Friday, December 28, 2012

Five Years

Five years ago today I married the most wonderful woman in the world.  While I have the misfortune of having to nurse her to health on our anniversary, I still love her and cherish the opportunity to show her every single day!

When we got married, both of us were very different.  She was half way through her first year as a teacher, and I was struggling to write a book while pretending to go to college (though I kept a 4.0 while in classes!).

Five years later, she's a great teacher with tons of confidence and a lot of success helping students advance in their education!  And I threw out that book I was writing, but not before learning a LOT about how to write a book, how to pitch a book, and how to move forward no matter what.

So today I just want to say: I love you, Emily, and every single day is an absolute treasure to be with you!

(Sorry to all my other readers who may find this sappy.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Plans That Die with a Cough

My wife's family is here for one more evening, and we had planned to go out to The Hobbit.  A movie I haven't seen yet, and one I've been excited to go to.  We were going to go to that great theater in town that serves food and beer.  It was going to be fun.

And then The Wifey woke up with a sore throat.  And it got worse through the day.  Eventually, all three of us had to gang up on her and insist we stay home.  She pouted.  I think she's still pouting.  But she has tea with honey, and a warm blanket, and a husband who will take care of her.


So tonight is a night in.  Just relaxing without any real plans.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve!

My wife's family is here for Christmas Eve!  We're doing Christmas with everyone tomorrow: Roast Lamb with sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, and lots of other good stuff.  Which brings me back.  Way back.

*Harp Music Plays*

Cold egg nog, hot chocolate, the aroma of baking pie, sweet potatoes with the tiny marshmallows on top, all waft through the house.  The grandparents smile down on my brothers, cousins, and myself.  We have gifts in front of us, but I have to wait.  We open them one at a time, youngest to oldest.  And I'm the oldest child.

But I don't mind.  We're all excited, and I expect a new video game for my SNES.  And I have egg nog.  Grandma just brought out the hot apple cider, and wreath cookies (made from frosted flakes, green-dyed marshmallows, and red-hots) adorn the fancy cookie tray.  I reach for one while my little brother opens some present or another.

Life is great, and memories of more Christmases flood my mind.  I'm excited for the years to come.

And I'm Hungry!!!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Fun

I'm going to celebrate a four day weekend with my family.  It's going to be epic.  We're going to have great food, good times, and tasty beer.

I hope all of you have a great weekend.  I'll post something Christmas-y on Christmas Eve.  See you then!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

(Un)Healthy Obsession

For some time now, I've talked about my new hobby: home brewing beer.  It has been brought to my attention recently (and I spent an entire day reflecting on the thought) that I've become obsessed.

To give a little background, OCD runs in my family.  Chances are, I'll never develop OCD, but knowing that it runs in my family opened my eyes to to a very simple fact: whenever I get an idea in my head, I OBSESS over it until it's either resolved or I find something bigger, better, or easier.  When I remain focused on my writing, the obsessions are held at bay.  For the most part.  And this is because writing is my biggest passion.  It's what I want to do with my life.  It's easy to turn that obsession into drive to move forward with my career.

But as I said on Monday, the news in my writing career isn't turning out as "planned."  A day spent thinking about my writing, listening to writing and publishing podcasts, rather than the brewing podcast that's consumed most of my time for the last seven or eight months, has really shown me both how far I've come, and how far I have to go.  And it made me realize why I've been obsessing over my new hobby.  I need a distraction.

Over the past three and a half years (since I started querying my first project), I've learned how to take rejection without taking it personally.  As a writer with mild self-esteem, I like and seek validation for the hard work I do, and it takes a lot of time to learn how to accept rejection as something that's part of the business, not a personal attack.  But now and then, the frustration of doing the same thing over and over again with the same result (crazy right?!?) wears at me.  So rather than spending my non-writing time thinking about writing, I've been spending it thinking about beer.  Brewing beer, cooking with beer, trying to find new beers to drink.

And as many of my regular readers may have noticed, my blog is suffering as a result.  The rest of my writing is thriving like never before!  But without thinking about writing, the publishing world, or the changes that keep sweeping through our little universe, I've run out of things to say.

It's time for that to change.  I'm going to ease off on the beer obsession (though I'm not giving up this wonderful hobby!), and I'm going to do more research into the book industry, try to keep up to date with other writers, and THINK about writing.  Even when it hurts.

If you've made it this far in this post, thank you for letting me get this off of my chest.  I love writing, and I love every minute of the process, even the rejections!  But like anyone working toward career advancement, roadblocks can get discouraging.  They don't cripple me, or even make me want to give up, but sometimes I lose sight of the big picture.

And that's why we have hobbies.  But not obsessions!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Careful Decisions

In any area of life, there are times where careful decisions must be made.  They can't be made quickly or lightly, and sometimes it's foolish to even discuss it in a public forum.  Over the last few months, I've had several of those decisions that I've had to make.  And one of those decisions is still up in the air (so I won't be discussing it here).

A lot of people have talked about what not to discuss on one's blog.  And as a general rule, I try not to talk about the querying process because it's so easy to give the wrong impression on a blog.  If, for example, I mention every time I receive a rejection, I could easily come across as a whiner, a bitter writer, and maybe (depending on how I discuss it) a rude young man who "thinks he's smarter than the industry."  The fact of the matter is, if I query an agent, I'd be thrilled to work with them.  And when they reject my work, I can't take it personally or take out any frustration on them, in any medium.

But now that I've set my book aside, I feel a little more comfortable discussing the process.  IN A POSITIVE LIGHT!

You see, after receiving so many rejections that I lost track, I took a final look at my book.  I made several very big changes to the manuscript, gave one final push to see if it would attract the attention of agents, and came to the conclusion that something about my manuscript (NOT the agents' taste, opinions, etc.) is off.  That's a tough decision to make, and not one I make lightly.  I love my book, and I could picture myself purchasing this book if someone else wrote it and had it published.

But agents know a lot that I do not.  Both about the industry in general and the market my book is geared toward.  And I genuinely respect their opinions.  If I didn't I wouldn't query them.  (And, as a matter of fact, there are a few out there with whom I don't agree, and I won't query them.  BUT I WON'T BAD MOUTH THEM, EITHER!)  Since "industry insiders" currently don't see a market for my book, I've decided to set it aside.  At least for now.  As I said, there is another decision that's still up in the air, and it is in regards to this book, but I won't discuss it for many moons.

Why would I make this decision?  For one, I understand that many many books have received hundreds or thousands of rejections before getting that coveted "Yes!"  And I am confident in my book.  But because of my day job, I don't have a lot of time to work on my writing.  Whether it's pitching one manuscript or writing another, I have to pick.  And I usually only have enough time to do one or the other.

I have a project that I'm working on now, and I love it.  The other book isn't going anywhere, so I feel like I'm spinning my wheels.  A good friend of mine told me that he's thrown out more than a dozen manuscripts because he "knew" they just wouldn't sell.  I don't know if mine won't sell, but at the moment, I'm spending too much time trying to push it into a market that's not really open to it.  So my final, carefully considered decision is to move to the next project.

And then I'll return to the world of querying, send out letters to agents who may be interested, and repeat the process as often as necessary. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Beer, Beer, BEER!

To regular readers, I'm sure it's no surprise that I like beer.  I brew beer, I drink beer, and I cook with beer.  It's better than wine for getting unique, broad (or narrow) profiles of flavor.  And it's cheaper, too!

That's not to say beer is "cheap."  High quality craft beer can start as low as $8 a six-pack.  And that's not to say Coors or Bud are "bad," it's all about preference.  And I've found GREAT beer that cost upwards of $15 for a single 750 ml bottle.

Now to my point: I'm making chili tomorrow with BEER!  I've never done this before, and I'm tired of the flavor whiskey gives my chili.  I always improvise my chili recipe, and that'll continue until I find a recipe I really like.  But I'm starting with Guinness Black Lager.  I'm not sure how it'll taste, but I'm excited.

Hopefully, I'll get to brew again soon.  And one of these days I'm going to actually sit down and tell all of you about my brew day.

Have a great couple of days.  See you Friday!  :D

Monday, December 10, 2012

End-of-year Goals

Let's be honest, sometimes goals that we as people set are unrealistic.  But that's not a bad thing.  Not always.  It gives us something to strive for, and even if we only make it part of the way there, often enough, that's farther than we would have made it if we hadn't set a goal to begin with.

Looking back on the biggest goal I had for this year, it's easy to say that it simply won't happen.  Not because of laziness or failure, but because my big goal was to have an agent by the end of the year.  Those of you familiar with the publishing world know that that's something I, as a writer, have very little control over.  And since the consensus of opinion is that, while my book is a great concept, it's just not something that works in this current market.  I haven't given up on this book, but for now, I realize my energy is better focused on the NEXT book.  That WiP that I've been making real progress on!

So my goal to reach by the end of the year?  Finish the first draft.  It's a tall order, seeing as how I'm just a little over half way through the outline, but if I push, I think I can get close.  And close is better than not at all :).

What about you?  Any goals that you want to push for by the end of 2012?

Friday, December 07, 2012

Grilled Cheese with Jelly

I know, it sounds about as weird as hotdogs with peanut sauce, but I swear, it's one of the best comfort foods OF ALL TIME!

