Category Archives: Business of Writing

Two Dogs

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Both dogs, at separate times, walk into the same room. One comes out wagging his tail while the other comes out growling. A woman watching this goes into the room to see what could possibly make one dog so happy and the other so mad. To her surprise she finds a room filled with mirrors. The happy dog found a thousand happy dogs looking back at him while the angry dog saw only angry dogs growling back at him. What you see in the world around you is a reflection of who you are.*

Shorter: Perception is reality.

I had an epiphany at the Day Job a few years ago during a particularly miserable time when management and staff were not in sync. “Loggerheads” is both a reasonable description and an underused word. The circumstances are not as important as the question at the height of the darkness: why do I hate coming to work? Many of us, if not most of us, dread Monday as a culture. The epiphany came when I took a step back and made a list:

  • My job is very interesting. The constant stream of questions and situations challenge me to do my best every day.
  • Most of my colleagues have their heads on straight. There are always exceptions, but they usually have bosses who will listen to reason.
  • The people I’ve been lucky to supervise over the years are the best in business, and most left my team with a promotion. Equally cool: some still talk to me years later.
  • I’ve been blessed with above average bosses 80+% of the time. The mediocre ones never last long.

The list showed me that my perception was the problem about the “going to work” thing. And fortunately for me, my perception is also the solution. Implementing the “get over myself” solution took months, but I’m coming along. My blood pressure is down, there are more good nights of sleep than bad, and I don’t hate Mondays.

One surprise outcome is how this has affected my Night Job. I don’t know if I’m a better or worst writer, content or technique, but I don’t hate opening Word or Google Docs anymore. I do dread opening them up when I lack something to write about, but the “I totally suck at writing” feeling is gone. Confidence is a wonderful tool.

Maybe it’s human nature to seek complex solutions for hard problems, but I found this time that pouring the camel through the eye of the needle wasn’t necessary. I changed my perception of work and I changed my life. And it started when I recognized the problem was me.

(*The parable above is from the internet, as is the puppy picture. Neither were posted with their creator’s name. Please forward their names and I’ll be happy to recognize them. Thank you.) 

Keep Going

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This might be one of the “biking as writing” or “writing as biking” posts. More likely, it’s gonna more proof that you’re never too old to do stupid shit.

The end of November didn’t suck, though the potential for major suckage stank up the place. The Bride was bouncing back from not one, but two bouts of strep throat, and the day job had me pinging off the walls. The Saturday before Turkey Day had me 28+K words shy of the needed 50K words to win Nanowrimo. There was lots of Real Life going on inside and outside the house, yet somehow…

Maybe I was having a letdown this morning from the stress, but The Bride got me a Trek Marlin 7 as an early Christmas present, so time to boo-yah some trails. (Hey, I’m a veteran. We can use military slang without understanding the correct context. We’re cute that way.)

Here’s where the “stupid poo-poo” thing sneaks in. It snowed yesterday. The dirt trails were snowy and wet, so they were (follow the logic here) muddy as hell. To multiply the “stupid ca-ca” thing, my spiffy new bike does not have wheel guards or fenders, so (more logic follows) I got muddy from the spin of the wheels. Hey, Mom, I’m a mudder now!

No, I did not have to get muddy and, yes, my pretty new bike is not pretty now, but darn it, I can’t remember the last time that five miles of hard work felt so good. This morning’s ride could be a metaphor for that last week of Nanowrimo: the long, hard slog in the mud. But the followers of this blog (both of you) are the smartest readers in the world and you already figured it out.

While I have your attention, I will mention ASIN continues to be read and bought, making it my most successful book. “Success” is relative, as Mr. King sells more books in a second than I have in my life, but I’m pleased as punch. For those of you who use Goodreads, my profile is updated and I’m posting short reviews of the books in my life. More about GR in the next post.

Time to gird the old loins now and try to hit the daily writing goal while watching truly awful Raiders/49ers football. Y’all be good to each other. Mostly, be kind. And if you’re having any small or large crisis in faith or confidence, gimme a shout-out because I believe in you. Take care.

 

Cover Charge

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(If this sounds like a rehash of an old post, I agree with you because, gosh darn it, I feel like I’ve written a version of this post before, but I couldn’t find it. Oh well. New followers won’t know any different, so apologies to older followers. Here we go!)

Creating art is an art, but there’s the analytical aspect. There’s no point in painting a Mona Lisa or sculpting a Rodin without discipline and a self-imposed system of quality control. For me, the most difficult quality control portion writing a book was not sentence structure or character development but picking out a cover.

I’ve used 99Designs for three or four books. If you’ve never used 99Designs, the premise is straightforward: you start a contest, you outline your needs, you have X number of days to pick a set of covers that will advance to a final round, and then another set of days to pick the finalist. I’ve developed a QC system that might help you in the future:

Communication: You cannot overcommunicate, in my opinion. When you establish the contest, you provide a book outline and some details, and a list of your expectations. As the contest continues and the book cover designers post their covers, you have opportunity to provide feedback. The biggest favor you can do for the designers and for yourself is to be open and candid. Provide sample chapters and links to your web sites (social media, blog, home site) so the designers can see your public thinking.

