Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Too Much?

A couple weeks ago I mentioned that I might be overextending myself. Well, for my new readers - fellow writers - it's definitely true. I love it, too! There are a lot of blogs that I need to read and participate in, and I'll get to as many of them as possible. I'm not stressed, though, because all of them are still there, I'm not avoiding them, and they're all quite interesting to read! I may not be able to read each post every day, but I'll stop by when I have the time.

Right now I'm getting ready for my first cup of coffee, and then I'm going to jump back into the book I'm beta-reading.

As with previous end-of-month posts, I want to keep this one short to give you time to head over to Samaritan's Purse. They still need help raising money for famine relief in Kenya, and with the aftermath of Irene, they could use our help for their US Disaster Relief fund. Even Joplin is still suffering from the tornadoes that destroyed the town several months ago. So please donate and help your fellow man :).

Monday, August 29, 2011

Working

I'm toiling away on a new project! That excites me. I love new projects, especially those books that come with inspiration rather than getting forced out through shear determination. As I've said before, the book I'm querying right now was a story that I "forced" into existence. I knew I needed a new book, so I sat down and wrote one.

This one came with inspiration. At a time when I wasn't planning on writing a new book. I wanted to focus on getting my current project represented and published, but since I have time to do both, I'm going to.

I have to get to the Day Job today, so that leaves me very little time to work on my writing. Since this is a short post, go over to Samaritan's Purse (link to the right) and donate to their famine relief fund! If you feel so inclined, they have US disaster relief, as well. Many people hit by Irene will need some help putting their lives back in order. Samaritan's Purse can help. We only have today and Wednesday in this month's blog schedule, so on Friday I'll have a new charity.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Make-Believe with Rules


First of all, welcome to all of my new readers, both campaigners and those who stumbled upon this blog randomly. Now down to business.

I play tabletop RPGs, as some of you already know. But something a friend of mine said (okay, my GM) got me to thinking. He's been going out with a new girl for a couple of weeks, I guess, and we asked him why she wasn't joining in on the gaming experience with us. You see, we love new players, and if a friend of ours is going to consider a relationship with someone, we like to know that person, too. Anyway, she wasn't there, but my GM said that she finds it boring. And she called it "playing make-believe with rules."

My GM admitted that he likes playing make-believe with rules, and I have to agree. Yes, we're grown men and women sitting around a table, making stupid jokes while we pretend to be wizards, warriors, elves, and half-giants, but it's no fun if all we do is get told, "There's a skeleton in front of you. What do you do?" And all we have to respond is, "I throw lighting at it, and it dies." No fun at all.

What makes RPGs fun are the rules. Now obviously that's not true of every RPG that's been created. Some of them have so many rules that they get bogged down with unnecessary math, charts and graphs. Some are so light on the rules that you wonder why you should even bother, and one game I played had one rule: you're going to die. Probably within the first two or three rounds.

But over all, it's those rules, that chance of abject failure in the midst of trying my best, that makes the game so satisfying. Knowing that you have to hit a 15 or better on a d20 (20-sided die) just to hit that skeleton that's ready to chew your arm off brings in a lot of tension. Rolling a 1 and then getting whacked in the head by a barbarian's club a second later ratchets the tension even tighter. When you're down to your last hit-point and finally roll that natural 20 (a critical that does a ton of damage... most of the time), it's so SATISFYING to hear the GM tell you, "The skeleton explodes in a shower of bone-dust."

But then the barbarian caves your head in.

Still, writing books is a lot like that, too. You have to have rules. The characters can't go around achieving success after success without any effort. They have to fail several times. Miserably. And then when they finally succeed, something else has to go wrong. That's what makes a story satisfying to the reader. If you don't believe me, just ask fans of The Dresden Files.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I'm Joining A Blog Campaign!

In the interest of networking and promoting other bloggers, I'm joining Rachael Harrie's Platfrom-Building campaign! I'll be participating in blog challenges, joining in discussions in the Yahoo group, and I may try to get a Google+ huddle going!

