Saturday, November 26, 2011

Writer's Block, Schmiter's Schmock

I've decided writer's block is, nine times out of ten, just a lame excuse for laziness.

Ouch. I'm sure there are folks out there who think I'm being snobbish or harsh, but let me add I'm being harsh to myself as well in the above statement.

Let's face it: Usually when writer's block strikes, the writer/sufferer has reached a scene in the story that is particularly difficult. Or they are having a hard time figuring out how to connect Scene A to Scene D. Or the plot has gotten so tangled the writer just can't seem to find a way to unravel it.

That's where a simple yet painful solution presents itself: Just plow ahead. Go ahead and keep writing. Yeah, you'll write crap, but you can go back and fix crap later. More often than not, just forging ahead will bring you to a solution sooner than you anticipate. It's just a lot of effort at first.

Think about this, too: Usually, when you really blast ahead on your writing, you're writing a scene or scenes that are exciting, cool. You enjoy writing them. And it would stand to reason that readers will find those scenes cool as well. But what about the scenes that stop you dead in your tracks? Most often they're scenes that aren't as interesting, maybe even scenes you've been dreading. Well, if you can't enjoy writing the scene, it's likely your readers will have just as much difficulty reading it.

The fix? Go ahead, tackle the scene, get it over with. Yeah, it'll be awful. For now, who cares? Make a note to redo it later, then keep on to the fun stuff. But in the meantime, ponder that irksome scene. Why was it so horrible? How can you make it better? What role does it play in the story? What twists and hooks and teasers can you insert to make readers salivate? When you're in the right frame of mind, break the scene down and reshape and recast it. Your story is your clay. Don't let it get the best of you -- you're the potter. You call the shots.

I'm writing this to myself as much as to everyone else. There are so many times I've caught myself wallowing in the throes of "I can't do it", and I've had to slap myself silly and send myself back to the front lines of the battle.

Have there been legitimate causes for writer's block? Sure. But as I said, nine times out of ten, "writer's block" is just a cool term we use for "giving up".

Write a poem. Take a walk. Play with the kids. Mow the lawn. Read a book. Then come back and give that "writer's block" a whoopin'.

Okay, I'm done with the pep talk. Time to get some writing done.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Marketing And Volume

There are so many people out there who make their living exclusively by writing fiction. Man, would I love to be one of those people!

The trick with this is surmounting the fact that fiction pays peanuts in comparison to nonfiction (unless you're Stephen King, which I'm not). How is that possible? Two factors: Marketing and volume.

Marketing is a given no matter what you write. In this era, some of the lousiest works make it to the bestseller lists due to marketing, despite being nigh unreadable. Quality is not the biggest factor in determining success, though I do believe that it is essential if one wants to snag more discerning readers and appeal to a wider audience. Books don't sell themselves. They need marketing, and I'm talking unabashed, hardcore, persistent marketing. J. A. Konrath and Christopher Paolini, among others, are testaments to this. Too many writers write a book, publish it, and then sit back to let the dough roll in. That's not the way it works. Writing is the easy part.

Which brings us to volume. As I said before, fiction pays next to nothing in comparison to nonfiction. Which means if one is to make a living writing fiction, they need to churn out A LOT of it. Louis L'Amour, R. L. Stine, Issac Asimov, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and others are examples of guys who kept their fiction mills working constantly. And it paid off. They got to do what they loved AND make a decent living doing it.

So here I am, one of many, many dreamers who would give anything to be a full-time writer, working on increasing daily word count and jotting down story ideas despite jobs, kids, and daily demands, and studying marketing strategies in hopes of one day nailing the art.

Someday, I'll be writing a blog post or article about how I overcame all odds and became a career storyteller.

At least, so I hope. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

"Devil's Creek" Available On Amazon!

Now I can officially say I'm official.

"Devil's Creek" has made its appearance on Amazon at last! I'm pretty excited about it, as I guess any author would be. Check it out HERE!

I've been in contact with author Laura Vosika ( -- mother to a herd of kids, music teacher, author, and ebook marketer extraordinaire -- and she was kind enough to throw a few tips my way. One of these was a nudge in the direction of posting "Devil's Creek" on Amazon. I hadn't known I could do it myself. I'm very excited and grateful for her bit(s) of advice. Be sure to check out her site!

