Friday, December 27, 2013

Fight The Fear

I've recently come down with a case of ending-terror, or what is basically the fear of writing the finale to my work in progress. I don't know where it comes from, but I do know when it starts - always when I slow down long enough to actually think of what I am writing. This happened after NaNoWriMo when I had just a handful of chapters left to write for my rough draft, and then took a small break where my brain had a chance to tell me lies about how much pressure there is.

In reality, there is no pressure, other than the pressure that I'm placing upon myself. I've received both good and bad feedback on my first published novel, and now I need to do the same process again. There is a deadline. I'd like to be done by the end of January. But, this fear in my head needs to go. Do you struggle with this fear of completing your art?

For now, I'm just going to plow ahead and hype myself up until I reach the end. I know how it's going to end. I know how things play out. I just need to put them onto the page. Ready? Here we go!

Friday, December 13, 2013

World Building

As I start to explore a few different ideas I have, I come now to the part of the creative writing process where research is essential and world building becomes the foundation of everything else I will write moving forward. A lot of people I've read say that it is easy to get tired of the world you start creating when it comes to fantasy, but I look at it more as a challenge and a framework that the rest of my narrative will hang from so that it doesn't just come crashing down when I reach something that I don't know how to explain.

My process of world building so far has been to look at how things work in our own world and then tweak them to fit my own. I've started a map of the two continents I am creating with names of towns and bodies of water, and then filling in information about all the cultures and peoples that will live in these areas.

I am also making profiles for all of my main players, which I haven't done so far in my writing journey, but decided that this time I would give it a try. So, I'm creating a binder of sorts and filling in all the information I might need for these characters - including pictures of people who are inspiration, etc. It's pretty fun!

So, if I am not updating on here, you know where I am - either work, or working on something that will hopefully end up being an epic novel before the summer. There's another few things in the works, and I will have to start organizing my time more wisely now that I've had a break from the writing marathon. Lots of creative muscles are being stretched in the evenings!

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Wand Chooses The Wizard, Mr. Potter...

As NaNoWriMo came to a close, I found myself with a novel-length chunk of writing, which is the partial first draft of my sequel to Macyntire & Hough (untitled as of yet) - unfinished because I still have to finish writing the finale and the falling action, which is going to have to be muscled through because my brain is in break-mode right now.

I have three or four different projects I'd like to pursue in the coming year (more if I can type fast enough and edit competently), and one of these has recently come to the front of my mind, derailing everything else I had planned to work on. This fascination is one that hasn't been in my system for years, and that obsession is fantasy. I love epic fantasy, though I haven't had enough time or patience to really read a complete epic in a long time (since Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter).

As this new obsession takes over my imagination and writing time, I can't help but think of the famous quote that Ollivander told a young Harry Potter about wands, and how they choose the wizard - not the other way around. This is a lot like the inspiration process. All these characters living in this undiscovered world in my mind are just throwing themselves at me as I drive, as I work, and as I daydream walking through the house. I didn't ask for them, they just presented themselves, and I don't think they're going to be quiet until I work on them. It's amusing, and probably too early to say this, but the story I have in my mind is very similar to one that I came up with back in high school in my first ever creative writing class. That story didn't get farther than a single chapter in a notebook, but this new fleshed out version is pretty interesting to me, and I like the idea of trying a new genre once I finish my sequel to the paranormal romance properly.

Who know? Maybe I can world-build fast enough to type fast like NaNo and then have something to go over that is long and intricate by the spring. It will definitely help out with these cold months of being indoors.

For now, reading and listening to other great and behemoth fantasy works as inspiration. Here we go!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

My Thoughts On Allegiant (Divergent Series)

Veronica Roth has gone from getting tons of praise to getting tons of criticism from her fans, and many have moved on already. If you haven't read all three of the books in her Divergent series, and if you are thinking of reading them, this post will contain a major spoiler for the finale of the series in order to write about the topic I'm mulling over in my mind. So, this is the first time I type this on my blog...


Now that I've got that out of the way, let's proceed.

I love long series. I like how they allow you to get to know a character or a group of characters and see how their journeys progress. I loved Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter (though I wasn't pleased with Order of the Phoenix), The Hunger Games, The Wheel of Time, and many others. When I love an author, they generally get all of my money because I need to have all their books in my collection. Even when I don't read them for years, I still rest easy because they are sitting on my shelf waiting for my attention. This is happening currently with The Legend of Drizzt, which I am so excited to read, especially in hard cover.

Now, I was one of those people who heard about this ridiculous best-seller, phenomenal sales, the next Suzanne Collins of the publishing world. There are always a few coming around the corner. Good for them. I'm curious to see what they have to say, so I get the first book in their series and give it a shot. I had to go to three different stores to get a copy of Divergent, because I didn't want to wait a million years for a copy to become available at the local library (I am a member at three in my area. The wait list was at least 100 people long in each location). So, I got a hard-cover copy for cheap at Bullmoose and started reading.

I really liked it. I like dystopian, ever since I checked out Lois Lowry as a child. There's something about seeing what an alternate world is like and thinking about how a dystopian world being presented could become a reality if x things in our own world were to align themselves just so. Divergent gives us the necessary heroine Tris, who we are to follow for three books. We like her a lot, and I certainly did. It looked like this series would have a long life ahead of it, even if it were three books total. Roth already had four short stories available for pre-order on Amazon, so I knew that she was going to try and milk her success for everything it was worth (which, I don't blame her. I would do the same thing!).

But, here's where I put the book down and stopped reading. It was inevitable that the third book in the series would be a disappointment. I looked at The Hunger Games and guessed that roughly half of the readers would be disappointed. But, in the Collins series, Katniss lives out beyond the end of the book, allowing readers to imagine what her life was like after the story ends.

Not so for Divergent. Again, spoiler alert for all of you stubborn folk. Tris dies at the end of the book. Not even at the end of the book - about 3/4 of the way through. You think, no, that can't be it. She'll be resurrected somehow to continue onward, but, alas, she is dead as a doornail.

I am not pleased with this ending both as a reader and as a writer. It was gutsy, as many have pointed out, but what is the point? It was obviously not worth the reading of three books to get to, according to all the reviews I've read. Let me dissect this idea a little of killing off your main character at the end of the series.

Imagine in Return of the King, if after following Frodo and Sam for the entire thousand pages and getting to the point where Sam must save Frodo from death on Mount Doom, that Sam slips and Frodo goes falling into the lava. He's gone, completely. Dead as dead can be. Wouldn't we be angry that we now have to follow Sam back through the rest of Middle Earth to the normal life that Frodo deserved to live out after destroying the Great Ring? Having your hero return using the hero's journey model is essential when creating an epic hero or heroine story. The hero did all the work, gaining our trust, fighting off all the odds to get to the finale. It is cheap to have your character just kick the bucket after all that work and not come back for the reader, especially when you have not introduced any other characters and their viewpoints up to this point in the narrative. It's like killing off Harry Potter and then having us follow Hermione as she grieves with Ron for another fifty pages. This is not the story we signed up for. We don't necessarily want it to be happily ever after, but at least the thought of the character(s) continuing beyond the book makes up for whatever horrors they face in the finale.