Rating: You can rate book covers on a system of zero to five stars. For me, I use zero to three stars, reserving zeros and ones for book covers I’m never going to use. Two stars are for book covers I’m not quite sure about, and three stars are for designs that I’m certain or near certain are going to survive to the final round. When designers ask why they received their rating, answer all questions. Don’t be afraid. The designers really want to give you what you want.

Be Realistic: Don’t fall in love with the first submissions (like I always do). You’ll have a lot of great designs by the end of the first round if you have adequately communicated your needs. Be patient and stick to your rating system from the beginning of the contest to the end of the contest.

The Final Cover: I have no idea how to pick up final cover. For my latest contest, I bounced back between three or four designs because they were all great. When I narrowed it down to two designs, I couldn’t decide, so I bought them both. They each have their strengths, and I would have been happy to post either on Amazon. The final decision came down to which cover do I want to see five years from now. (The winner is here, if you’re interested.)

If you have a better methodology, please share. To paraphrase Edmund Gwynn, “Writing is easy. Book covers are hard.” Thank you.

Cover Reveal

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Lots to cover, but as I have the attention span of a mayfly, let’s be economical with the words.

The first Emma Parks book is free for download on Friday, October 19th. Lots of positive feedback for this and the sequel, so grab it! Here’s the link to Hope Knocks Twice.

Second, yep, that’s the cover of my new book, A Sheriff in Nevada. I bought two covers and pinged back and forth for weeks. They’re both excellent, but this one nudged ahead by a hair because I feel it best represents my home state. The second cover will be the subject of a future blog post.

Last, the book itself will be available for pre-order very soon with the release date of October 31, 2018. Why release it on this date? Because that’s Nevada Day, gosh darn it, and a book about Nevada for Nevadans should be released on our admission day.

I want you to read the book, so I’m asking for less than a buck of your hard-earned money. You’ll get more than your money’s worth, I promise!

Edit: Amazon got the link up quick! You can pre-order right now.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading and take care of each other, okay?

Status Report

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News you can’t use…

Today begins the professional editing of “A Sheriff in Nevada.” Twitter followers know my stomach has butterflies the size of B-52s because I’m flashing back to high school term papers (“Was I even close to the target???”). The edit will take two weeks.

Around that time, Cassidy Carson and I will be jetting off to faraway lands because we’re both in “use it or lose it” situations. Such is our level of dedication to the fine citizens of the Silver State.

Our return home will herald the shaking of bones and such over the keyboard to position ASIN for publication. I hope creating a Kindle copy is easier than it used to be back in the day. (“Tell us another story, Grampa.”)

This all takes us into November and Nanowrimo with this year’s subject being the first of two sequels to ASIN. No, it will not be another Emma Parks book (Hi, Lisa!), but I will do one as soon as I get something that’s worth 70K+ words.

Last word: this Monday’s blog post will be on cochlear implants.

Okay, that’s all for now. Return to your lives, citizens.

Not Gonna Dance

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Hi, it’s me. How y’all doing? Been a while, huh?

I’m resurfacing because I’m about to publish a book, probably in October.

Before you roll your eyes at yet another lame sales pitch, hold your horses. I am not going to do the “indie author sales dance,” period.

I danced hard for my last two books, one published under this name and a risque trash novel under another name. I won’t list the dance steps as y’all have done them yourselves many times (here’s the list). I exhausted myself bopping and popping with the whole social media outreach thing, and with spending more than a few hours trying to engage hundreds of dance partners. I wore out my dance shoes because I believed in my books. I believed in them hard. After all, they’re my e-children. Can you relate?

All that energy and emotion amounted to nothing. No sales, no nothing. No second dances.

I can write 70,000 words, but after that…who knows? Along the way, some kind of night magic is lost. Maybe I’m doing a masculine tango while I should be doing a sensual waltz. The Hustle instead of the Sprinkler. The Watusi instead of the Twist.

So here’s my only two-step: this new book is my best book, but I’m not objective. I believe in my children, flesh and electronic, so sue me.

I will hire a professional orchestra to edit the book and to design the book cover, then I’ll stick the thing out on Amazon. There may be a couple of blog posts and a little Twitter, plus I may make my other books free as a preview.

But the dance card will otherwise be blank. There will be no indie author sales dancing for me, and I’m okay with that.

Y’all take care of yourselves, okay?

[Edit: if you are the owner of this and/or other images on this blog, let me know and I will remove. Thank you!]

Historical Juxaposition

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[Today’s writing exercise with three stories. Forgive the typos, as this is off the cuff with little to no editing. My comments are in italics and brackets.]