I'm not talking about a Monte Cristo, either.  Though those are great.  This is just a simple sandwich made from two pieces of bread, lightly buttered, with a couple of slices of your favorite cheese.  Once it's grilled up, nice and gooey, get your favorite jelly, jam, or preserves (mine is raspberry preserves, with the seeds still in it!), and cover the top of the sandwich.

Believe it or not, it's still great with tomato soup.

Oh, and if you have a quirky character that needs an odd food to eat in a book you're writing, feel free to make them eat that!  :D

Happy Friday, have a great weekend.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Charity of the Month: Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

To be perfectly honest, I'd planned on making this the charity of the month back in the summer (I can't remember which month).  I love this charity, even though the stories that come from the organization warm my heart and break my heart at the same time.

Life expectancy for blood-born cancer patients has increased drastically as a result of this organization, but there's still a lot of work to be done.

Please click on the link to the right, donate a few dollars, and help extend the lives of cancer patients around the world.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Book Review: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

The sequel to Divergent, this book picks up one hour after the first book ends.  No catch-up to wade through, no exposition of what happened between the end of one book and the beginning of the next, just BAM! Right into the story!

Just like Divergent, this book carried great tension with excellent character development that only irritated me because they came across as real people who simply refused to learn their lesson the first time.  But since they DO grow as characters, their mistakes only add to the overall growth, and the result is satisfying.

Of course, like Divergent, this book does struggle with a handful of scenes where the intended emotion and motivation of the protagonist aren't as clear as I would like, but they're not painful or bad.  Simply unclear.

As far as this book goes, I STRONGLY recommend it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Book Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

I read two books this weekend.  Well, sort of.  I started DIVERGENT a couple of weeks ago, got busy, and read about a chapter a night until the day before Thanksgiving.  Then I stayed up all night to finish it!  Again, sort of.  I read until I remembered that I had to get up, and then wished I'd stayed up all night to finish the book.

Why am I telling you this?  Because I NEVER give up a week of writing and video-gaming just to read.  I mean, I love reading, but I have reading time set aside.  I typically "squeeze" my reading into that time.  Unless I REALLY love a book!

It's a post-apocalyptic dystopian story where all of society is split up into five factions that each focus on one character trait that they believe makes humanity better.  The characters are well written, three-dimensional, and likable, even with their flaws.

Like THE HUNGER GAMES trilogy, it's written in first-person POV, and in present tense.  And that's actually my only real complaint.  I've never been a fan of present tense writing, not because it's bad, but simply because it's not my preference.  Overall, though, it's a great, fast read, and except for two or three paragraphs here and there where the protagonist's motives, motivations, and/or emotions are unclear, it's extremely engaging.

So go get this book as soon as you can!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Broken Blogger and Book Reviews

Last week, I meant to put up three posts.  In fact, I even published two.  But Blogger decided to save the second one as a draft, even after I confirmed that it was published.  Friday being the day after Thanksgiving, and with a broken blog that I didn't feel like messing with, I decided to take a long weekend.

But it wasn't unproductive!  I reached the 30k word mark in my current WiP, finished reading not one, but TWO books (and that's a big deal for me because I'm not a fast reader), and I got to see some friends who I haven't seen in over a year!

And speaking of two books, I will review each of them this week.  One on Wednesday, the other on Friday.  I'll see you then!

But of course I have to ask, how did your Thanksgiving go?  Anything happen during or after the holiday that you're thankful for?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Focus and Motivation

I think, no matter what, it's important to stay busy.  Not crazy busy, but definitely active.  Don't get me wrong: I love taking a day off now and then, and sometimes all I want to do is drink a beer and watch TV.  But I guarantee you that J.K. Rowling never looked at her career and though, "You know, I wish I hadn't missed all those episodes of Downton Abbey."  (NOTE: I have no idea what she does or does not watch on T.V.  I'm just picking people and shows at random, here.)  Sure, there are great shows out there, and they may be very inspiring, but if the option is either write a chapter in your book or catch up on America's Next Top Model, which one is going to bring you closer to your career goal?

Recently, I've discovered that when I'm staying busy, I spend more time on my writing, even if I'm spending more time on my day job, quality time with my wife (even though that isn't taking up NEARLY as much of my time as I'd like due to our schedules), and even my new hobby of homebrewing.

This isn't to say I'm more motivated than ever.  In fact, my motivation is on a more intense roller-coaster than ever.  There are days when I'm excited to get up and write as much as I can before work, and then I get home and want to get even more writing done before bed.  But there are many days where I just want to sit around and just forget about this crazy writing dream.

But those tend to be some of my more productive days when it comes to the quality of writing I get on the page.

I guess my point in all of this is that proper time management plus determined focus can often times make up for a lack of "motivation."  Those times when we feel like giving up, or we just don't care that day.  Focus is what's needed when we don't "feel" like it.  And with focus, we develop the necessary time management skills to build the DETERMINATION to move forward, especially when the motivation just isn't there.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Holiday Reminder

As Thanksgiving approaches in just over a week, I want to remind everyone that we're still raising money for Child's Play.  They're in the middle of their holiday fundraising drive, and I'd love to see them beat last year's numbers.  So please head over to their site (link is to your right), and donate a couple of bucks.

Monday, November 12, 2012

What was I THINKING?

I gave up coffee for almost a month, and then took up drinking it again this morning.  The PLAN was to make sure I didn't get dependent on the caffeine again (the deprivation headaches seriously sucked).  But I started off with a dark French roast.

I know, crazy, right?  I figured it would be easier on my stomach than a more acidic light roast.  But I guess it wasn't.  I'm feeling the effects, now, and I really wish I'd watered it down more and used more cream.

But that's life.  Sometimes we make decisions that, while not bad, aren't necessarily the best.  So that's my big "What was I thinking?" moment of the week.  What's yours?  Any pearls of wisdom to share?  And how can we, as writers, learn from these moments?

Friday, November 09, 2012

I'm a MAN!

I did plumbing work around the house this week.  And it was successful!  That's right: this MAN can change out plumbing fixtures in his own house.  Without professional help.

Sure, it took three trips to the hardware store over the course of four hours, but I did it.  And it makes me proud.  I keep proving to myself that I really am an adult.  I don't know how I feel about that, but the longer I live, the more secure in my adulthood I become.

It took me a while to get to that point (though it happened years ago).  But one morning, I looked around, realized I was in charge of my own life, responsible for someone else (my wife–but not in a dominant way–I just mean that my choices have to be made with her in mind), and my choices are bettering my life.

So what do you do, or what have you done, that makes you feel like a MAN or a WOMAN!??!  This is a time to brag.  Be proud of your success.  And success that is achieved without help from anyone!

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Sleep Deprivation

Insomnia is no fun.  It hits me now and then, and it's always on a night before I can't call in sick to work.  Today I worked on less than an hour of sleep, and I never sank to a REM cycle.

I have no idea how genuine insomniacs cope with that.  I barely survived the day, and it's going to take all of my remaining strength to get some writing done tonight.

Hence the short post (again!).  :)

Have a great week.  See you Friday.

Monday, November 05, 2012

NaNo Advice

Are you new to writing?  Did you see the Twitterverse all-a-twitter about this National Novel Writing Month?  Yes?

Then boy do I have some advice for you!  First off: don't give up!  By the time you reach November 20th, chances are life will bog you down with many other projects that have to be completed.  That may or may not get in the way of reaching the magical 50k mark.  If that happens, stick with it, anyway.  Take more time to finish that first draft.  Nothing is more satisfying.

Second: DON'T send your work out to agents.  This is an absolute No-No!  Why?  Because once you reach "The End," it's time to revise and edit.  Revise and EDIT!  It's something all of us have to do.

Third: Chances are, 50k won't be long enough.  Unless you're writing for readers who are 13 and younger.  It's a simple fact (but there are ALWAYS exceptions) that shorter books have less things that happen in them.  Young Adult and Adult readers typically want more intricate plots.  Therefore, those books sell better.  Therefore, agents and publishers are more willing to look at books with a higher word-count.  So if you reach 50k and the book isn't "done" yet, keep writing!

Fourth: Writing can be fun, but it is work.  Expect to work VERY hard at it.

Fifth: Have high expectations, but be as realistic as possible.  If this is your first foray into the writing world, it's important to know that it'll most likely be at least five years before you get an agent.  Again, there are exceptions, but most of the people I know who are published all worked at minimum a half-decade before they took the next step toward professional authorship.  Don't get discouraged.  If this is what you want to do, stick it out.  I've been doing this for nearly 14 years, and I'm still working on getting an agent.

Sixth: Let's say you get done revising and editing.  You're sending out to agents and publishers, and they all turn you down.  Not a happy thought, but it happens more often than not.  Be VERY careful before you go to a local printer to self-publish.  Don't just throw it out there.  If no one is purchasing it inside the industry, there may be a very good reason for that.  You should be getting advice from critique groups while you edit and revise.  Before you go to the self-publish route, send your book back to them.  Get more beta readers to look through it.  And then go to as many industry insider blogs as you can and research what it takes to be successful at self-publication.  DON'T listen to the places that want to sell you self-pub services.  They'll either be limited with info, or they'll put dollar-signs in your eyes when it's really going to cost you more money than you can afford could tank your career before it starts.  So be careful, but DON'T throw it away as an option.