Killing off Tris takes away all the wonder of what would happen next if there were another book. There's a reason that people keep asking JK Rowling if there would ever be another book, and that's because they still care about what happens to the characters at the end of the story. Surely there are more stories to tell, and that is true. It's the mark of a great storyteller at the height of their craft. We want to know that the characters are all right. We want to know if they have a family later on, or if they are single and doing some sort of work. With Divergent, there will not be any of this speculation because the character has finished her mortal life. Unless she comes back as a ghost, this is the end of the line. We are forced to follow the wimpy love interest who has become backbone-less in this final installment of the series.

With the writing aside, there is a lot more resting upon this series than just the sale of books. There's the movies to think of, and I have to admit in my movie-theater-employee way that I believe this series will end cinematically after the first film. It isn't at the same level as The Hunger Games. I may be wrong, but judging by the reaction to the trailer (lukewarm to those who haven't read the books) and the reactions by the fans who have read the final book (expressing their feelings of betrayal at how it all ends), this is going to be a tough road to travel for this film series moving forward.

I don't want Frodo or Harry to die. I want them to live. I want the bad guys to die. That's the natural order of things when it comes to storytelling. Unless Darth Vader changes his ways at the end, evil needs to be defeated to some extent, and I need to see my characters I've loved for years come to the end of their trials with the rest of their lives ahead of them.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Holiday Shopping Battle

This post isn't really about writing so much as it's about the time of the year that I find myself in. It's inevitably the Christmas season now, and everyone is hurrying around trying to buy things. I told myself that this year I was going to get excited about buying presents for everyone, but now I find that when I try to go out and find the perfect gift for those on my list, I get very uninterested.


I think it is probably because I am burned out from all the shopping. I have been very good lately of not buying too many frivolous things for myself, and have kept track of all my bills from school, paying for things that are essential like a car, gas, and rent. But, now that I have to go out and find things that are supposed to be fun for others, I am stuck. My family is trying to alleviate the burden of shopping by doing a secret santa swap, thus giving me a limited number of gifts to find. But, I am more concerned with creating things this year, hence why most of my presents will be hand-made and probably of the book variety.

I took a few artist book classes at the university and made tiny books for each of my family members that year. They were beautiful, the best that I could have created, and they were one-of-a-kind. That's what made me excited to give them to the recipients, and that's what made my family love them so much. These gifts couldn't be purchased in a store. They came from my imagination and were filled with stories I remembered about each of the people getting a book. I hope to make some gifts like that again this year, and I am figuring out which style of book I want to create.

After the huge push to finish NaNoWriMo (I finished successfully!) I am burned out, not just when it comes to writing (that enthusiasm is slowly coming back as I near the finish of my first draft on The Sequel), but towards anything that requires me to put hard thought into something like shopping. I like my shopping to be stress-free. I like to browse, look at everything, and walk around the store with at least five different things until I decide on the single item I believe is best. I have no doubt that I will get done my Christmas shopping this year, but I just want to voice my concern that it's not really about the biggest item on sale for the cheapest price. Technology will fade. I know this personally this year because both of my Playstation 3 controllers are needing to be replaced! This time of year is about sharing the memories we have with our loved ones from the past year. If you can make a present for someone, I highly recommend it. You will feel great making it, and hopefully whoever gets the present will love it above all the others from Target. I certainly love hand-made gifts.

With all that said, if you need to brave the lines at the mall, good luck in finding a parking spot and also be safe out there! If it's between you and the man throwing fists for the plasma tv, just let him have it and pick up a good book instead. (I suggest a great classic!)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

Lionsgate has truly crafted the next big film franchise with Hunger Games. I realized this when all the music, sound effects, and special effects died down and a particularly tender moment between Katniss (the astounding Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) was allowed to take center stage with only the sounds of their dialogue, accentuated by their intake of breath for emotional punctuation, as they barreled along in a hover train to their destination at Panem's Capitol. The scene showcased more emotion and raw talent than I've seen in a blockbuster in quite a long time. These are characters that I cared deeply for, and I teared up more than once at the trials their government puts them through.

If you're a fan, this film will definitely not disappoint. It has everything I loved from the book packaged in some of the tightest screenwriting and editing I've seen all year. The film is visually gorgeous, at first noticed in the cinematography. The characters are staged in such a way that they draw your eye around the screen. I knew I was in skilled hands. The costumes were the next thing that I marveled at, and if you enjoyed the first film's flamboyant world contrasted with the gritty pallet of District 12, then you get to see a lot more this time around. The world is so completely realized. I wanted to stay just to see what these people in the Capitol did in their daily lives. But, alas, we all know where this movie is headed, and it isn't going to be a cake walk.

Katniss and Peeta are forced to live a romantic lie at the demand of President Snow (Donald Sutherland, menacing as ever, but with a vulnerable streak). The reason? As the winning tributes from the 74th Annual Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta are paraded around to each District to give speeches and cause unrest in the lower parts of the country. Needless to say, these two actors bring their all to the roles, and they pour out so much compassion in the first fifteen minutes that the weight of the games is brought front and center. This is a country where teenagers are forced to fight to the death until one is left out of 24. Luckily for Katniss and Peeta, they only have to struggle with their PTSD and putting up a false front for everyone. Liam Hemsworth plays the object of Katniss's desires this time around with more bravado that I found myself worried about how she could keep up the farce with Peeta when she so clearly loves Gale? This was the part that had me torn.

That is, until it's announced that the 75th Hunger Games will be a Quarter Quell in which the tributes are drawn from the existing tributes of all the past games. The games are designed this time by Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and the twists (literally) are fantastic. I won't spoil any of them here, but if you read the book, you know just what these tributes of all ages have in store.

What is visually and emotionally different this time around is that the tributes are from all walks of life. Mags (Lynn Cohen) was immediately my favorite, besides the dashing Finnick Odair (the coveted role played by Sam Claflin, famously turned down by the career-suicidal Garrett Hedlund) who you want to trust, but you don't know if you should. Katniss says right off the bat what I was initially thinking: "Peeta, how can we kill these people?"