Now it's time to move on to other aspects of marketing. A lot of work lies ahead . . .

Friday, November 18, 2011


Doesn't it look sweet? Of course, I may be slightly biased. But having an actual website, besides the blog and the Facebook page and the Twitter feed, makes me feel more official. Here, check it out for yourself.

At the moment it's just the basics of what I'm after, but eventually I'd like to add resources for readers and writers, as well as cool links and other stuff. So keep checking it out! (And do me a favor? When - er, if - you visit my webpage, click the Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ buttons near the top of the page. You'll do that for me? You will? Oh, you're the best. Thank you!)

In other news, my free ebook, "Vessa's Grave" has cleared all hurdles and is now on the verge of distribution to major ebook retailers such as Kobo, Sony, Apple, and others. Amazon is a mere possibility at this point -- if it happens, it won't be any earlier than this December. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. If you want to find out more regarding "Vessa's Grave", check out the page link in the black bar above.

Ah the thrills. I may need to get out more.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Story Ingredients

A nerd, a punk, a jock, a highschool football star, and the star's girlfriend. Oh, and a Senator. That's the goofy blend I'm stirring for my current book-in-progress.

I love mixing characters together. It's just like cooking. You take a bunch of completely disparate ingredients and mix 'em together. Sometimes you do it with a specific goal in mind. Sometimes you do it just to see what you come up with. Sometimes ingredients work peacefully together and blend well. Sometimes they froth and hiss and bubble -- not liking the combination but still working together to make the recipe turn out.

And sometimes the combination fails entirely. You toss out the whole mess and start over.

My wife loves cooking, and I think she and anyone else who cooks can get this analogy.

Writing is the same way, I realize. You try mixing together certain characters, plot ideas, and other elements, and see what happens. When it works out, it's a delight. When it doesn't . . . hit "delete" and try again.

I wonder if I should start calling myself a cook. A story chef, perhaps? That sounds more impressive.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Death: Destructive Or Merciful?

I just got word of an eight-year-old boy in my area who suddenly died.

When his grandmother picked him up at school, he waved to his friends, ran to meet Grandma, and drove away. Everything seemed fine.

Two hours later, he was dead. His grandmother had noticed something was off and driven him to the emergency room, but whatever killed him acted too fast. He was dead by evening. Nobody knows why yet. I guess an autopsy might reveal something.

It's sad enough when that happens to an adult, but for a parent a story like that is not only sad -- it's terrifying. What if that were to happen to one of my children? What if there's some hidden killer lurking inside one of them, just waiting to strike, like a ticking time bomb? A heart defect -- a rogue virus -- an environmental hazard?

I have no idea how I'd handle it if something like that happened to one of my kids. I can't imagine the emotions of the little boy's parents and grandparents. And what about all the kids at school, wondering why he isn't attending anymore? How are they going to handle the news that their schoolmate is dead? I'm sure some will be scared -- some saddened -- some confused.

Somehow, the impact of a child's death seems to leave a bigger dent than the passing of an adult. Probably because the child had so much ahead, then was robbed of that future. Probably because we see children as the embodiment of vitality, and when death takes them it seems so wrong, like an oxymoron, a contradiction of what that child is supposed to be.

I think a child also stands as a symbol of innocence. Sometimes when an adult dies, we might say he asked for it through his lifestyle, or maybe even they were a bad person and society is now better off. But no child has asked for death, directly or indirectly. No child is so bad that their loss betters society.

On the other hand, there are other hypotheticals. What if the child's sudden death spared him something worse down the road -- like cancer? His death was quick. Cancer would have dragged on and on, accompanied by the tortures of radiation treatments and chemotherapy. Maybe . . . just maybe . . . that death, rather than being cruel and cheating, was a merciful thing.

We don't know. My optimistic side likes to hope that perhaps death sometimes spares us bad things. In the case of this little boy, perhaps death shielded him.

We'll never know.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

FREE EBOOK: "Vessa's Grave" Revamped

My first version of the FREE ebook, "Vessa's Grave" had a few formatting issues, and I wasn't overly happy with the original cover, so I took it down and tweaked it. I fixed some of the formatting issues, double checked the quality of the writing (since I was there anyway), and designed a brand spankin' new cover for it (above). I think it looks better.