Seventh, and I can't stress this enough: KEEP WRITING!  You hit "The End," you finish rewrites, revisions, and edits.  WHILE you're querying, start a new book.  Seriously.  RIGHT AWAY!

Eighth and final point: Be prepared (and don't be afraid) to throw that first book away.  You do your ABSOLUTE best with that first project, but for some reason, you can't get it out into the world.  You don't want to put the effort into self-publishing.  But this is your baby!  The hardest lesson I've ever learned is to simply GET OVER IT.  I did it with four books already, and the most recent one, the best book I'd written up to that point, wasn't getting anyone's attention.  So I wrote another book.  Edited it, got it critiqued, and then started sending it out.  And then I went BACK to that book.  It was AWFUL.  So I threw it out.  I didn't realize why it bothered me until I wrote another book.  And now I know what I need to do to make that story-world into a delightful story.

This book is not your baby.  It's the first birdhouse you ever built in shop-class.  Chances are, it functions as a book, looks like a book, but if no one wants to nest in it, let it go.  Try again.  And learn from that first attempt.

And have FUN!

Friday, November 02, 2012

Charity of the Month: Child's Play Charity

Just like last month, I'm encouraging all of you to head over to Child's PlayNovember officially starts their fundraising season, and they have a huge goal to meet if they want to exceed last year's donations.

They also have links to local hospitals' Amazon wishlists for items they would like to have on hand for children stuck at the hospital over Christmas (and other times throughout the year).

Let's help them reach their goal.  Give kids some fun in their time of difficulty.  And have a great month!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ideas

A few years ago, when I started re-dedicating myself to this blog, I thought I would have a plethora of ideas.  Tons of topics to discuss.  But recently, I've been so focused on my books that I haven't had the time to think of stuff to talk about over here.  I still love talking about charities, and I love coming up with topics where I can go back and forth with all of you in the comments (though I don't always have time to get into in-depth discussion due to my day job).  I just can't think of a topic today.

But I am writing!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Stay Healthy!

Let's be honest: writers have a reputation for being rather unhealthy.  There's that stereotype of the withdrawn drunkard with his notepad (or laptop) at the local bar, swilling beer and whiskey (or vodka or gin, and in some cases absinth), chowing down on potato chips, tortilla chips, fish and chips... etc.  And, let's face it: most of us drink OBSCENE amounts of coffee (though for some odd reason I've given up the delicious elixir and I'm glad the headaches are finally gone).

So how do we stay healthy?  Eat better!  Seriously.  It's that simple.  I'm not going to get preachy about all the liberal blah, blah, blah about how being fat is worse than killing penguins.  I'm just going to admit that when I eat well and exercise a bit (and I rarely exercise because I work in a warehouse for a living and I need to sit down now and then) I can actually think.

Let me say that a different way.  When I'm eating well and I don't feel bloated by Doritos and pizza, I can concentrate on what I'm trying to write!  I can think, I can focus, and I have the energy to continue focusing on my work.

Another big thing I'm a proponent of: being healthy, in my opinion, is all about feeling healthy.  So this isn't about superficial appearances.  This is about whether or not you feel sick when you eat.  Having 6% body-fat isn't healthy for everyone.  And some people have better lives when they have a bit more "meat" on their bones, while I know I would have serious issues if I weighed 20 lbs more than I do.

Tips?  Eat some carrots or apple slices instead of Doritos.  When you hit writer's block, do ten jumping jacks or fifteen stomach crunches.  Rather than that second cup of coffee, get some water.  Water is vital!  And instead of pizza for lunch, go for a turkey sandwich on wholewheat bread, light on the condiments.

Now, I'm not a doctor, and this isn't me shaking my finger at anyone.  I just know that at times, I forget how much better I feel when I eat well and get some exercise.  At the end of the day, as long as you're writing and you feel good about it, enjoy yourself.  Life's too short to worry.  And no one, I mean NO ONE has the right to ORDER you how to live your life!  So if you're on board with what I'm saying, enjoy yourself.  If not, enjoy yourself!

Seriously!  Enjoy life.  Don't feel guilty about the choices you make (as long as they don't directly harm other people).  And eat whatever you feel like :D  (In other words, do what you like, 'cause what do I know?)

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Reminder

Just a reminder that our charity of the month is Child's Play.  This is going to be the charity for November, too, so please click on the link to your right and give some toys to a few sick kids in the hospital.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Value of Consistency

I've spoken before about the importance of sitting down and writing, even when you don't feel like it.  It's important, and it leads to progress, even if it's progress that will be undone during edits and revisions.

This will be a short post because everybody with advice on how to write has discussed this topic ad nauseam.  So have you written today?  If the answer's yes, then good.  Go write some more.  If not, sit down until you've put AT LEAST 200 words on the page.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Post-Conference Slump

As with many writers, I had a great post-conference bounce that filled me with energy, excitement for the future, and a generally positive attitude that helped me dive back into my writing.

It seems like that's gone, now.  Not in a negative fashion, just back to "normal."  I definitely have energy to write, and I'm still making time to write, but the routine took over, life got in the way, and now I'm back to working when I can, writing when I can, and sleeping or eating the rest of the time.

I still love my work, and I'm very excited about my projects.  My status simply hasn't changed.  And even though I'm seeking opportunities to advance my career, it's still not moving forward.  Yet.

And don't get me wrong, this isn't a complaint, it's just the "current status" of my career.  Like I said, that hasn't changed.  At the moment, the energy, the enthusiasm, the drive to move forward is simply waning.  It's like a turbo-boost in a sci-fi themed racing game.  The conference propelled me forward, but eventually the boost goes away.

Then comes the slump.  Again, not a dip below "max speed," just a return to the status quo.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Long Weekend!

I get a REAL weekend!  Woo hoo!!  Since I don't typically get Saturdays off, that's a long weekend for me :)

So Wifey and I are going out to dinner.  Have a great weekend.  Any great plans?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Professionalism

I read an article the other day that really made me think.  Not because I fail to follow the guidelines in that article, but because I try very hard to follow those guidelines.  Well, not those ones, specifically, but basic, common courtesies that I was taught growing up and working in customer service jobs.

I'd love to give tons of examples of how following guidelines such as those will lead to success and glory.  But let's face it, that comes with hard work, good timing, and many times can fall into the lap of the world's biggest jerk-faces.  But if that's the case, why be professional?

The simplest answer: because no one likes to be around people who make them uncomfortable.  If you're high-maintenance, rude, mean, selfish, or any other stereotype associated with the "diva" personality *cough* *cough* Prince *cough*, no one will enjoy working with you.  And why should that matter if you're talented and rich and make those people (editors and agents) money?  Well aside from the moral issues of treating people like dirt, this can be looked at in a selfish light.  If the only reason people are working with you is that you make them money, they'll throw you under the bus in a heartbeat the instant the cash stops flowing.

But if you treat them well, there's a better chance (though not guaranteed) that they'll stick with you during the rough patches.

The best example I can give is my day job.  I deal with people quite a bit, and some of them can really drive me up the wall.  But most of the clients I deal with enjoy seeing me in the shop or behind the wheel of the delivery vehicle that has their equipment.  I've built a reputation among the people I work with as someone who's going to work with the client to ensure that they have everything that they need.  As a result, the clients will very often make sure that MY schedule is followed (like when we have gear that needs to go out early on the return date), and the other vendors I work with will help me stick to that schedule, and they won't gripe and complain if something has to be changed due to miscommunications.

In the writing world, agents and editors don't want to be around that one person who's only interested in selling a book.  Sure, at conferences writers are hoping to develop a rapport with agents and editors.  But I, for example, would never have learned that an agent who I would enjoy working with also LOVED the Avengers movie if I hadn't "turned off" the "will you seriously consider reading my stuff" mode.  And we got to talk about Scottish music, traveling in Great Briton, books we both enjoy, and several other AWESOME subjects that had little to do with what she's looking for and what I write.  And it was a great time.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dot, dot, dot.

I FINALLY have game night tonight.  A "regular" update will come tomorrow.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Seriously, no subject

You know, it's important to keep busy.  Like I've been doing.  I brewed again yesterday, got reading done for the critique group, and I'm still plugging away at my WiP.

And that's why my brain is empty today.

Go click on the Child's Play Charity link to the right, check them out, and maybe spread the word about all the great stuff they do :).

See you Wendesday.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Book Review: Endlessly by Kiersten White

Endlessly is the final book in Kiersten White's debut trilogy.  As with my other reviews, I won't spoil the story for you.  But I will say that Evie's unique and engaging voice is as strong as ever!

The narrative is excellent, and the world is vivid.  Throughout the story, White draws in the reader with a not-so-subtle humor that makes even the most serious and heart-throb-filled-with-excitement moments soothing and easy to read.  The tension never eases enough to make the book boring, but it never reaches a peak that made me want to set it aside.  In fact, I stayed up WAY too late some nights because I couldn't put it down!