The show must go on, however, and there is plenty of scene stealing by the perfectly cast and tear-inducing (both comically and sentimentally) Elizabeth Banks, who once again plays Effie Trinket, a fan favorite from the first movie. Here she is allowed to be more fleshed out and reveals that she does have a heart despite the gaudy display she puts on for the Capitol. Woody Harrelson once again plays Haymitch with the brutality that the character requires, and he is integral at instilling the fear of the games into the audience before we are lifted into the mysterious arena with Katniss and the other tributes before the horn blows and the fight for survival begins.

There are so many things I could talk about, but they all need to be experienced to be fully appreciated. I saw this film in IMAX and was stunned by their usage of the format. Only the actual game is filmed in true IMAX aspect ratio, and it was wonderful to see all the detail in such a large frame. The team behind this film had such respect for the source material that there was never a hint of hesitation in what they were creating on screen. Everyone, from the lighting designers, to the actors, to the direction - all of it - they knew that what they were creating was something special and important to fans around the globe and the end product is something to be proud of. This is a film about trust, and how fitting could it be that the author of these superb, thought-provoking books trusted Lionsgate to do her work justice, and they proved the first time around that they could do it. Now, the studio is trusting that the fans will come along for the ride as they bring us through this world and into the middle of a much larger story that will play out on screens in two more films. Do I trust that they know what they're doing?

Absolutely. Give me more of this dystopian future.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Macyntire & Hough FREE 11/19-20

I'm in the middle of NaNoWriMo and trying to crank out a first draft of my sequel to Macyntire & Hough, but I thought it wold be fun if I did a few freebie days on Amazon and Kindle for my book this month for anyone who's interested in checking out my first book. I've never done one of these before, and I've read a lot of opinions about the free days promotion on Amazon. Well, it's my turn to see if anyone takes a chance on my book (Why not? It's free!) or if I remain in obscurity until I get done a few more novels.

If you like reading eBooks, please check out Macyntire & Hough on Amazon and spread the word! It is a book that I am passionate about (though moving forward, the sequel is my new favorite child) and hoping to get it in front of a few more eyes. You can get the eBook for free starting tomorrow on my Amazon page.

If you're doing NaNoWriMo like me, best of luck getting to the finish line! We're almost there!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Chugging Along (Sequel News)

It's been a quiet week on the blog mainly because I've been spending a lot of time writing for two hours a day, amassing around 2,000 words per day, in my marathon trial of NaNoWriMo. For those who don't know about it, November is National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to have 50,000 words written before December, and by my calculations - and with a lot of self-encouragement - I am going to be done early just so that I can check to be sure that I really do have the correct number of words.

I'm choosing to write my sequel to Macyntire & Hough this month and get as much done as I can in order to fast-track my paperback edition into the next year (and perhaps a few preview copies for my family, if they actually finish the first one with their busy routines!). I thought I would talk a little bit about my process of writing as it has been a little eye-opening for me in terms of needing to get done a set amount of words per day. If anything, I hope that by the end of this month I can have the habit of writing a set amount daily into my normal routine. It's been very gratifying to sleep after typing and knowing that I didn't slack off on my characters. I mean, come on - they're fighting demons and all. They don't want the battles to rage on forever!

As far as needing to write 2,000 words a night (the estimated minimum to finish on time is 1,667) I ended up having my entire novel outlined on notecards as I did with the first book. This is useful and really just a guideline. A lot can change in a chapter when my brain takes a hold of the idea and starts writing down dialogue and character interactions, but this way I have something to write every single night. I also get bored with writing an entire chapter, and I usually don't finish a chapter in one sitting. The times that I do, it's usually because a flash of lightning hits me and the inspiration pulls me through. That said, with the majority of my writing sessions starting out without that flash of lightning, I have to work my way into something that takes my interest. How do I do this?

I have a few chapters started at a time so that I can jump around. It's very refreshing to do this for me, and I love being able to write different characters whenever I feel like it. I can pick up where I left off and practice writing a fight scene and then move back to a more romantic scene. It's really fun! It also keeps me on my toes when I need to crank out three hundred more words and can't keep going on my main scene of the writing session.

I've estimated that it takes me about an hour to write 1,000 words. Committing to this goal of 50,000 in a month is really exciting and daunting. It's also flexing muscles that I haven't used in a long time - not since high school when my head had a lot less adult stuff to worry about. Perhaps I'll do a video blog about my progress later after typing. As it stands, I've finished a little over 14,000 words in seven days. That's a record for me, and I hope to keep it going. There are too many stories I want to tell and I don't want to take years to do it. All it takes is a little discipline and the story will grow over time. Just don't look at the whole and you won't get (too) discouraged!

If you're also doing NaNo this month, best of luck! I hope you get to the end with a book on the page - or at least a portion of a book, for those who are crazy prolific!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Late-Night NaNoWriMo Shenanigans!

This is my first ever video blog! In the video I talk about starting out NaNoWriMo 2013, my new book, and also about outlining my novel prior to NaNo starting. Very brief to start out. Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Fear Itself

In the spirit of Halloween, I thought it would be fun to post some of my fears - some justifiable, and some that are just plain stupid. Here goes!

I'm scared of:

The bigfoot that I know lives in my backyard.
Walking up the driveway in the dark.
Peering through dark windows in case I see a face looking back.
That I won't be able to finish a second book.
That nobody will read any of my stories.
That I will never get my own apartment in town.
That I will never own my own tiny house.
That something will pull my leg if it's not completely under the covers.
All my digital files will disappear someday.
I will never be able to find a book that keeps my attention to the end.
That my voice doesn't matter.
Getting cancer.
Disappointing those I love.
Swimming to the bottom of a lake and finding a monster.
Being useless.
Wasting my time watching television, even for an hour.
Large dogs, including Beethoven.
Flat tires in the middle of nowhere.
No cell-phone reception in an emergency.
Running out of ideas.

There's a pretty modest list. As you can see, I'm afraid of a lot of things. But, sometimes it's fun to be scared. That's why I read every Goosebumps book available in grade school!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Curtain Falls (eBook)

Looking for a great read for Halloween? Check out The Curtain Falls by Maine author Meg North!

I just finished reading this book that I purchased a few months ago (I am a slow reader, in case you haven't noticed!) and I absolutely loved it. This book had everything I was looking for, including Victorian romance, drama, family tension, and magic.

Get it now on Amazon while it's free and help boost it up the charts! If you loved it like I did, don't forget to leave a review. Personally, I am waiting anxiously for Miss North's next book which I hope is finished soon!

Be Genuine

There isn't a real science to this post, but I am going to write it anyway. What the heck, right? Maybe you'll agree, and maybe you won't. If anything, it will provide a little food for thought.

I recently picked up a copy of Dan Simmons's The Abominable, a book that I've been waiting for anxiously for about a year. I knew that this book was going to be a slow read, and I needed to be ready and in the right mood before I started. The book began really great and sort of tapered off a bit as I continued through the introduction. What surprised me is that the introduction was what pulled me in, and the actual meat of the narrative lost some of the magic. Allow me to explain.