In the space below each of these three historical events, describe a seemingly mundane, everyday event that might have occurred on the same day, which serves to juxtapose the famous events:

  1. William Shakespeare dies, April 23, 1626.

Riku stirred the warm water over the fire in his family’s small kitchen, waiting for his father to return from the docks and his mother from visiting his aunt in the foothill. Though only ten, he understood the immense responsibility of tending the fire, not overstocking the flame or letting the sparks leave the same stone circle. His father’s father, his soku, still bore the scars on his arm from the Last Great Edo Fire, and his grandfather rarely let a month go by without telling how his mother was consumed.

But Riku was ten years old, and his mind wandered as a child’s mind does, even during important tasks. His eyes saw his hand stirring the water, preparing to add the chai, but his mind was far away. It was not on his small family, his parents or his poor maimed little sister whom he loved more that the moon, nor was it on the upcoming Kanda Matsuri festival, in which his father promised Riku could attend from dawn to dusk. His imaginations passed over even his favorite dream: success in school. It was not unknown for the best students to find a new life above their caste, far from this small Yokosuka apartment.

Had Riku thought of his favorite dream, he would have repeated his silent prayer thanking the gods his family was not burakumin, social outcasts. No matter their efforts, there was no light in the dark days of those untouchables. Continue reading

Unpublished

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I unpublished a book today. I ain’t happy.

Literary history is rift with authors who burned their own works: Whitman, Kafka, Stevenson, Bacon, and so on. The angel who blessed these and others with literary artistry became the devil with a lit match and a fireplace. The reasons are varied: mental health issues, crippling self doubt, the desire to die in anonymity, and so on. I do not include myself with them, other than to say I understand how it feels when the magic disappears, and when a sense of reality finds a home in your gut.

The book in question was my second book, and in my lofty dreams, I wanted to accomplish so much: testify to the strength of love; hold the Church accountable for its sins; solve an ancient mystery; create a sort of James Bond with a collar. The outcome was a gobbled mess of editing errors, underdeveloped characters, and plot holes the size of an Edsel. Amateur Hour in 60,000 words.

Unlamented by most, the book is gone, or it will be once Amazon removes the link from my author page. If I’m going to be a professional writer, then I must have the strength to know when I’ve done wrong and fix my mistakes. Book Number Two was the biggest mistake of my nascent writing career. Through it, I learned a ton of lessons. The good outweighs the bad.

I still ain’t happy.

Road Trip

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Hello, all. I’ve been on a writing sabbatical, a fancy-schmancy way of saying I’ve been busy with Real Life and not touching the keyboard in a fictional way. That’s not 100% true, as 15+K words were written during July’s Camp NanoWriMo, all for a brand-new book. The key-tapping stalled when Real Life came back. My other WIP, completed at 70+K, waits on the virtual shelf to be made publishable.

The two works have little in common save one grace: they’re both placed in rural Nevada. That’s not necessarily a good thing. To some outside the Battle Born borders, our nether regions are filled with under-educated western rednecks trapped in the Nineteenth Century sensibilities. I want to say that particular demographic is firmly the One Percent, a plague found in every state of the Union, but never having been east of Fallon, I don’t know.

Therefore, my two favorite words: Road Trip!

The Bride and I are leaving soon for Eureka, Ely, Elko, Winnemucca, and other parts East via the World’s Loneliest Highway to capture the flavor and nature of the Silver State. We’ll avoid all chains (Holiday Inns, McDonalds, and so on) to see if we can find the true center of rural Nevada. My hope is we’ll return with memories and impressions that I can stick in these two WIPs. Maybe this trip will give readers insight to what has been best part of my home for many decades.

I’ll try to post a travelogue. If you have suggestions for sights and stops, shoot them on over. Appreciate your attention. Thank you.

Out of My Groove

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You ever fall out of love with a work-in-progress, even after 60+K words? That’s my current rut after applying dozens of hours on The Sheriff of Jefferson County. Getting to this point was the usual pantser rodeo, the whirlwind of character and location development on the fly, but the energy is gone now. I’ve no real emotional desire to complete the book, though Maggie and crew will be a series. I’m more fascinated with the sequels than the first book.

It’s not that I didn’t try to get back in the groove: plotted out the previous chapters, did some on-the-fly editing, added the four S’s (sights, sounds, smells, sex), and rewrote a couple of chapters so they flowed better with the rest of the book. Yeah, no love, no luck.

Though they’re no excuse, Real World events jumped onto the dog pile, not the least of which were some health scares, a flooded basement, and the fact that my country’s leadership is bat-shit crazy. I hesitate to mention the RW because writers must be stronger than the distractions around them. I’ve published several books by overcoming reality, and I will publish again.

The best thing to do is to sit my wide butt down in front of the white box and finish the damn book without thinking about the damn book. A vacant brain can be both a good and bad thing in that the book’s destination is below the horizon, therefore I can’t be intimidated by something that doesn’t exist. I might wander off the reservation a little (that being the main plot), but, hey, that’s why we edit.

Have you been challenged by your incomplete works? What did you do to kick start your ass to the finish? Any and all words of wisdom welcomed!