In other news, on Friday I'm going to talk about RPGs again. Tell your friends!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sometimes, I just like to sing


I sing in the car. It's weird because I don't have a radio. It got stolen a couple of years ago, and I never found it in my budget to replace the dang thing. But when I'm in a good mood on my way home from work, I find myself singing. Belting out, even. And not necessarily any real song. I'll make up a melody and just create lyrics to go with it. Often just singing about what my day was like, or what I'm going to do when I get home. I stretch my vocal chords, too. I really want to be able to sing in deeper tones, but I want to extend the high end of my range as well.

I don't have any professional training, so my voice doesn't always sound great, but I can carry a tune. Especially if I know the tune. When I sing regularly (something I haven't done in quite some time) I actually have a decent voice. These days, it would fit better in a choir, in my opinion. When I have a tune to follow, I'm rarely out of key, but there's not enough body in my voice to make it anything special. Perfect for a choir!

Anyone who's dug through my archives knows that I used to play guitar. I'd like to pick it up again some day, maybe when I have a few bestsellers under my belt, but I don't do anything by halves. I want to get a good guitar and a good amp. That's something that would cost me at least three grande. I spent $500 on a guitar once, and that was a huge mistake. Don't get me wrong, you can get a decent guitar for $500, but it's going to be an acoustic without any electronics in it. I want a real electric guitar with a solid amplifier.

But that's somewhere off in the future. Right now I write. I tell stories, and I belt out my nonsense songs in the car.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Book Review: HEARTLESS by Gail Carriger


Yesterday I finished HEARTLESS by Gail Carriger. Once again, Carriger delivered an amazing story!

Alexia Maccon is pregnant. Very pregnant. Weeks away from delivery, as a matter of fact. And the expected child is the progeny of a soulless (Lady Maccon) and a werewolf, Lord Connall Maccon. Of course life isn't easy for the country's only soulless in the employ of the crown, especially when the vampires fear the child in Alexia's womb. Not to mention the fact that SOMEONE is trying to kill the Queen, as Alexia discovers when a ghost appears from beneath the floorboards to tell her.

Like Carriger's previous volumes, HEARTLESS weaves an engaging tale with filled with wit, drama, and a mild touch of violence, both from a pregnant heroine's parasol, and some supernatural teeth. Lovers of Carriger's unique vocabulary will finish this novel with a plethora of new words to throw into your everyday speech, perfect for leaving even the most astute conversationalist discombobulated by your outlandish mode of articulation.

In the past, I have praised Carriger for her masterful execution of third-person-omniscient narration. It is one of the features I enjoy the most about her work. I was disappointed that HEARTLESS remained almost exclusively in third-person-limited, following Lady Maccon throughout the entire book, except for a few paragraphs dotted throughout the book. From a reasonable perspective, this novel would have been way too long had Carriger kept to a TPO POV. Too much happened in this book that was already pushing 400 pages, and following the other characters for any given time would have drawn out the novel in unnecessary ways. But I do miss that TPO. Rest assured, readers, that this in no way hinders your enjoyment of the book. It is still excellent, just slightly different from the previous three novels.

My only true complaint is that Carriger seemed to run out of euphemisms for pregnancy. I did get a little tired with her reminders of Alexia's "current condition." The only phrase that I found to be overused. I must admit that I LOVED the term "infant inconvenience." Hilarious.

Thank you, again, Ms. Carriger for a wonderful tale! I look forward to the conclusion next year. And to those of you who have not read HEARTLESS, go get it. NOW!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

PS3's Broken. Again.

I tell you what, I got an instant headache when my PS3 crashed again. It broke. Yellow LED of Death. With one of my FAVORITE games stuck in the disc drive. This means I need to figure out whether or not the repairs I paid a LOT of money for came with a warranty. If I can get it fixed for free, great. If not, I'm going to choke down the pain and buy a new one. Why?

Well I said up there in the first sentence that I got an instant headache when it died. That's because this system is one of my biggest outlets for stress relief. I'm not addicted, I don't even turn the thing on every day. Most of what it's used for is Netflix instant watch. Be that as it may, when I have free time, I like to sit down and lose myself in a game. Now all of my stress (yes, there's very little of it, but it's still there) is gathering in my shoulders, threatening to make my head implode.