The book begins with a faux introduction where Dan Simmons pulls a Stephen King and makes himself a character in the novel - a fictional version of himself and his wife. He is explaining how he "met" a man who climbed Everest, and I was enthralled by the voice of Simmons as he recounts his meetings with the man and what led to the book that I held in my hands. I know it is completely fabricated (as far as I can tell) but, it felt genuine.

I trust that version of Simmons, with his naturalistic voice leaping off the page. I wanted to read a ton more in this voice and wished that the life of the story were kept going in this manner.

Sadly, the voice shifts to that of the man who climbed Everest, and it never really recovers. It was great introduction, anyway.

My point is, we can't control this genuineness per say, but, when it flows through us - that hypnotic fever of writing that just springs forth like a stream of consciousness, it will be genuine. The reader (myself especially) can tell when the voice isn't genuine. It comes across as fake and untrustworthy, and the story that is being told can suffer greatly from this plague. I try not to force my own writing sometimes because of this. My characters know when they want me to say something on their behalf, and sometimes they don't want to say anything at all. That's okay. I will wait until they have something to say and move on to some other part of the book.

When your writing voice is your own and you've found it after a lot of trial and error, you will know. It will feel natural and your characters will come alive in it. I'm going to keep reading Abominable and see if it picks up (I imagine it will, and sometimes I really love Simmons's prose). Whatever happens in this book, I do know that I like the "real" Simmons more than I like the Simmons impersonating an Everest explorer.

Monday, October 28, 2013


It's been a busy week since I last posted here, and that's mostly due to family obligations and also a surge of story ideas that demanded to be outlined. I'm making good progress into a new novel and also a few other, shorter pieces. Writing for the enjoyment of the craft and storytelling process, and anxious to see what comes of it all.

Been dipping into a few different books a day, which is generally frowned upon by my friends and colleagues. I can't help the fact that my tastes change every time I wake up. Rarely do I follow a huge, 800 page novel through to the end in a month. I just don't have the luxury of that sort of time on my hands. Most of my reading time is done in the half hour before I fall asleep with the book in my hands, and that doesn't lead me to make a ton of headway. The weekends were made for reading, when I have them off.

But, this idea of book jumping is interesting to me. I learn a lot about styles and structure when I read a few different chapters or pages in a single day or week. Look at the different ways that a fight is described in each book, or perhaps a conversation where a character is trying to get something out of the other one. It's really cool to note the many ways that these things can be handled, and there's no better way to learn than to experience them in a book yourself. Give it a try, and keep that stack near the bed ready and up to the ceiling!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

How We Write

At the beginning of last week through the beginning of this week, I ran into a dilemma. More specifically, I created one with my own clumsiness. Yes, I broke my iPad Mini.

Believe me, it was the end of the world. I am a perfectionist, and the sight of a cracked screen, no matter how usable it is, brings chills to my spine. I needed this to be fixed! Needless to say, I couldn't do it myself, and ended up damaging my device beyond repair.

I was shocked to find that I wasn't mainly upset because my gaming and entertainment device was now rendered useless - I was upset because my main ability to type on the go had been taken away.

Most of my novel Macyntire & Hough was typed on my iPad Mini using one of the many typing programs. At first I was skeptical about being able to use the screen's keyboard, but after a few days of using it, I became very fast and loved being able to see the word count and only the blank page as I worked. Moving on from my last novel, I began the next and started setting goals for myself (which I've already failed on some of them, but still trying to get back up there!). I wanted to type 1,600 words per day. So far I've had three days with that amount, two days of typing notes and outlining, and one day off to recharge my brain from a busy day at work looking at a screen.

I did end up getting a new iPad, and it now has a fancy case to protect it and makes it easier to hold, but I have to think that if this accident didn't happen, I might not have really considered the way that I've been writing. How easy is it to just pull out the iPad when I'm waiting in line somewhere and type out a few paragraphs? Or when I'm waiting to close down the movie theater in the evening, waiting for folks to finish their movies? It's so convenient, and has been a good use of otherwise wasted time. I used to do this with an old-fashioned notebook, but now I am enjoying being able to skip the retype business and just export my text and format it from there.

How do you type? Has your process changed with the advent of new digital technology? What do you think about the changing times for writers?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Aleister Character Portrait

As a special treat today I have a character portrait of one of the villains from Macyntire & Hough, Aleister.

Aleister is a lower form of demon, a minion if you like. He is the hired hand who goes out and threatens the lingering ghosts of people with fear and, sometimes if his boss allows, he gets to bring them in and watch then become part of Haures Grantley's library of souls.

Macabre? Of course! It's October after all! Hope you enjoy, and if you haven't, pick up a copy of Macyntire & Hough in paperback, or save a few dollars and get it in eBook on Amazon!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Kindle Word-To-Page Count Thoughts

It's a great mystery as to how Kindle and the Amazon storefront estimates page count when you upload your Kindle book to KDP.

Page count is relative. In the era of digital eReaders where the audience can adjust the text size, spacing, margins and fonts, the actual type-set pages that we would normally judge a book on for length are becoming obsolete unless you have a physical edition that you are converting to Kindle. For myself, I end up going the opposite - taking my Kindle version and converting it for print using Scrivener with the correct layout and dimensions for CreateSpace. I was very pleased with how my first book came out and I'm sure that I will definitely use CreateSpace again in the near future. Check out the image below of how my physical book came out.

Back to the initial post topic - I've got some estimates based on my own work that might help with your own dilemmas of figuring out how "long" your book is once you upload it to KDP.

For my shorter work, about 8,000 or so words, KDP estimated my book was roughly 41 pages. This includes an internal cover and title page with table of contents. Not bad for a short book. I also recently finished up a short prequel story to my Macyntire & Hough novel that was just shy of 7,000 words, and KDP estimated this as being 32 pages long, again, including cover, title page, and table of contents.

While it's not exact, that equals roughly 218 words per page. Pretty close to my estimate of 250 words for my own calculations.

If you're really concerned with readers being unaware of how long your book is, you can always put in the description how many words (approximately) the book is. The tech-savvy readers will pick up on that and hopefully be more tempted to give you work a chance.

Monday, October 14, 2013

How To Create An eBook

Here's a little shameless self-promotion, but also a bit of useful information for anyone out there who wants to know how I create my eBooks for Kindle.

I've written a modest-sized (41 page) eBook on how I created my novel, Macyntire & Hough from start to finish. This book includes all the information on my outlining process, how I keep track of drafts and the number of passes I did to the manuscript, and also a step-by-step guide to how I formatted my Scrivener document and compiled for KDP.

