to cast them into the light of the bestsellers.

Sorry, it ain't gonna happen, Bubba.

Last year, I made a little over $70 from my published works on Amazon.  Now, a few may thumb your nose at me--which I could really give a crap if you do.  The bottom line is the $70 is a start.  At the start of last year, I had one book out (a wedding saving ebook) and I published three more: Guest of Honor in April, Beholder's Eye in August, and Gabriel's Hope in October.  The bulk of my sales have come from Beholder's Eye, and it was only out for 5 months in 2013.

(BTW, in early January, I had a Kindle Countdown promo for Beholder's Eye and I honestly made more last month than all of last year - not bad for an indie author.  It won't afford me a week-long trip to Disney World or anything, but it'll put a bit more food on our table).

Shadowkill still continues to chug along.  I'm roughly a fourth of the way through the edits, but they seem to be going faster.  Let's see if I can get it done by the end of Q1.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happenings In The Outhouse 14-Feb-2014 / Pruning your life

Not only is today Valentine's Day--the day we share our love for our loved ones--it is also halfway through the first quarter of 2014.

How are your goals coming along?

Back in the last 90's, when my son was just a wee-little lad, I served a three-year stint on our church board.  It was a new experience.  But, when my time was done, I vowed never to serve again until at least all of our kids were graduated from high school.

At the time, I worked a full-time sales job for a local electronics distributor as well as a part-time dispatcher/deputy for the Sheriff's department.  Needless to say, I was busy.  Most months, I worked an average of fifteen shifts a month for the Sheriff.  That doesn't leave a lot of free time to do anything else.

I think about that time now because, when I look over my goals list for 2014, I have 19 separate goals.  When I break it down, there are only three that matter--and of those three, if I accomplish two, I'm going to be just fine.

Look at your life.  Are there activities you can prune out of your life, much like pruning dead branches from a tree?  Simplifying your life will result in less procrastination--because, in my opinion, procrastination is just an excuse to do something else.

Prune out those activities you could do without.  Do you really need to watch five or six hours of TV each night?  Probably not--and don't give me the excuse it's for research.  If writing--or whatever you'd like to do--is what you love, find the time to do it.  Cut out other commitments.

Learn to say NO.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Influences from ages past

Did I ever mention how much I love Netflix?  I have?  I thought so--insert smiley face emoticon here.

The other day, I watched a movie I hadn't seen since I was around twelve.  I had only seen this movie once (on laser disc, which were gigantic record-size discs), but for some reason it resonated with me back in the day and influenced part of my writing--my second novel was a cross between this one and Nightmare On Elm Street.

The movie is Dreamscape.  Released in 1984, the special effects were primitive--when compared with films nowadays--but all in all it was a decent movie.  Although the plot of the movie may be simple, the ideas it sparked (in me) were groundbreaking.

Chances are, you have a movie (or two or . . . more) that have influenced you.  I have three: Dreamscape, Firefox, and The Prophecy.

Dreamscape was about being able to enter another person's dreams.  Now, in the movie, if you killed another person in the dream, they died in real life.

Firefox was about an American pilot who went to the Soviet Union to steal a highly-secretive aircraft.

The Prophecy was about the dark war amongst the angels.

Embrace those movies or books or other influences from your past.  Re-read or re-watch them.  Let them rekindle the ideas and spark new ones.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Happenings In The Outhouse 07-Feb-2014 / Thinking long-term

As an indie author, it's difficult for me not to check the Amazon ranking of my three published works of fiction.  When I ran the Kindle Countdown promotion a few weeks ago, I checked it at least once every few hours.

I still check it a few times a day, but I don't fret if the ranking grows or shrinks--the closer to #1 you get the better, as it means you've sold a few books.


I'm in this for the long haul.  This isn't just a thing I'm doing to try get rich for a few years.  I'll be writing for the rest of my life--hopefully that's a lot of decades to hone and perfect my craft.

Not too long ago, I was asked whether or not I'm going to try seek out a literary agent for Shadowkill.  My answer was no.  I spent far too many years chasing my tail with agents and traditional publishers.  I'm going at this independently.  There are others doing it (do the names Hugh Howey or Amanda Hocking ring a bell?), so why not I?

I'm roughly a fifth of the way through editing Shadowkill.  If anyone out there would like to be a beta reader, please send me a quick e-mail at and put Beta Reader in the subject line.  I won't promise everyone will get a chance to be a beta reader, but I'll give it my best shot.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Goodbye Simon and Schuster (AKA my wife's response to my goofy fake phone call)

The other day, I was shopping with my wife and she had me call her cell phone--a common occurance since she has a tendency to "lose" her phone.  She thought she left it in the van, but when I dialed her purse started chiming her ringtone.

She picked it up and hung up.

"Hello," I said to nobody.  "Oh, Simon and Schuster is offering 15 million.  Not enough.  Bye."

I then said to my wife, "One day, baby, I'll get a phone call like that."

She then said something amazing.  "No, I think you'll do fine on your own.  You don't need them."

After picking my jaw up from the floor, we talked a bit more about my books, how they've been selling so far, and what I had in store on the horizon for 2014.

"Yup," she said.  "You'll do just fine without them."

If you look at the dedication page to all of my books (so far), I've put her name in them.  Because, quite frankly, she's been there for it all.  She's never told me to give up "the pipe dream" like so many others have.  She's always supported it.

The bottom line is, in today's market, you really don't need the big name publishers to become successful.  Follow the advice of those who have done it . . . and start.  If you want this bad enough, you'll find a way.

I have.

And I'd like you to join me.

The world needs us.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The anti-hero: Dexter's Dexter Morgan vs. Breaking Bad's Walter White

We all love a good hero.  From Luke Skywalker to Captain Kirk and from John Wayne to Clint Eastwood, we love to root for the good guy.  The hero.

But what if the hero is a bad guy--you could almost say Dirty Harry is a bad guy, for he's a cop who breaks the law, but for now I'm going to concentrate on two others.

On Netflix, I'm currently on season four of Dexter and several months back I finished watching Breaking Bad.  I'm counting the days to February 24th when the final season of BB is on Netflix.  Both Dexter's Dexter Morgan and Breaking Bad's Walter White--the main protagonists--are anti-heros.

Dexter is a serial killer.

Walter White is a meth cook.

Yet we root for them.  We want them to win.

We're fascinated by Darth Vader, but only because we're fascinated by those evil creatures that do harm.  We're not rooting for Darth Vader to win.  He's a bad guy.

If I had to pin both Walter and Dexter together, I'd say Walter White has the better story.  Why is Walter White making meth--really good meth, the best anyone's ever seen--when he could be doing something . . . legal?  Because, as we see in season 1, he's dying.  His insurance sucks.  And he has no money set aside for the future.  He has a handicapped son.  Oh, and did I add that his brother-in-law is a DEA agent and is actually tracking down the dealers whom Walter White is working with?  That, in and of, itself makes for a great story.

Dexter's story is good too, for he's a serial killer who's killing . . . well, other killers.  He's a blood splatter expert for the Miami Police Department, which gives him access to all sorts of information.

In the end, your protagonist may be a bad guy.  And if he or she is, make them interesting enough for us to follow.  You don't have to get all Walter White crazy, but there are elements of both Walter's and Dexter's characters that put them close to getting caught.  The tension is unnerving.  Once again, that makes for a great story.