This book didn't follow the standard pattern that I'm used to (the pattern found in most popular novels).  I still don't know if I think that's a bad thing, but since the book left me with a satisfied ending, it's not really something to complain about.

In fact, the only complaint I might have is that the ending is very abrupt.  The plot comes to a conclusion, and then the story ends.  And that's it.  Nothing afterward to fill in any the details about where the characters go.  White has a great explanation for not including those details, but I do wish something was thrown in to indicate where the characters might end up.

But all in all, I recommend this book as highly as her other two.  Go pick up the trilogy, and enjoy :D

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hobbies and Household Repairs

On Sunday, I won tickets to a beer dinner that's kicking off GABF week.  I'm REALLY excited!  The Wifey and I will be down there tonight to taste five beers from Firestone Walker paired with food from Chef Hosea Rosenberg.

For that very reason, I'm glad I got out of work an hour early.  That, and I have a few minor household repair that I wanted get a jump on before cleaners come on Saturday to vacuum out our ducts.  It didn't turn out to be as easy to make the repairs as I expected, but that's because I thought I had one problem, and it turns out it's a different problem.  Which makes me happier than it probably should.  You see, I like the fact that I can actually do something around the house.  It makes me feel like a MAN!

Aaaaannnnd... that's all I got.  See you Friday with a book review!

Monday, October 08, 2012

Different Sacrifices

So a while ago, I wrote about making time for writing.  But today I want to talk about the other side of sacrifices in any pursuit.

It's always great to give up unnecessary time-wasters to make time for your desired career, but how important is this dream?  I ask because yesterday, rather than sitting down to write all afternoon, I went to the zoo.

Not alone.  I went with my wife and a few friends.  One of those friends is getting deployed to Afghanistan for nine months.  I decided that if, for some awful reason, something were to happen to him, I would always regret wasting my day writing a book when I could've been spent time with him.

I know a few of you can relate, what with kids and spouses.  It's like I said in the other post: a balance must be found.  And if writing is your passion, some sacrifices will be made, but don't make sacrifices you may regret.

If you do regret your sacrifices, don't dwell on it.  Just remember, not a single successful person in the history of the world ever looked back and said, "You know, I wish I hadn't missed that one episode of my favorite TV show."  Or, "That movie looked great.  If it wasn't for my book, I would've been able to see it and talk about it with my friends!"

So what are you willing to sacrifice for?  Why would you set aside your writing for a day?  And what's something that, maybe, it's time to give up for the sake of advancing that career?

I know for me, I don't miss TV as much as I thought I would.  Of course, I still watch now and then, but I don't miss the overwhelming amount of shows I used to schedule my life around.

Friday, October 05, 2012

The End of My Free Time

Overtime and after-hours work.  That's why I've been only mildly productive with my writing this week.  I LOVE what I've been writing over the past few weeks.  Unfortunately, I don't have much mental capacity available to me for the blog today.  Or time.  So, have a great weekend, please go check out the Charity of the Month.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Hump Day

It's Wednesday.  I have a lot to do at work this week, and it's really wearing me out.  Writing is going well, and I'm still excited about the book I'm working on!

Other than that, I don't really have much to talk about.  So go look at the Charity of the Month post from Monday, and then check out the Child's Play website.

See you Friday!

Monday, October 01, 2012

Charity of the Month: Child's Play Charity

It's October.  At the end of November, Penny Arcade will be holding their annual auction in Seattle for Child's Play Charity in order to raise money for toys, games, and books for hospitals around the country.  I want to help them with their fundraising.

Last year, Child's Play raised over $3.5 million!  This year, I'd love to see them get close to the $4 million mark.  I don't know what their goal is this year, but I'm excited to spend all of this month AND November (that's right: CPC will be the charity here for two months straight!) helping to beat last year's total.

I'm going to spend some more time talking about this charity throughout the next couple of months, and I'll post any updates I receive from them, like I did last year.

Have a great week, and please head over to CPCharity and check them out.  Donations are simple, and as always, it's tax deductible.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Three Days!

Only three days left to enter the Sensory Deprivation Contest!  There are still 19 slots open, too.  Get your submissions in, and you could win a giftcard or a critique.

Since it's Friday, I'll leave you with that reminder.  Have a great weekend, I'll see you Monday with a new Charity of the Month!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Never Miss Deadlines!

I read a story yesterday that gives me even more motivation to meet deadlines when I get a publishing contract.  (Click the link to find out why Penguin is suing several of their authors for their advance... plus interest!)

I don't know how big this story is, and I have no idea what the outcome will be.  But as someone who works for a contract company (we are contracted by clients, they pay us and we do work), I'm actually offended by the lack of productivity from these writers.

I understand that writers, especially writers who have full time jobs alongside their writing careers, may miss deadlines.  But some of the authors named in the lawsuit are 9 years late on their books.  9 YEARS!

From what I remember (and I could be WAY off base, here), it's not uncommon for established authors to miss deadlines.  I don't know how the money situation works out for the authors (whether they forfeit some cash or not), but I do know it makes a lot of work for the authors, editors, and marketing department.  And they're not four or more years late!  I don't have a lot of conclusive evidence, but a story that stands out to me is Jim Butcher's Ghost Story.  They had a release date, a cover, and even a first-draft approval.  But something bothered Butcher and/or the editors.  As a result, Butcher (who said he didn't want to release a crappy book) delayed the release of Ghost Story.  And I'm sure it sucked for everyone, including the fans.  (I know I hated having to wait.)

Personally, I hate being late.  I ALWAYS want to be on time.  Or early.  And as a writer, I can't imagine getting paid to write a book that I won't write.  I'm not saying these authors intended to take money without producing a manuscript.  But at what point do you admit to the publisher that you're not going to be able to produce the book they paid for?  When do you renegotiate for, perhaps, a different book?  Or when do you just return the money with a sincere apology?

As an outsider, I clearly don't have any answers to those questions.  I don't know how it works when you have a contract and a paycheck.  I'd love to hear from those of you with more insider information, and I'm interested to see how this unfolds.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Big, Long Sigh

I honestly wish I had more to say today.  But this is a good thing, and a result of working hard on my writing.  The most I can say at this point is, "Stick with it!"

I'm making a lot of progress, and I'm loving every minute of it!  Brewing is taking up some time, too, and I'm pretty sure the world is coming together in a way that makes my life a lot of fun.  Sure, there are some challenges I still face, but after years and years of hard work, I'm in a spot in my life where I feel like I can mentally relax.

Because there's no way to physically relax with how much I have going on.  Still, a good thing!

Now go!  Get some writing done :D

Friday, September 21, 2012

Loving Your Book

The other day, one of the agents I follow on Twitter (I forget who) asked a great question (I'm paraphrasing, but the point stands): Are you sending your pages because they're the best they can be or because you're sick of reading and editing them and just want to get "this part" over with?

Over the last week and a half, I've been rereading and editing my book.  I have my reasons, and I'm not going to go into specifics right now, but suffice to say I NEEDED to reread the pages.  What did I learn?

First of all (and I mean this in all serious humility) my writing doesn't suck!  Is this book going to win awards?  I have no idea.  Will it be a bestseller?  I can't see into the future, so again, I don't know.  But do I want to tear out my eyes every time I pull it up on the screen?  NO!  I ENJOY reading my book.

There is a part of me that wishes I didn't have to read it again, but not because it's a painful process.  I'm still in love with this book.  I still enjoy sitting down to edit it.  The story, the prose, the characters all make me excited!  But even Harry Potter (which is one of my all-time favorite series of books and WAY better than anything I've ever written) needs to spend time on the shelf, away from my eyes so that I can return to it one day and relive the pleasure found on those pages.

What's the point I'm driving at?  You should love your writing!  Your ideas should make you excited.  When you think about sharing it with an agent, a critique partner, your friends and family, you should be overjoyed!  Just like when you told them about that great novel that inspired you to sit down and write in the first place!

If you get sick every time you sit down to go over your pages, there might be something wrong with it.  I learned that the hard way with Defender of the Crown.  And I didn't see what was wrong with that book until after I finished The Dragon's Nephew.

Make sure you're genuinely in love with your book.  If that's not the case, maybe it's time to break up.  You don't want to spend the rest of your life with a book you hate.  Because you HAVE to read it at least half a dozen more times before it's published.  You won't have any choice in that.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Time is Running Out

The contest is only open for 11 more days.  There are still 19 slots open, and I will not proceed with judging unless there are at least 4 entries.  So go read the rules, write a VERY short story, and send it away!

And don't forget the prizes :).

Monday, September 17, 2012

How to make time

It's funny how much I've been able to accomplish over the last several weeks, even without giving up other commitments.  Sure, I haven't played video games or watched TV as much as I used to, but other than that, I've still been able to have fun.  And with my wife, no less!

Something my friend Aaron Ritchey said at the conference really stood out to me (and I'm paraphrasing here): if the amount of free time I have is more time than it takes to boot up my computer, I'm going to sit down and work.

That's how I've made time to write.  Any time I that I have ten minutes or more (because I'm not going to boot up my computer for less than five minutes writing), I sit down to work on my book.