This book is only $0.99 on the Kindle Store. The process I detail as far as formatting is the same exact process I used to create this eBook, so if you enjoy the way it's all put together, you can achieve the same exact results for your own book by following the steps. (To be honest, I worked on a short story earlier in the week and ended up using this book as a refresher to how I had everything set up. There are a lot of things that go into an eBook, and it's great to have them all in one place as opposed to when I was figuring everything out with different bits of information and tips scattered on napkins and notecards!)

For those who love print, I don't have a physical option...yet. But I successfully made it through my first CreateSpace adventure and will see about making a "real" copy of this book soon!

I hope it helps!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Weekends Off


After a solid month of blogging every day, I am realizing how exhausting it can become. For the rest of the month, I am going to attempt to write every day, Monday through Friday, and leave the weekends free for those who want to catch up on any posts they may have missed. A huge thank-you to all who read! It's a ton of fun to decide what I'm going to write about and great practice as I try to up my word-count per day.

Since I won't be seeing you again until Monday at noon, here's a fun video for you. Enjoy!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Eccentric Characters

I wanted to point out the usefulness of eccentric characters for comic relief.

In a lot of serious stories there are high stakes and without a little humor to break the tone of constant running and fear, the story will become tedious and the reader may lose interest. By using an eccentric side character to break up the tone, you can inject some humor and make a lasting impression on readers.

From my own experience in short filmmaking, I notice that it's the films that make people laugh that are the ones most talked about. People like to be entertained and watch someone wacky either make a fool of themselves, make fun of the main characters and their attitudes of seriousness, or save the day. These are all great things that you can have a side character do, all while moving the plot forward and making your readers chuckle (hopefully).

Don't be afraid of going over the top. You can always dial it back in the second draft.

My latest comic relief character fascination: Frances Conroy in the third season of American Horror Story. Definitely check it out if you haven't had the chance yet! She's a riot.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Working (And Resting)

I've noticed a strange stigma around indie writing that people who are looking to become successful writers need to be producing product all the time. It's a terrifying notion that must lead many writers into a period of shut-down. It certainly did that to me a few months ago before I came to my senses and powered through chapter after chapter of my draft.

Writing is not a sprint. It is a marathon. Especially when your project is a novel, you need to work at your own pace - but be wary of neglecting the job at hand. Write regularly, but don't become overwhelmed by the enormity of the project.

This brings me to my point, which is, a writer needs to take a break like the rest of the working world. Our brains need to be entertained, to relax, and to get sleep. Working a few all-nighters is fine, but not when you make it a habit just to produce as many books as author X. This sort of routine is not sustainable and is absolutely harmful to your health. I do just one all-nighter and it wrecks me for the rest of the week!

Remember to take breaks and recharge your imagination as you work on your projects. It's a fine balance between work and rest, but it's one that we need to take seriously as we pursue our goals of filling our bookshelves with our books.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Evolution and Using Nostalgia

Now that I am finished one project and about to wrap up a short story (my first in years - so that's a pretty good achievement) I am looking forward at my next novel. Of course, it's going to be a continuation of my series because I am running on creative steam from the first book, but I am also curious to see how my writing evolves now that I know the characters pretty well.

Knowing the characters is only part of the battle with a sequel. The goal is to throw so much stuff at these characters that they are forced to evolve beyond what they thought was possible. Look at Star Wars Episode V. Luke is forced to travel to meet Yoda and discovers that it's nearly impossible to become a Jedi. He can't harness the force easily enough, and he's ready to give up. Add to that the revelation that his greatest enemy outs himself as Luke's own father, then you have your characters dealing with such drama that they have no choice but to evolve with the story.

I think I have this kind of material for my sequel to Macyntire & Hough. For those who haven't read the book yet, a quick intro of my characters.

Tadin is a ghost who has been dead since the 1970's.
Shelley is a living human who shares an apartment and also a business with Tadin.
Maris is Tadin and Shelley's paranormal investigator friend.

There you have it. My core characters. Now I need to shake their lives up enough to get them moving. I've been meditating on the story for the second book and it's going to be much more emotional than the first time around. I'm very excited, and I'm doing research.

What kind of research?

Nostalgia is a useful tool to a writer because it allows us to revisit stories or times of our lives that were creatively empowering. I always think back to Star Wars and Harry Potter and can almost feel the electricity in the air from back then. The sense of excitement that these stories evoked within me was palpable and something that will always stay with me for the rest of my life. If you can look at that kind of nostalgia in your own life and harness the feeling that it brings to you, then you can use that feeling in your own work. What did you love about those stories? What made them connect on a deeper level with you?

As I move forward I am going to tap into this energy more and more to get my characters to the emotional state that they need to be. If you're also working on a piece of writing, give this technique of nostalgic research a try. It doesn't have to be a story. It can be music, television, or even memories of a trip. Fuel your creative fire and write!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Gravity (2013)

I am in complete awe of Gravity, the masterpiece of cinema from Alfonso Cuaron starring George Clooney, charming as ever, and a show-stopping performance by Sandra Bullock. Never have I been moved so deeply by a single actress on screen, displaying raw emotion that immediately causes me to connect with the character.

I don't need to go into the story because the premise itself is all that you should know going into this movie. Bullock plays a doctor who is working on the Hubble satellite when debris from a Russian satellite causes herself and her crew to be separated in the vast expanse of space. It's realistic, edge-of-your-seat entertainment and brilliant storytelling. I've said it probably a dozen times this weekend, but if you can see this film in 3D, do so! It's not a gimmick. It's designed entirely for this experience. Count the number of cutaway shots in this film. I dare you. There are hardly any! It's immersive in 3D in the fact that your eye isn't forced to readjust every ten seconds to a new shot with new depth perception. It's the way the technology was designed to be used.

I also have to comment on the storytelling aspect of this film. The characters are phenomenal. There is just enough hinted at of their previous lives back on earth to make us empathize with them and root for them to fight their way to safety in the perilous reaches of space. Cuaron is to be commended for researching everything down to the very alarm systems that an astronaut would hear in every situation. Speaking of sound, the score is entirely appropriate and haunting.

If Bullock doesn't get a nomination let alone the Oscar for her performance it will be a real shame because this is a role that she took to the highest level in order to make everything else in the film believable. The film asks us to think about things such as life and death, as well as the choice to live and the choice to give up. What are the pros and cons of each? Which one is easier, and which one would you as an audience member choose were you in these astronaut's places?

One thing's for sure - I have a greater appreciation for the men and women who courageously have ventured into space to create the technology that we use on a daily basis.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Why I Love The City

I've lived in the country most of my life. I still live there now, in fact. Fifteen miles from the nearest city, and that's only the one that was recently deemed a city by popular vote (Sanford is now called the City of Sanford).