I know this is trivial, but this is like my books. If I suddenly found out I'd never be able to enjoy Butcher, Carriger, Tolkien, Lewis, or the other authors I love, I'd freak out. Pretty quickly. And the worst part about this is, if I need to get this thing fixed, I'm going to have to take time out of my busy schedule to run the system up to the repair shop. A big part of me is really hoping I can just replace the thing.

Stress relief is a big deal to me. Especially because of how stressful life can be. I think it's important for everyone, writer or not, to find a way to relax. Life is too short to spend it in a bad mood, freaking out about one thing or another. I know I don't always deal with stress well (though I know people who REALLY flip out about even the small stuff), but I am learning to remain calm under most circumstances. Still, my PS3 did help me forget my problems now and then, giving me the chance to regroup, recharge, and then face those problems with a fresh perspective.

How do you vent, release stress, and relax? (I know I've asked this before, but it's still a great question to think about.)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Change of Plans?

I may have changed my mind about my writing priorities. I still have a book to query, and I have another book that I want to revise and query out to agents who haven't heard from me yet, but after I finish my verbal pitch, I believe it'll be time to start a new book!

I've had this idea running in my head since I started listening to A Game of Thrones. I like the idea so much that, more often than not, I find myself STOPPING the book to think of more details for my own story. This is a story that has potential for a series, which is irksome because all of my books could be a series. The first two stand alone quite well, but this one will take some effort to transform into a novel that stands on its own. I refuse to write a full series before I'm published. I won't put effort into a set of novels (two or more) that may never get published. Sure, I love the idea of creating a vast universe, complete with history, wildlife, mythology, etc.. But without any credentials to speak of, there's no real point. Many agents recommend (and I agree) writing one book that stands alone, and if you get the opportunity to turn it into a series, go for it. If you don't get representation, or if all of the publishers turn it down, then you haven't wasted your time if you only wrote one book.

I've done pretty well with my querying lately, and I'm going to keep it up. Tomorrow, though, I'm going to start putting together a verbal pitch for the conference that's less than a month away. I believe I'll start with my query letter and make changes from there. My wife has volunteered to listen to me babble on until it sounds professional.

Have a great week, please donate to Samaritan's Purse to provide food for the Somalian refugees in Kenya. I'll see you on Wednesday!

Friday, August 12, 2011

People you should be reading

This Friday I want to point you to several people in the writing world whose blogs you should be reading. Let's start with Meredith Barnes from Lowenstein Associates. She's going through a series on how to build one's brand on the internet.

You should also read agent Rachelle Gardner's blogs. Just all of them. They're incredibly helpful. In fact, I'm going to use her blogs about verbal pitches to help write the pitch that I'll present at the conference I'm attending in September.

Finally, go check out Chiseled in Rock. They're associated with the RMFW, but they touch on many topics and share oodles of advice that's useful for all writers.

Oh, and when you're done with that, go donate to Samaritan's Purse (link to your right). They still need money to send food over to Kenya for the Somalian refugees!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

More Wednesday Wanderings

I hate synopses. They're no fun to write. I write them, and I do the best I can, and I truly understand their purpose. I just don't like them. I'm convinced that, no matter where I go with my writing career, synopses are going to be a major part of my future. I don't see any way around it. I just need to learn how to get better with the outlines while figuring out how to enjoy the process.

It's exhausting at work these days. We've been trying to catch up from the last two weeks. It's good because I'm REALLY getting my bills paid, and I'm building up my savings again. I'm just ready for a slow week so I can get more writing done.

I've done pretty well with my schedule, but there have been a few hiccups. I want a day to catch up on some stuff.

I'd like to say that I'll have more to talk about later, but chances are I'll be working all day. I should have time to respond to any comments, though.

Questions: how do you avoid distraction when you have a project to finish? What steps do you take to make sure you remain on schedule? And do you use that distraction as a reward for yourself?

Monday, August 08, 2011

Inspiration

Inspiration is important, but so is the ability to write without inspiration. Last year, I started a book with little to no inspiration. I knew I needed to write a book, and I wanted it to be about a sixteen-year-old dragon slayer. I don't know where I got the idea, but it wasn't really "inspired." I simply sat down at the computer and thought of ideas until I found one that I could turn into a story I would want to read.