Okay, in all honesty, I'm not NEARLY that efficient with my time, but I'm getting much better than I used to be.  Remember, we all need to spend some time to rest, but if you spend an extra twenty minutes a day writing that you would otherwise spend flipping through the news, goofing off, or anything else that takes away from your writing time, then you could add almost two and a half hours a week to your schedule!

So what about all of you?  What have you given up in order to make more time to write?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Um... Stuff...

Life happened. I couldn't access the internet all day, so there's no real update. See you Monday! Have a great weekend.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Paying Attention

It's ALWAYS important to pay attention to what you're doing, even in the realm of writing.  When you're driving, distractions can kill (DON'T TEXT!).  When you're working a crane at a construction site, distractions can kill.  When you're baking a cake, distractions can kill... your cake.  And the same is true with manuscripts.

I say this because I recently received a rejection from someone whose query guidelines ask for 50 pages of the book.  That's basically a cold-query with built-in partial.  Now there are many reasons why I could've received a rejection, but if forced to guess, I would have to say that I missed some GLARING continuity errors!

How could this happen?  I wasn't paying attention.  I found these errors just this week while going through and making changes based on feedback I received at the conference.  Sure, they only commented on the first ten pages, but other people want to see more of my work.  I figured it wouldn't hurt to go through and make sure it's as clean as it possibly can be.  And I found some issues.

Missing words or misplaced commas (if they're few and far-between) may not do a lot of harm in the long run, but I felt like a complete newbie when I found sentences that pointed back to conversations I wrote out of my book.  Honestly, if I was an agent considering that work, I would've rejected it, no matter how solid the rest of the writing was.

Again, I only got a "Dear Author" response, so there could be many reasons why I didn't get a full request.  But poor writing is always a good indicator.

Now lest you think that I'm here to complain, I'm not.  I'm excited because people DO want to read my book!  And I'm laughing about the mistake I made because it was an easy fix, and I can only blame myself.  Beating myself up would be a waste of time.  I learned my lesson, and I hope to pass on a grain of wisdom to all of you.

Now I'm off to work.  I'll pay attention today because I'm probably going to be driving a truck.  Or operating a forklift.  The only deaths I plan to cause will be fictitious characters in novels that I write.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Book Review: Thomas Redpool Goes to Hell by Todd Newton

Thomas Redpool Goes to Hell is a religious satire by my friend, Todd Newton.

It begins on an elevator ride down to Hell with what should be a completely unrelatable character who saw sins in the Bible as more of a "to-do" list than a "do not" list.  Throughout the narrative, Redpool's innermost thoughts confirm that he is the worst kind of human being and deserves every bit of suffering he might receive.  But the narrative voice and well-thought-out characterization kept me rooting for Redpool up to the very end.  At not point did I think to myself, "You know, this guy needs to be punched in the face."

The overall plot intrigued me, as well.  I won't ruin it for you, but the twists and turns it took kept me engaged, and I found satisfaction in a wrap-up that left no dangling threads or unanswered questions.

As far as satire is concerned, I laughed at a few jokes, but it wasn't as funny as I'd hoped.  I know other readers found it funny, so I may have missed the jokes.  And for the record, I did not find a single page of that book to be offensive.

Overall, I think Thomas Redpool Goes to Hell is a good book.  Would I recommend it?  That depends.  I certainly wouldn't warn anyone to stay away from it, but as such a niche book that deals with what is still considered a touchy subject, I think I would have to know your tastes before I told you, "Go get it!"

Personally, I enjoyed it.  And if you like satire, go ahead and pick it up.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Conference time!

I'm getting ready for the RMFW Colorado Gold conference.  I'm excited because this my second year, and I know more people who will be there.  I don't get to see other writers in person very often (except for my buddy Todd, but we rarely talk about writing.  And my critique group, but we don't get to socialize that much).  I'd originally planned on writing a review of a book I just finished, but I can't concentrate this morning because of the conference.  So that'll come on Monday.

In other news, the contest is still up and running, and all 20 spots are still open.  I'll send a confirmation email back to all entrants, so if for some reason you don't get one, let me know in the comments and I'll work to fix whatever issues there might be.

Now I have to start getting my stuff together, so I'll see you on Monday!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Charity of the Month: Compassion International

One of the things I love about Compassion International is that they have so many programs that help so many different people.  I've been working with them for over seven years, and in that time I've had the opportunity to help out with AIDs relief, tsunami relief, malaria prevention, and a plethora of other programs that go a long way toward improving the lives of poverty-stricken families all over the world.

I'd encourage you to head on over to their site, look through their programs, and consider giving.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Executive Decision

I have decided to delay the post for Charity of the Month.  It's a holiday in the United States, I know many people are avoiding the internet, so we'll see you on Wednesday.  There WILL be a new charity on Wednesday!

Now I'm off to work on my WiP while brewing Pumpkin Ale.

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Sensory Deprivation Short Story Contest!

FINAL UPDATE: Contest is closed.

Here are the official rules:

1. UPDATE (Something I forgot to put in here the first time around): Entries must be devoid of the senses of Sight and Sound.  This is Sensory Deprivation.  The goal is to stretch as writers and put together a scene with only Touch, Taste, and Smell.  And entries must be no MORE than 400 words.  I'm limiting it for the sake of consistency among the competitors.

2. Entries must be e-mailed to me.  The entry must be EMBEDDED IN THE BODY OF THE E-MAIL.  Attachments will be deleted.  Send the e-mails here [link removed].  Put Sensory Submission in the subject line.

3. Previously published stories are ineligible.  HOWEVER, as soon as the winners are announced, feel free to do whatever you like with your story. With one exception...

4. The Winners will have their stories featured on this blog, both in the post-of-the-day and alongside other short stories that will be posted in their own, separate pages.  The Winners (and all other entrants) agree that I do NOT own the intellectual property, but all entrants acknowledge that the Winners (and only the Winners) are giving me full permission to post their story on this blog for no LESS than 30 days.  After 30 days, stories will ONLY be pulled down at the author 's request.  Unless the blog shutters, gets lost, or an unforeseeable event forces me to remove it.  The winner also agrees to refrain from publishing the story on their own sight until the next post is published on this blog.  (Example: if the winning entry is published on Friday, the Winner will wait until Monday to put the story up on their own site.  If it's Monday, it can go up elsewhere Wednesday, and if Wednesday, then it can get published on Friday.)

5. The entry period begins at 12:00am MDT, September 1, 2012.  There will be a limit of 20 entrants.  I know that's not very many, but this is to ensure that all entries will be read and winners selected in a reasonable amount of time.  When the 20th entry is received, the entry period will be closed, this post will be updated, and the e-mail address will be removed.  If fewer than 20 entries have been received, the entry period will close at 11:59pm MDT, September 30, 2012.

6. There will be three winners.  One grande prize winner and two first prize winners.  All winners will have their stories featured on this blog (as stated above).  The grande prize winner will get their choice of a $25 dollar gift card to Amazon, iBooks, OR Nook (winner decides); OR a ten-page critique from me.  First prize winners may select a $10 gift card to ONE of the sites listed above, OR a first page critique, OR a query letter critique.

Now remember that I'll be writing a story as well, to be featured here while I judge the entries.  As some of you may remember, I said this is limited to U.S. Residents.  I'm going to amend that to say that ANYONE can enter AS LONG AS you have a mailing address in the United States where I can send the gift card.  If you prefer the critique, then this is a moot point because that'll be done over the internet.

I ask that any questions you may have be posted in the comments.  Please use the e-mail only for entries.  Thank you, and I'm looking forward to your stories!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Intimidating

As some of you know, I brewed my first batch of beer a few months ago.  It was a lot of fun, but after the process, I realized that as easy as it is, it's very intimidating for me.  I can cook.  And I can cook pretty well (not professionally well, but for a home cook, I can bust out some tasty recipes).  But with beer, I feel like there's NO way I'll be able to wrap my head around it.

You see, beer is complicated.  Very complicated.  I do beer the easy way.  And by that I mean I buy an extract kit, boil water, add the extract and hops, then dump it in a bucket with yeast.  But once you get to the all-grain level, there's so much more to it.  First, it adds several hours to the brewing process, plus sanitation before the brewing, and then cleanup after.  And sanitation is HUGE.

More than that, there's so much that can go wrong.  If the equipment isn't properly sanitized, you can spoil your beer and have "off flavors."  If you don't boil the wort properly, it can be too thick or too watery.  When you get into all grain, mashing improperly, changing the grains, mashing too long or too short can all change the flavor of the beer.  If the wort isn't COOLED quickly enough, you can ALSO spoil it and create "off flavors."

Then there's the yeast.  If the wort is too hot, you can kill the yeast.  Or get it too excited which will change the flavor of the beer.  Possibly ruin it.  If it's too cold, the yeast won't wake up, which means the wort won't ferment, and you don't get beer.

And don't get me STARTED about packaging, either kegging or bottling.

My point, though, is that I'm going to stick with this.  I want to learn the ins and outs of brewing.  It's much like how I felt when I finished writing my first book.  When I was convinced that it was ready to query, I felt completely overwhelmed.  I blogged now and then, but I didn't know how to promote my blog.  I didn't know ANY of the readers who stop by here regularly, and I CERTAINLY didn't know the first thing about researching agents and formulating a proper query for them.