As much as I love the country at night, having my window open to hear the peepers and crickets, there's just something about the city that entices me. Driving or walking around Portland in the daytime is food for my creative side. Here's what I like about the city that always manages to get me excited to put pen to paper:


They're always around in the city, even when it's quiet. Who are they? Where are they going? What is their life like? Just the other day when I was driving to a friend's apartment, we were stopped because a bride and groom were crossing the street in front of us. That image excited me! I wanted to know more about this big day for these two people. It definitely gave me thoughts for a story.


There's such a life going on in the city. Many meetings of people, establishments, and stores. There are so many things to see, and so many places to take your attention. I love to shop, and just seeing different stores is enough to energize me. So many options to choose from. It sure beats the two stores available near my house! While the country is generally the same most of the time, the city is always moving and always evolving as new people move in and try to make their mark on humanity.

Lastly, FOOD

Taste is often a sense that I forget to include in my writing. How much does taste influence our experience in a new place like the city? I know that going out to eat is definitely one of my favorite things to do - when I'm not exhausted and ready for a night crashed on the couch. Think about the fishing industry in Portland. All the fresh catch ready to be tried. Local breads and pastries. Even local drinks! Don't forget those.

So, those are just three of the reasons I love the city. I will always be a country boy at heart, but I just can't ignore the calling for excitement every few weeks. Hopefully this inspiration will turn into another aspect of my latest storytelling.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Short Stories As Relaxation

I've been working on a short story for a few weeks now - from idea to actually writing it down in my notebook, and I've found that having this little short tale in between working on two mammoth (in my case) projects has been mentally and creatively refreshing.

Think about it. You just got done writing and editing upwards of 50,000 words. That's not chump change! My novel wasn't as long as many other romance books simply because it is written in the third person and follows a few different POV characters. A lot of the longer books I've seen are written in the first person and only show the view of the heroine. That's something I'd like to try sometime soon, but for now, I'm focused on this short story.

Working on a short piece forces you to hone your storytelling craft. Do your beginning, middle, and end all work? What about character? Are you getting the most out of these people in the short amount of time you have? These are great things to practice. I used to do a lot of short films and, let me just say, the story structure was and still is essential to any short narrative. It can't be about nothing. It has to have a precise goal and you have to hit it. We'll see if I do once it's published!

Give writing one of these 7,500 pieces a shot. Who knows? With eBooks, short stories are finding a new life.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Why Print?

Since launching my eBook Macyntire & Hough, I have received a lot of push-back about it being just a Kindle book. The plan has always been to have a print version via CreateSpace, but I just haven't formatted the text for that platform yet. Needless to say, I am making it a priority now that there has been a good deal of interest in my circle of friends and acquaintances. Whether or not the book actually sells to more than just my family remains to be seen. Yet, having a print edition of my book will be a great personal accomplishment, and definitely make it easier to provide books as gifts once Christmas comes around!

Here are my thoughts on formatting for print at the point where I am right now - preparing to export a PDF to submit to CreateSpace. (If you haven't checked out their options for print-on-demand, I highly suggest you do so! It's very exciting stuff, and perfect for a newcomer to book formatting such as myself)

I do have a background in print layout. I worked for two years at the University of Southern Maine as a graphic designer for the music and theatre departments. Essentially, the students and staff would give me the text for their recital and play programs and it was my job to be sure that it was all formatted correctly, spelled correctly, and printed nicely with the pages ready to fold and staple if needed. That meant a lot of calculating and a lot of mock-ups. If you don't know what a mock-up is, basically it is a test print that is used in the roughest sense to figure out which pages need to be where before printing.

These skills are essential if you are planning your book for print. There need to be blank pages in certain areas so that your first chapter doesn't start on the back of a page, and so on. The amount of time it takes will be worth it in the end. You also need to be sure that your margins are set up correctly. I've noticed on professional paperbacks before that some of the margins are too close to the edge of the page and that means that if your book is well-read, the pages can get worn down and the text will become destroyed. I did not like this and had to replace a few books in the past because of this issue. Make sure you give the text space! It's the most important part of your book.

Personally, I really love physical books - even though I'm a huge supporter of Kindle and other eReaders. Having the ability to get a book that was written by an independent author via Kindle is so exciting, but I still have to have my physical copy of everything JK Rowling and Stephen King write! Hopefully someday someone will say the same about my own work. Even if it is just my mother! (She's waiting somewhat patiently for the print edition of Macyntire & Hough...another reason to get going!)

Monday, September 30, 2013

Macyntire & Hough Excerpt!

Here's an excerpt from my novel, Macyntire & Hough. Enjoy!


Tadin was very relieved to be back in the apartment. Shelley had no problem working down in the gallery, but it made Tadin very nervous. There were too many windows. He felt much more at home in the bedroom, seated in the armchair, watching Shelley wind down for the night. The apartment consisted of a kitchen, living room, a small bathroom, and, of course, the bedroom. After her nightly routine, Shelley curled up in bed with her beloved, if a little senile, black cat, Kismit, (Tadin hated that name) and dozed off with a book still in her hand.

As she slept, Tadin got up from his seat and walked over to the edge of the bed — not to watch Shelley, but to see what she had been reading. Careful not to wake her, he reached down and slid the book from her limp hand.

It was a romance, of course; the kind with two people kissing passionately in each other’s arms on the cover. This one had a picturesque beach that was way too bright. Corny as the cover was, the couple looked a lot warmer than Shelley’s room felt right now.

A chill breeze drifted in through the window. Even with Fall threatening to change to winter at the drop of a hat, Shelley still kept the window open at night until the last possible moment.

He was just settling into a worn copy of Great Expectations when he felt a dramatic shift in the temperature. It felt like someone had just opened an ice box.

Sitting up in the armchair, he glanced around the room. For a second he thought it was just his imagination, that the sudden cold was natural. But, then he looked over to the window and saw a figure standing outside.

“Hello, Tadin.” The figure’s voice was raspy, reminding Tadin of an old newspaper machine that needed grease.

He set his book down on the end table and tried not to make any sudden movements.

The figure wasn’t human by any means, though it was definitely male. Tadin encountered many variations of the same, but this creature was a lot taller than most, standing nearly five-and-a-half feet tall. Normally they were four feet at most. Instead of skin, this creature was cloaked in bubbling, burnt flesh with the consistency of melted linoleum. His face looked like a deformed goat, with horns protruding from a crop of stringy hair.

The creature was unmistakably a demon.

“What are you doing here, Aleister?” Tadin said, getting to his feet. “I haven’t seen your hideous mug in a long time.”

“Yes,” Aleister said, his face twisting into a disturbing grin. “Not since you passed, all those years ago. I was wondering where you’d set up camp.”