For those of you who might be interested in checking it out (it's available for FREE), just check out the page on the black bar above labeled "FREE Download: VESSA'S GRAVE". Or you could click on the image above. Or you could click this LINK. And while you're checking it out, why not go ahead and download it? (Did I mention it's free?)

Feedback is always appreciated!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Relearning The Basics

Discovering all those little secrets about publicizing one's book or blog is awesome once the results begin.

A month ago, I had no idea about how to publicize a blog or an ebook. Now, thanks to the little proverbial diamonds of advice scattered amid the rough known lovingly as "Google", I have actually begun to make strides. It's pretty dang exciting.

Now I can proudly say that I have advanced from having no idea to having an inkling of a notion. Ebook publishing is still in its infancy, so most of the advice has come from the blogs of ebook writers who've been around this block before. Thank God for information volunteers!

When I was first getting into writing, ebooks were barely a concept, and "conventional" publishing was the only way to go. In my search for information, I purchased a plethora of books from Writer's Digest Book Club, devoured them, and learned like mad. Information was easily obtained and seemingly everywhere. But now that I've ventured into the ebook realm, information is scarce. For the most part, the things I learned about publishing previously barely apply to ebooks. I'm learning all over again.


But now that I'm applying all this cool stuff I've learned, things are starting to look up.

I might be able to master this thing after all!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Ebooks: Fad Or Future?

When people I talk to finally figure out exactly what ebooks are, they look at me askance.

Given the quick publication time and that ebooks are actually digital files instead of, well, books, they question that publishing an ebook is really publishing at all. One individual even called it "cheating".

Is ebook writing/publishing cheating, or a legitimate venue for authors? Is it just some passing craze, or an actual revolution in the way we read and inform or entertain ourselves?

I've been mulling this over for some time, and here's my thought on the matter.

The goal of publication is to be read and/or make money. Publication is not strictly relegated by definition to paper books with covers and bindings. Publication is a means by which you make your work available to the public. Ebooks accomplish the same thing, only through a different medium. The absence of paper doesn't make ebooks a form of corner-cutting or system-bucking.

Ebooks are here, and they're here to stay. Amazon and Barnes & Noble are recognizing this fact, not only selling ebooks but even devices on which to read them -- the Kindle and the Nook. More and more readers are discovering ebooks and loving that they can carry an entire library in their pocket or purse. Titles that cost $20 to $30 on the shelf can be purchased as an ebook for a fraction of that price. In times of economic pinch, buying a new book to read has become less costly.

Does this mean ebooks will overwhelm paper books to the point of extinction? I highly doubt it. Many people still prefer reading print rather than pixels -- myself included -- and let's face it: Nothing beats the feel and smell of a brand new book fresh off the bookstore shelf. What I see in the future is a happy coexistence between the two media. At this point, people just have to adjust.

And adjust they will. People laughed at Henry Ford's loud, obnoxious horseless carriage. Now everybody owns an automobile. Today, folks sneer at or suspiciously eye the ebook. Soon enough, society will accept it as normal and legitimate.

I intend to hop aboard the ebook train while I can, before the crowds and the long lines. I see a bright, profitable future for ebooks, and I want to be in it.

Maybe I'm cheating by cutting to the front.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Birthdays and Ebooks

Wow, it's been a while since I posted anything here.

That's not to say I've been idle. Far from it. This is the time of year in our family when a whole bunch of birthdays converge in a manner similar to a pileup on a freeway. So there are people to celebrate, gifts to give and receive, and all the rest of the joys that come along with it.

I noticed a long time ago that LOTS of people are born in November. Lots. And I have a theory on that. If you count back nine months from November, you land on February -- and we all know what loving holiday nestles itself squarely in the middle of February. Thus, I theorize that the majority of November babies are the result of their parents celebrating Valentine's Day.

It's just a theory, mind you, but I like to think it's plausible.

Anyway, birthdays aren't all that's kept me busy. In the midst of the turmoil I have also released "Devil's Creek", a supernatural suspense story. Personally, I think it's one of my better works, but of course that's up to the readers to decide. I might be a bit biased, it being my baby and all. CHECK IT OUT HERE. It's only 99 cents (at the moment) so grab it while you can! And be sure to let me know what you think.

And on that note, I must move on to contemplate the dilemma of November birthdays.