But I stuck with it!  And while I may not be an expert, I'm not intimidated anymore.  Some day I'll grasp brewing, just like I understand how to make an awesome Roast Lamb with Jalapenos and Cherries.  And when I learn new tricks about writing, I'll try to make sure I share them with all of you :D

Monday, August 27, 2012

Fun Stuff for September!

I'm excited for some of the stuff I have going on next month.  Including the contest that will begin at some point (announcement on Friday).  We have a new charity that will be up on Monday (next week), and I'm going to start writing the manuscript for a new book!  My sci-fi short inspired me to write a spin-off novel, and I'm almost done outlining that.  I'm going to jump back and forth between two WiPs at this point.  That should keep me pretty busy :D.

Next week, The Wifey and I will be brewing our second ever batch of beer!  And I'm selling my snowboard to buy new equipment for this hobby.  (Honestly, I'd love to go snowboarding again, but it's just way too expensive, especially since I'd have to take time away from writing AND my day job.  So brewing will be my new hobby.)

I also have a writing conference next weekend.  And that's SUPER exciting.  I met some awesome people there last year, and I signed up to have an editor critique the first ten pages of The Dragon's Nephew.  I'm nervous about that, and it may force me to make some tough decisions, but I'm ready to learn from the experience!  I'm also going to pitch to an agent (not sure who, just yet, but they're all great agents!).

I can't remember what I have going on later in the month, but I'm sure it'll be great.  And I'm looking forward to reading submissions for the contest!

Have a great week.  Let me know if you have something fun lined up in the near future.  I'll see you Wednesday!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Consistency?

I've had some very good discussions with other writers in the last few weeks.  One of the conclusions I reached is that, even when life gets in the way, it's important to get up and write again.  This is something I struggled with over the last year, and even though I consistently got work done, it wasn't on a daily basis.

The reason I couldn't get a blog post up yesterday is because my work day got really busy!  I planned on putting a post together when I got home, but completely spaced it between making dinner, trying to relax, and finally passing out at 9:45pm.  But I believe in consistency!  Today is going to be a chill day.  After a tour of a local brewery, I'm going to get some work done on my outline.  I have to do some small rewrites because the story wasn't going the direction I wanted it to, but that's why I outline first :).

And then tomorrow I'm going to start looking into getting that writing contest going.  In fact, I'm going to say definitively that the Official-Official announcement will be up on Friday, August 31.  There will be deadlines, of course, and at least one prize, even though I'm considering a grande prize and two "first" prizes.  (BTW, if any of you have ideas as to what a great prize would be, feel free to let me know and I'll consider it.  I have some ideas, but I'd love to hear what you'd like to win.  A critique? A POP figurines like Batman or Iron Man? Kid-robot toys?  Kindle/iBooks gift-cards?)

Anyway, for the sake of consistency, I'm going to get some work done at the Day Job now, and then I'm going to go home and get some outlining done.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bacon!

I know bacon is kind of a big deal on the internet, and it has been for quite some time.  I know talking about it is as cliche as a cowboy with a shiny belt-buckle.  But I LOVE bacon!

The other day, I even had a bacon maple beer from Rogue Brewing out in Oregon.  And I kinda liked it.  It was tasty, and unique, and if you like interesting flavors and new experiences, I recommend trying it.  But try it with a friend.  Or three.  I couldn't drink more than a quarter of a bottle (it was a 22oz.).  It was flavorfully rich, and not at all what I'm used to from beer.  I don't know that I'll drink it again, either.  But it still satisfied my desire for bacon!  Even made me want pancakes.

What do you love that other people are obsessed with?  And what do you love that other people seem to hate?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Small Change of Direction

I have to be honest: I really enjoyed writing The Senator's Daughter.  I hope all of you enjoyed reading it, too.  I enjoyed it so much that I've decided to set aside the fantasy WiP that I've been working on to focus on a novel based in the sci-fi universe I created for that short story.

I'm excited to work on this new book.  To the point where I'm laughing out loud when I come up with ideas for the next part of the outline!  I think the last time I was THIS excited for a story I was starting up the Chris Drake novel.  And I think excitement is important.  I think a writer SHOULD enjoy what they're working on, and when there's no contract involved, those are the best projects to pursue.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Looking For Ideas

For those of you who are familiar with some of my previous posts, you know I have a hard time staying active in writing forums.  I've always felt that if I don't have anything significant to add to a conversation, I might as well stay out of it.  On top of that, I don't have a lot of free time to spend going back and forth to the forums to respond to the things people say in regards to a topic to which I CAN contribute.  The same goes for most blogs.  I'd love to go back and forth to the dozen or so blogs that I follow and discuss topics in the comments, but I barely have time to respond to the comments I receive here.

So I'm looking for more ideas on ways to connect with other writers and potential readers.  I'm open to many things, even if that means my blogging suffers.  I'm MAKING more time for my writing because I'm tired of wasting my time in front of the TV.  But I don't want my WRITING to suffer because I'm performing tasks RELATED to writing.  That doesn't mean that I'm going to be querying less, in fact,  I need to do that more.  I don't want to blog less, but I don't have enough to say to justify blogging more often (and for the few of you who were here when I blogged five days a week, remember how boring that got?).

The point I'm driving at is I want to spend more time pursuing my career so that I can eventually quit my job.  I have no illusions about how difficult that will be.  I don't expect it to happen in the next five years, even if I get a traditional publishing contract in that time.  But what do you, my fellow writers and my readers think?  Again, I don't want to put up ads, and I don't want a paypal button.  But should I, perhaps, create a new blog where I provide more serious writing content and short stories and sell ad space?  Should I buy ad space?  Or should I perhaps start offering to go in to schools to teach some writing seminars?  Should I put together some instructional videos?  Offer critiques?

I know I'm asking a lot of questions, but if you drop by here, I'm interested in hearing what you'd like to see on this blog.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Importance of a Solid Conclusion

Warning, there are spoilers in this blog.  I'm discussing The Bourne Legacy.  So if you don't want the movie ruined, turn away... NOW!

My wife and I went to The Bourne Legacy on Saturday, and I was excited to see it.  I loved the first three movies, and I enjoyed the simple, formulaic plot.  It's a simple formula: Bourne discovers there are people after him for one reason or another, he finds out why, takes the battle to their home-turf, and then wins.  (NOTE: I HATE it when people say "This movie sucked because it didn't do what other movies do" when those movies are based off of books and follow the books very closely.  The Hunger Games got a lot of complaints because idiots who never read the books thought it was a stupid movie.  With that said, I never read the Bourne books.  I don't know how accurate the movies are in comparison to those movies, but I loved the movies based on Ludlum's work.  This criticism is EXCLUSIVELY about the plot of the films, and it's relevant in light of any books that new authors might be writing.)

The Bourne Legacy COMPLETELY turned away from that formula.  I know Ludlum didn't write the book this movie is based on, but a formula existed, and it worked!  The tension was great, acting was entertaining, Aaron Cross (the protagonist) wasn't a copy of Bourne, in fact he was a VERY different character, and quite engaging in my opinion.  But after Cross learned people were trying to kill him, he came up with a solution to survive, to get away from the bad guy, and then he disappeared.  He didn't confront the bad guy, he didn't really FIGHT the bad guy.  He ran away, throwing punches at people who got in his way, but never CONFRONTING THEM!

The movie was incomplete.  The final confrontation is crucial to a solid conclusion.  Without that conclusion, the audience feels (justifiably) cheated.  I was invested in the character, his struggle, and I was looking forward to a final fight between Cross and the bad guy.  I was even expecting to sit in the theater for another hour to get it.  But then the movie ended.  And I had no resolution.

Remember that when you sit down to plot out your book.  Your conclusion MUST tie up the loose ends.  At least enough of them to make the reader willing to come back for more.  If you leave ALL of the loose ends open and floating, the audience will abandon you very quickly.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Crazy, Crazy.

Life got REALLY crazy over the last two weeks.  I finally got my new glasses, but my eyes are having trouble adjusting.  Apparently there's this new technology called "digital lenses."  I have NO idea what that means, but I DO know that I've been getting eye strain.  So I'm working on that.

The Day Job took up almost ALL of my energy last week, and this week when I haven't been dealing with the Day Job and my glasses, I've been focusing on my new WiP.  As a result, this is about all I have for you today.  But Part 6 of The Senator's Daughter will be up on Friday!

See you then.

Monday, August 06, 2012

New Beginnings to Replace Old Beginnings

Rewriting is part of the writing process.  In fact, it's one of the most important parts of the writing process.  Last week I labored through two and a half pages of my new WiP.  It took me five days to get 600 words on the page.  Last night, eager to spend my alone-time in a productive manner, I sat down to see what I could do with this story that excites me but apparently needs some motivation to get out of my brain.  I took one look at what I'd written and threw it out.

Starting over isn't a big deal.  Chances are I'll scrap THIS chapter, too, and create at least four or five different renditions of "Chapter 1."  That's just how it's worked for me in the past.  But I HAVE to get the story rolling.  And in two days I got almost 600 words on the page that are FAR better than what I fought to get up all last week.

What about you?  Do you struggle with beginnings the way I seem to?  How do you deal with that?