He took a step forward until his head poked through the curtains, and Tadin heard the sound of hooves on the fire escape outside. Kismit hissed up on the bed.

“That’s far enough,” Tadin said. He didn’t know exactly what Aleister was doing peering into Shelley’s bedroom, but normally with demons, they only came for one thing, and that was to collect the souls of the dead — and occasionally torment the living. If Aleister was here for him, he could try and run for it. If he was here for Shelley, there wasn’t much he could do to fend off a demon on his own.

“Not nervous, are you?” Aleister asked. He reached out a three-fingered hand and stretched it across the room, waving it in the air a few inches above Shelley’s bed.

“I said that’s enough,” Tadin stepped forward this time, fists clenched. “You’re not allowed in here without permission.”

“Of course. Demons aren’t welcome anywhere, are they? But we take what we want — without setting foot.” He licked his lips.

“What do you want?”

“You know what I want,” Aleister’s hand came to hover above Shelley’s chest, right over her heart. The demon leaned down, breathing in a long, deep drag of Shelley’s aroma. “Can you believe how delicious that smells? Just like a red wine. It gets better with every passing year. Oh, I crave it.” His eyes slid shut and he straightened back up to look at Tadin. “I could do so many things to this one. What would you like? Cancer? Tremors? Alas, I have to control myself. This one is not for me. Yet. I answer to someone a lot more powerful.”

Of course, thought Tadin. Aleister was merely a messenger. He should have remembered that from the first time he saw the creature. Aleister worked for someone of higher rank — someone he’d evaded since his death.

“Tell Haures I’m not going anywhere.”

“Believe me, that’s exactly what he wants,” Aleister ran his tongue across the front of his teeth. “Makes you easier to collect.”

“So, he’s still haunting that old bar down on Exchange Street?”

“Of course,” Aleister said. “You know his kind. They’re very territorial. They need an unassuming place to keep their collections. They also like to see them grow regularly. He’s had your name on the list for a long time. You’re quite valuable to him. Like I said, with age comes value. There’s a big reward waiting for me for taking you in.”

“Sorry to disappoint, but you’re not taking me anywhere,” Tadin said, and Kismit hissed once more at the demon.

Aleister gave him another eerie grin and reached down to the bed, this time taking a lock of Shelley’s brown hair into his hand.

“You think I forget,” he started, “that you spirits only have enough energy to manipulate the physical realm in small pieces. What if I took this girl instead of you, hmm? You couldn’t rescue her from my grasp if you tried, and even if you were to wake her, you’d only heighten her fear with consciousness.”

“You don’t intimidate me!” Tadin took another step forward. “I may be a spirit, but I can still kick your ass.”

“Oooh! Prove it.”

Tadin lunged across the room, his feet leaving the ground, and he slammed into Aleister’s chest.


Check out Macyntire & Hough on Kindle and Amazon this October!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Excerpt Coming!

Just a quick announcement to check back tomorrow at noon for an exclusive excerpt from Macyntire & Hough. You'll get a taste for what's to come!

The Bling Ring (2013)

This review is a little more informal than my normal reviews. My past reviews, while technically fulfilling, were very exhausting to write. I prefer to speak generally about the films that I love, and I definitely loved The Bling Ring.

If you were like me, you didn't get a chance to see this film in theaters. It ended up coming to Portland for a week, but I was unable to find someone to go see it with me and ended up not going. Thankfully the film hit Redbox a month later and I found myself eagerly waiting to make it home in order to see what all the fuss was about.

The fuss was entirely Emma Watson. She is fantastic in this movie, and I found myself laughing out loud and cringing at the same time. I laughed because her character, Nicki, was so flaky that you couldn't believe that she was supposed to exist in the real world. I cringed because her character did indeed exist in the real world - albeit, under a different name, probably due to some protection of privacy requests.

The film follows a group of California teens who decide to rob various celebrities while they are away enjoying the good life. It was shocking that many of these homes were so easy to get into. Who locks their front door but forgets to lock the patio? Nearly every point of entry was a sliding glass door.

Part of the novelty of this film is that many of the stars allowed the director, Sofia Coppola, to film in their real homes. This meant that most of the possessions in the shots are the real deal. I drooled over some of these places! I love architecture and interior design, and some of these homes were to die for. I didn't particularly like the ones that were made almost entirely of glass, however. It makes me feel like living in a fish tank.

In the end, of course, the teens are caught and arrested. Robbing people seemed like such a stupid thing to do in order to fulfill a high. Didn't these teens get involved in drama, or writing, or something creative with their time? Apparently not. The lesson is, don't take things that belong to you. For the rich viewers, the lesson is to lock your doors and have security alarms. Coppola made the experience feel authentic and organic, something that I really appreciated and kept me watching even when things slowed down briefly near the middle.

Moral of the story part two: Fame is fleeting. Don't go crazy trying to get it. Once you have it, it doesn't last forever.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Made To Suffer

Are writers gluttons for punishment?

I have been hearing the words of C-3PO in my mind all week saying, "We seem to be made to suffer. It's our lot in life." What writer hasn't thought those same exact words at one time or another about themselves?

Writers are a particular breed. It seems like there are many of us, but really, I only know two or three in my general circle of friends. I also only know of two people in my county who have published something on Amazon. Since we're part of a smaller community here in Maine, I find that personally, I tend to fall prey to different things that are trying to steal my time and money.

The biggest leach of a writer's time and money is a book on craft. There used to be only a small handful of these books on the shelf, many of which I own and love - but now, with eBooks, there are hundreds of writing technique books that claim they have the secret to wealth, fame, and fortune. We all remember what happened to Indy when he stepped into the Temple of Doom looking for fortune and glory. He almost lost his heart down in a pit of volcanic fire!

I'm not saying that all writing technique books are a waste of money. I've purchased two or three this year that I found to be really interesting and gave me some pointers that I am now using. But, if you're the kind of writer who buys anything on Amazon that says it has the secret to writing best-selling fiction, fight the urge to click "buy"! There is no real secret to being a best-seller. We've all seen this throughout the ages, and even digitally now. How did the writers on the best-seller list on Amazon do it?

With a good story that connected with readers en-masse at that particular point in time. It's not the keywords (though these are incredibly helpful) and it's not a marketing scheme. It's a good, old-fashioned story that connected with readers. They have great covers, great premises, and great characters.

I can speak from experience. Keywords can only get you so far. Your book needs to be discoverable. That's true, and that's useful. But, how many books have crossed my path on Amazon daily as I look for something that catches my attention? Hundreds of thousands. I just want to point out that because these books came in front of my face didn't mean that I bought them. I judged them the way that others have - and that's by seeing if the cover catches my attention - is it a work of art? Does it look beautiful? If it did, then I clicked to read their blurb.