Later in the year I tried the same thing again. I came up with a couple of concepts that showed real promise, but as I started to flesh out the characters, I started to hate the setting, the characters, and the idea. So I jumped back into revisions for both of the books that I had already written.

Well, last week I started listening to A Game of Thrones on my iPod. I barely got through the prologue before my brain went to work on a new book. I haven't started writing it yet because I haven't had time. I'm going to mull it over for a while, too, to make sure I like the various elements. I also need to figure out how to make the first volume stand alone. As much as I like the idea of writing a huge series, I don't want to put effort into one until after I'm published. The two books I've already written stand on their own, and until I have an agent, or a publishing contract, that's how I'm going to approach every project.

My point? Inspiration is everywhere, but you can't just sit around and wait for it. Write when you have the time, even if it's a silly blog post. When you feel uninspired, create a character, or write a short scene about something interesting. Take time to read. Listen to books on CD, or Audible.com. The man who narrates A Game of Thrones is amazing! James Marsters does a great job with the Dresden Files (except the newest one, apparently. They got another guy because Mr. Marsters couldn't do Ghost Story). Check out the Parasol Protectorate by Gail Carriger. Find inspiration where you can, and GO WITH IT! Take notes. When I had this idea, I was driving. I used to think, "Oh, I'll remember all of this." And I do, but I think it's because my brain made a memory trigger out of the fact that I took the time to pull out my iPod and record a message to myself.

Speaking of inspiration, please go donate! The situation in Africa is getting worse. Samaritan's Purse needs all the help they can get.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Friday Update

So it's a week in to my "overextended" schedule. I'm not getting up as early as I would like, but I'm making progress! I got a bunch of queries out, I put together some notes for the book I'm beta reading (I'll email those out when I have a few free minutes to clarify my thoughts), and I'm powering through Heartless by Gail Carriger.

Still no revisions on my other book (the one I'm NOT submitting). But that will come soon. My day-job schedule looks like it's going to slow down soon, but even if it doesn't, my wife goes back to school next week. That will make it (slightly) easier to get up when I want to be up.

That's about all I have today. I could get political, but this isn't a political blog. But go donate to Samaritan's Purse! They're sending food to Kenya for the famine victims.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Wednesday Wanderings

I like raspberries. And raspberry preserves. Both of my grandfathers had raspberry bushes in their backyards, and I got to pick fresh berries and eat them on a regular basis. I loved it! The seeds in preserves remind me of my childhood, and that's one of my favorite memories. I know it's kinda random, but that's how I feel today.

My brother paid me a big compliment. He said he liked my book. Why is that a big compliment? Because he doesn't read. He just doesn't do it. And when he does, it has to be a book that he really likes. Take that however you like. I'm my own biggest critic, so I don't know if I completely agree with him. At the same time, though, every time I read through my book for revisions, I enjoy it. It's a book I would genuinely like to own.

I enjoy bowling. I'm not good at it, I don't do it very often, but it's fun. I'm going to take my wife out to go bowling tonight. This is the last week in her summer break. She heads back to work on Monday to prepare the school for kids to show up soon. But we've been able to spend a good deal of time together. We went to Ikea on Monday, and that was a lot of fun. I don't know if we'll buy much stuff there, but some of it was cool. I can kind of understand the hype, too.

So... that's about all that's running around in my head right now. Time to eat lunch.

While you're here, go click on the Samaritan's Purse link to your right. Please give to their Kenya Food Relief fund. Save a starving child.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Charity of the Month: Samaritan's Purse again

I know it's only been a month since we had Samaritan's Purse as our Charity of the Month, but there is an emergency in Africa. People are starving to death. There's a severe famine, and Samaritan's Purse is sending food! It breaks my heart to hear the stories, to see the pictures of children only days away from death. Please, I implore you, dig deep this month and give to Samaritan's Purse so that we can feed those men, women, and children who may otherwise not survive to the end of the day, the week, or the month.

All you have to do is click here and fill in the amount you want to give to Kenya Emergency Food. While you and I may have to give up a gourmet coffee, maybe a movie or a night out, there are parents in Kenya who WILL give up food so that their children can eat for a few more days. And without our help, that still won't save the children.