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Charity of the Month: Your Home

For a long time I've believed that charity doesn't stop at far-off organizations that take my money to communities I may never see.  I think charity should start with the people I care about.  I have a friend who is struggling in this economy, and there aren't any organizations that can help him out of his current situation.

That gave me the idea for this month's charity: your home.  I want to encourage all of you to find someone in your neighborhood, maybe where you work, or somewhere you spend a lot of time.  If there's anything you can do to ease their struggles, please do it.  It may not fix their problems, but I've seen how much a little kindness can help someone in need.  And a little bit goes a very long way!

Monday, July 30, 2012

New Book!

I started writing a new book today!  I finished the outline over the weekend, and today I started the manuscript.  It's exciting.  And distracting.  So this is it for my blog post today :).

I'll see you Wednesday with a new Charity of the Month.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

An Odd Surprise

Netflix created an original show last year.  They called it Lillyhammer.  It's about a mob boss who goes into witness protection and gets relocated to Lillehammer, Norway.  He CHOOSES to go there because of how beautiful it was during the Olympics.

The surprise, for me, was how well written the show is.  The acting is kinda cheesy, but in a good way.  The show is supposed to be funny.  And the production quality is professional!  It looks like a real TV show.

I only watched the first episode last night, but I wanted to watch more.  I abstained so that I could continue to watch it with my wife.  But I was tempted to simply watch all of the episodes in one sitting.  And that doesn't happen very often.

So if you have Netflix, go check it out.  If not, go get Netflix and check out the show!

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Decision on Computers

I love my Mac.  And I need a new computer.  So logically, one might assume that I'm going to buy a new Mac when it comes time to replace this worn down machine of mine.

Sadly, I can't do that.  You see, for much of what I do, I NEED a PC.  I need to format all of my manuscripts in MS Word or they don't look professional when agents open the files (to be fair, I've only had a handful of partials requested, but they looked professional!).  I COULD use MS Word for OS X, but at the same time I COULD us sewing shears to cut up chicken for enchiladas.  "But Giles," you say, "what about Pages?  That's a GREAT program, and you already use it to write ALL of your stories!"

Alas, when exporting from Pages into .doc formatting, headers, margin, line number, and even page breaks get adjusted and moved around to make it look like a deranged monkey took over the project before sending it to agents.

So here comes my decision.  Since I NEED a PC, and I'm trying to save money for my future, I've decided to buy a PC and not a Mac.  It makes me sad, it really does!  I already have a copy of Windows 7 Pro that I COULD use to dual-boot a Mac that would run OS X AND Windows, but it's still about the cost.  When looking over the technical specs of a PC vs. a Mac, I can get equivalent hardware for half the price.  And the PC (laptop) would STILL have a larger screen!

But even if it wasn't about money, I'd still be getting a PC.  As a pre-published author, I need to streamline my process, and taking an hour or two to sift through a manuscript that's been transferred (whether it's via thumb-drive or e-mail) from my Mac to my PC is simply a waste of time.  Since I work nearly 40 hours every week, I don't have a ton of free time at home.  So I need to do whatever I can to make every minute count.  By writing directly in MS Word on a PC, I'll probably halve the time it takes to prepare my manuscripts for my critique group and any agents who show interest.

And with Word on the Windows side, that would make my Mac nothing more than an expensive music library.  And let's face it: iTunes works on PCs, too.  And so does Star Trek Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Guild Wars 2.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Guest Blog: The Wifey

Due to the fact that my eyes are wonky (dilation for my eye exam), my LOVELY wife has agreed to fill in for me.  This is turning into quite an astounding week for my wife.  I think I may owe her more than a $5 bottle of wine…

------------------------

“MISS!” a student yelled across my classroom.

“Yes?” I replied.

“How do you spell ‘immediately’?”

“I-m-m, and the rest is in the dictionary.”

“Aww, come on Miss,” she whined, “How am I supposed to look up a word in the dictionary if I don’t know how to spell it?”

“Use your phonograms of course.”

What then followed was the most impressive, dramatic, and exasperated sigh you have ever heard come out of a twelve-year-old girl.

Ahh, phonograms. What is a phonogram you ask? A phonogram is a letter or combination of letters that represent a sound or sounds in a phonetic language. Up until five years ago, I was under the distinct impression that each vowel in the American English language had two sounds: a long one and a short one. Why? Because that was what I was taught. If you were raised in the phonics swing of the education movement like I was, then you were taught that the letter ‘C’ sounded like the first sound in “cat” … but then so did the letter ‘K’. The letter ‘G’ sounded like the first sound in “goat”, but then you were confronted with the word “giraffe” and, by golly, it should have started with a “J” because that letter made that sound. Confusing? Definitely!

Then in 2007, when I began my first teaching job, my world was turned wonky. I learned that ‘A’, ‘O’, and ‘U” have four distinct sounds, ‘I’ has three, and ‘E” has two. (At least they got that one right!) The letter ‘C’ has two sounds, and yes, one of them does sound like a “K”. The letter ‘G’ has two sounds, and again, yes, one of them sounds like a ‘J’.The sad thing was, I wasn’t the only one in the room to which this was a revelation.

I teach in a school that has a very large population of students who are learning English as a second language. I watch their struggle as many of them walk in the door on the first day of school knowing very little of our language. My heart breaks for these students who, for many of them, have just come into the country and can barely ask if they can use the restroom. This is why I am a firm believer in teaching students all 71 phonograms of the American English language.

Thankfully, I work in a school who believes this as well. Our Kindergarteners will have learned half of those sounds by the end of the year, and our first graders will have mastered every one of them by the end of their year. As a result our “babies”, as I call them, have the ability to decode almost any word you place in front of them with a teacher’s help.

“But,” you may be asking, ”What about sight words? Some of them do not fit into the rules!” You’re right, they don’t. Words like “the” and “of”, should probably be taught by sight. However, a child can only memorize so many words before their brain will begin to see patterns in spelling that will mislead them. For example, it is easy for a student to memorize the word ‘read’, but eventually they will be confronted with the word ‘read’. If they understand that the phonogram ‘ea’ has three different sounds, they can use those sounds to understand the difference between “I will read a book” versus “I have read a book”.

I was once told that if you can spell a word, you’ll always be able to read it. However, just because you can read a word, does not mean that you will be able to spell it. I know The Husband has talked before about the importance of grammar and the structure of writing, but don’t forget the extreme basics of our language: the sounds that create it!

Monday, July 16, 2012

My AWESOME Wife

My wife is AWESOME.  You see, on our way home from San Diego we stopped at Vegas for the night.  The minute we got into the hotel room, my glasses broke.  First off, my wife braved the unfamiliar city of Las Vegas to help me get tape to keep the earpiece on well enough to see while we walked down the strip.

Unfortunately, the glasses didn't sit straight on my face.  That meant I couldn't see well.  Which made it dangerous to drive.  So my awesomely stupendous wife drove the ENTIRE way from Vegas to my home in Denver in ONE DAY.  Thirteen hours behind the wheel while I can't see straight, and my glasses are making my eyes water.

I heard stories of women in the pioneer days surviving great odds that destroyed big, strong men.  They made it through long journeys with the stamina and willpower it takes to give birth while their husbands wussed out under a fallen log, or something.

Long story short, my wife is awesome, and everyone should know it!  Give her a HUGE round of applause because I wouldn't have made it home without her!  :D

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Guest Blog: Hanna C. Howard on Her Process

I wrote about my writing process a while ago, and you can find that post here.  But Hanna C. Howard has a very different process, and I thought it would be helpful to share that with you today.  She's been kind enough to write a post describing how she writes.  So say "hello" to Hanna, and absorb some wisdom!

--------------------------

When Giles asked me to write about my writing process—from conception to final edit—it did not at first occur to me to quail. Of course! I thought robustly. I’ve done it enough times, it ought to be easy enough to discuss.

Ought to be.

Weeeelll, we all know that sometimes the things that ought to be easy are really nowhere near that. When it came down to writing this post, I realized that my “process,” as it were, is really just a mixed up series of fumbles in the dark that somehow, inexplicably, lead to a finished novel.

I’ll explain, but be forewarned: these steps are not to be undertaken by the organized, the sensible, or the timid of heart. For anyone who likes to begin massive undertakings with a Real Plan in mind, this strategy will undoubtedly cause considerable distress.

How to Write a Novel the Hard Way 
by Hanna C. Howard

Step One: Find or Formulate Your Idea


This step is all very well in theory. Ideas are a dime a dozen, after all. But I tend to turn starry-eyed and dreamy here, and before long my mind has given itself over to visions of glossy hardcover books on the bestseller shelf at Barnes & Noble. So Step 1.2 would be: Get a grip on yourself and start thinking how such an idea might turn into a story that works.

Step Two: Outline Your Plot

At this point it is absolutely necessary for me to delude myself into believing that the elements I have imagined up so far do in fact make my story work. I suffer from Extreme Illogic, but I can’t let that disability entangle me so early in the game, or I’ll never get anywhere. So, pretending that my ideas are infallible and nothing short of genius, I proceed to a rough outline of the story, which begins in great detail, and quickly tapers to vague approximations as I realize that I must get to know my characters before I do anything more.

Step Three: Do Character Studies

I usually abandon the first plot outline midway because I am too excited about my character studies to focus any more on the plot. This is much the easiest step in the process, and it can go many different ways. The simplest is this: Open a fresh word document for each of your main characters. Either from your own mind or by means of the Internet, compile a list of personality and history questions to apply to your characters, and then answer them according to each. You may go into as much depth here as you wish, and if it helps you, go to Google or Pinterest and find a photo or portrait to represent each character as well. Insert these pictures into the corresponding word documents. You can refer back to these studies later, to see how much your characters have defied you and become their own people, no matter what you may have said about them in the beginning.   

Step Four: Write or Intricately Outline Your First Draft

This step varies depending on whether you are a Plotter or a Pantser. If you’re me, it varies depending on your mood and level of inspiration. While I do like to have an idea of where I’m going, I also like a fair amount of free-writing, so often I use this step to outline in a bit greater detail before delving in to the actual draft. I mentioned before that I tend to abandon stages halfway through; this is another step that frequently suffers my caprice. Typically I begin an outline that is extremely detailed, and carry on with such impatience that I sprint-outline into a kind of mental fog that even I can’t pretend is clearheaded genius. I defy my plot or character befuddlement (invariably a result of a lack of planning) by ceasing the outline in favor of an actual draft. For the rest of the first draft, I switch between the two, sometimes taking grudging breaks to work out the problems too big to bluff my way around.

Step Five: Revise/ Write Your Second Draft

This step is very painful. To spare us all, I won’t say much about it, except that it is the one that most often causes me to question my sanity. (“Why the bloody hell did I think that made sense??”) This stage is also very time-consuming, as you might often find you need a break from it in order to patch up your battered self-confidence. If your brain does not explode before you finish, you may advance to step six.

Step Six: Swallow Your Pride and Give it to (a) Reader(s)

Depending on your preferences, you may choose to give your manuscript to between one and one-hundred readers; although the experience of letting one-hundred pairs of eyes anywhere near a MS so young and tender would be well beyond my personal ability to bear. I learned with my last book that my lucky number is somewhere around three. More than that and I start feeling like a boggart confronted by a crowd—which person should I listen to?—and end up with a disjointed and thoroughly not-my-own MS that gives me a headache just to think about.

Step Seven: Fix It

If, at this point, you can take some time away from the book, do. Time helps. I am very, very bad at taking time away unless I have quarreled with the MS in question, and so I tend to throw myself into revisions without thinking them through completely. This usually leads to another trip through the land of Dense Mental Fog. Once I struggle out of it, I often elbow my way to the end of this revision and tell myself it is ready for querying.

Step Eight: Polish to Perfection

Or, if you’re me, query, get rejected, and realize that you still have more work to do. Then do the work, and FINALLY (with the levelheaded consent of your most trusted reader) advance to what I consider the best step of all: Polishing. This involves making your MS shiny and glittery and gorgeous. It is sentence-tweaking, and diction-changing, and generally beautifying the prose. But as someone once said, there’s no point polishing a turnip, so make sure you’re MS’s structure and foundation are sound before you start making it pretty.

Once you’ve done all this, you will have in your possession a completed manuscript. Of course, there’s  no knowing how long it will remain “completed,” because an artist is rarely satisfied with his or her work—and agents are hard to seduce—but you will at least have a very good and sound foundation to build on. And if you can manage it without becoming ensnared by mental fog, faulty logic, and emotional exhaustion… well, I’ll try not to hate you too much.

Monday, July 09, 2012

5 Movies Every Writer Should Watch

I wouldn't call these the top five movies of all time, but if you want great inspiration for great story-telling, you should watch these movies:

 Brave: I know this movie JUST came out, but it was GREAT!  The dialogue, emotional connection to the protagonist, and the pacing of the story are textbook examples of how every writer should plot their books.  If you haven't seen it yet, go out and watch it as soon as possible!
 Finding Forrester: This is one of my favorite films.  I saw it right when it came out on DVD, and it's actually the first movie I ever OWNED on DVD.  If you don't know, this is the story of a young man in the inner city who is struggling to get out of his neighborhood.  With the help of a Pulitzer Prize winning agoraphobic, he sharpens his craft and gets the chance to make something of his life.
High Fidelity: What Top 5 list would be complete without this film?  It's a movie based off of Nicholas Hornby's book by the same name, and it's about a record collector/record-store owner who is learning to cope with the fact that every girl he's ever been with has rejected him.  It's funny, geeky, and it's filled with quotable lines!  And it's my favorite movie of all time.
Lucky Number Slevin: This is a great movie, with plot twists that would make O'Henry's head spin.  A classic case of mistaken identity drags Slevin Kalevra into a gang war between to crime bosses who are desperate to keep their cold war from escalating.  Don't stop watching, though: you'll never see the end coming!
Ocean's 11: I love this movie.  I love the dialogue, the pacing of the plot, the unseen movement of the players in the story.  It's a great model for any writer who wants to see how a clever, intriguing mystery should be plotted out.














And that's it.  There are many more movies that can be inspirational to the writer's mind, but these are the top 5 that I recommend.  What about you?  What movies inspire you to write?

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Guest Post: Angela Brown on Motivation

Today I'd like to welcome Angela Brown to High Aspirations.  She's been kind enough to fill in for me this Wednesday, and she's going to discuss why she writes!  So thank you, Angela, for celebrating your Independence Day with us.  And to my delightful readers, feel free to say "Hi" in the comments :).  And Happy Independence Day!

----------------------------------

Every job is NOT for every person. Picture this job description:

Must be willing to dedicate all manner of ungodly hours towards writing stories, alpha
and beta critiquing that make each story bleed red ink until repeat revisions and edits
make it pristine, online and in-your-face networking, idea generating at the drop of a
hat, handle multiple rejections before getting the story to the readers then handle the
roller coaster of positive-lukewarm-and-down-right-could-you-hate-me-more reviews
by complete strangers with no concept of the sacrifices made to get the story to them.

Yeah.

Sound appealing?

Maybe so. But that job description above? That's what I'm really aiming for.

Serious. That's what I want to do most. It's the job description for - wait for it...

Writing!!

Reading captured my interest at an early age. I was a Judy Blume kid. Then Tolkien
stole my heart. Escaping into other worlds, running off on some whirlwind adventure,
those were things that soothed me, excited me. I did some writing and journaling
from elementary on up through high school, but got caught up in a lot of life as I got
older. I returned to writing with semi-seriousness around 2006. Even attended my
first Agents and Editors Writers Conference in Austin, TX that year. The last few
years I've gotten ultra serious about it.

It's been difficult, sometimes discouraging. But when I cut off my delusions
of grandeur, trimmed away the idea of an easy road to publication and asked
myself, "Why the dickens do I do this?", my characters answered for me. They
reminded me of the joy I experienced as a reader. Times I cuddled up with a good
book and refused to go to sleep until I devoured the last word. Then they reminded
me that they have stories to share. Some reader out there might find their tale
enjoyable, delightful, maybe even heart-breaking. But the reader won't get to find out
if I don't write it.

So I write. I write because my passion for storytelling won't let me do
otherwise. Working to make writing my livelihood is a HUGE motivator, especially
with wanting to upgrade from "full time employed single mom with a dream"
to "single mom and published author". But it's my passion that sustains me.

I write YA fantasy/sci-fi. My current WiP is a byproduct of April's A to Z blogging
challenge, an upper YA paranormal romance titled NEVERLOVE. Currently, I'm in
the "Must be willing to dedicate all manner of ungodly hours towards writing stories"
section of the job description.

And I'm okay with it.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Charity of the Month: The Salvation Army

This month I'm featuring the Salvation Army as the Charity of the Month.  As you know, my state is burning, and by clicking here, you can help provide relieve for the hundreds of men, women, and children who lost their homes to the fires spreading through the state.

Thank you for your generosity.  I'll see you on Wednesday!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Busy Weekend Ahead

As you know, I'm going on vacation next week, so I have a LOT to do for this blog over the weekend.  Of course, I'm working at the Day Job tomorrow, and I have a show to pick up on Sunday, and I have to pack, put together the road-trip playlist, print up maps, and make sure I have my itinerary paperwork.

But I WILL have a full schedule of blogs ready to go by Monday morning.  Here's what you can look forward to:

Monday, July 2: The Official Charity of the Month post.  As I mentioned yesterday, my home state is burning to the ground.  I'm doing just fine, but many, many people are not.  So there will be an official post (as an echo of Wednesday) to support the Salvation Army working to provide relieve some pain and stress of the fires.

Wednesday, July 4: Happy Independence Day! We'll celebrate our great nation's along with Angela Brown.  She's going to share with us her motivation to write!

Friday, July 6: Part 1 of The Senator's Daughter!!  This is the first installment of the long-anticipated Science Fiction short story by Yours Truly!

Monday, July 9: 5 Movies EVERY writer should see at least once in their life, but should probably own.

Wednesday, July 11: Guest post by The Talented Hanna C. Howard.  She's going to walk us through her writing process.

Friday, July 13: Part 2 of The Senator's Daughter.

So stay tuned!  I'll try to pop in as often as I can, and I'll see you when I get home.