Honestly, the list of reviews in the description generally turns me away because I hate scrolling down to read what the book is actually about. It might get the writer a few more sales, but in my case, if I had great reviews, I would put them after the blurb about the book. Essentially, if it's your cup of tea, then you buy it. If not, you pass it by. There is no secret. It all comes down to connecting with readers on the store level, and then on the page level. And it takes time. I fully expect it to.

So, if you're looking for a book about craft to read, make sure you choose wisely. There are a lot of fleecers out there looking to make a few bucks off the indy writers looking to hone their craft. We want to be educated, but we don't want to pay the cost of tuition to do so. We also don't want to pay $4.99 for a piece of vague filler. There isn't room on our Kindles for that!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Short Attention Span

I've been pondering the way that readers are experiencing books in the wake of the tablet revolution, and some of it is affecting me the way that the streaming binge-watching on Netflix has maxed out my ability to really enjoy an episode of television. Readers are reading more with eBooks. There are tons of options out there right now, and as with Netflix, some of the options are great, and some are not so great. There is filler, hoping that you will click on it because you liked something similar, the way that whenever a hit movie comes out, you can reliably find a rip-off on Netflix immediately with a word changed in the name (ala Jack The Giant Killer as opposed to Slayer).

Even if the readers aren't actually reading what they download to their tablets, they are still stockpiling a ton of digital books that they hope to someday enjoy. I'm guilty of this hoarding, and I have to say that because it's "free" really entices me to just download and add to my stash. I love trick-or-treating, after all!

But, this glut of media can be damaging to me as a reader. Yes, there are more options than ever, but do I really want to rush through ten books a week just to say that I've read them and not even remember what happened in them the next week? I like my media to be spread out. I like waiting a week to see a new episode of something. The anticipation is what gets me excited.

With all the digital bookshelves of writers growing quickly, I am forced to look at my own output. I'm just starting out, so I'm slower than normal. I have two jobs and a dying car (that will be replaced soon, much to my wallet's dismay!). Even if I wanted to sit down for five hours and write, I am not practiced enough to actually write for that entire time. I made it through a few pages last night and really enjoyed it, but I know I have to speed up a bit.

My question is this: Will the readers really be willing to wait for my work as I write it? It's a legitimate fear in this digital age. Where a writer would put out a single new book a year, that was considered prolific. Now, authors are putting out three books a year, sometimes more than that, and it's considered the norm. Can I ever get to that?

I hope so. I just need to keep my fingers crossed that the audience won't lose interest in me - or pass me over completely - in the quest to find something new and exciting to keep their attention.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Line Edits

I've been going through my manuscript, making line edits, and am surprised at how much tighter my prose has become since the first draft. It really shouldn't be surprising, but I am amazed that the words I'm reading actually came from my brain.

Line editing is essential to any polished manuscript. Despite what your subconscious is telling you, the words on the page are not perfect - or necessarily readable - the way they spewed out of your pen in the throes of passionate creative writing. Take a look at Stephen King's On Writing and you'll find that he has an entire section that shows his first draft complete with his line edits and reasons for why he made the changes he did.

I'll admit that when I first read that section about two years ago, I was sure that my work would never look that beaten up.

Surprise, surprise - my work was even more beaten up!

The goal of line editing is to say something in a simpler, more direct way that gets the point across without rambling or using huge words that don't need to be there. If I can combine two sentences into one shorter sentence without losing the message I need to get to the reader, I will.

Don't be afraid of this process. Treat your first draft like the rough shape of a clay sculpture. You get it roughly to where it needs to be, then you start trimming and shaping until that clay is a beautiful sculpture exactly the way you envisioned it. This process takes time. I already went through my manuscript once and line-edited the crap out of it. Now I'm going through it a second time on my Kindle, reading it paragraph by paragraph to catch any lingering issues. If you want more on that process, see my previous post here.

If you've made it this far, you owe it to your book and your future readers to pay close attention to each sentence and paragraph. As we all know, those sentences together make up the large tapestry of our story, and there's no room for a bad thread in such a large quilt!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Working With Beta Readers

I have to start out this post with my main thought, which is, beta readers are fantastic. I don't know where I would be if it weren't for the handful of readers that I've shown my work to and discussed feedback. However, I feel like my first foray into the land of beta readers is different from most people's perceptions of what it must be like all the time. So, I thought I'd share my journey for anyone who is currently looking to use beta readers so that they know what to expect aside from the stories from established authors with a devoted team of readers.

I don't have a devoted team of readers yet. My start into the world of beta readers began first with my mother (I know, not an unbiased opinion, but she is a great beta for the beta). I gave her the first half of the manuscript and she read it...really...slowly. It also isn't her cup of tea for genre. However, she made it through the entire first half, so I completed the second draft and set out to find people I know who would read it.

I started with people I work with. They aren't writers, for the most part, but they are readers. I found two co-workers who read extensive amounts of romance and paranormal to check out my manuscript. I also looked for people I went to school with - mostly in different states now, so they haven't seen me physically in about two years. Once they agreed, I sent out the PDF via email, and waited to hear back.

To be fair, I gave my readers about a month to get through the entire 230 pages - that page count being 250 words per paperback page. Yes, I did the math, and the page count on the PDF did not match the page count I gave them, which was deceiving. Still, my first beta reader, one of my college friends, read the manuscript in a weekend and was instantly texting me thoughts and errors where I'd messed up the typing.

When it came to my co-worker, the voracious reader, she got through the first half of the book and gave me some feedback that was very useful and discussed the ending with me since she hadn't made it that far. She is killer at remembering tiny details and showed me a few plot threads that I hadn't explored. I used those threads to add a twist to the finale that I really like and think adds a bit of depth to the epic battle between good and evil.

But, beyond those two people, nobody else has reliably read any of my book. They were too busy, or life took a turn, and they didn't manage to get past the first chapter.

What do you do when this happens? For me, I needed to be gracious because these readers, even though they all knew me, were reading my book for free. The only payment they receive is a free copy of my eBook and a mention in my special thanks section. This is my first book as well, so I've never done this before. I don't have anyone outside of my acquaintances who knows who I am or has looked at my work aside from some Harry Potter fan fiction.

So, as you go into your first beta reading experience, be prepared for people to not read your work. They may be busy, or the book might not be their preferred genre, but for whatever feedback you do get from some of them, guard it like a treasure. I wrote down everything that my friend Sam told me because it was so incredibly valuable to me. I want to be prepared as much as possible before I hit "publish". The good thing about writing is that there is always another book to work at, so even if this one doesn't hit the mark for some readers, I can try again with the next.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Bad-Ass Heroines

As I look back at my favorite movie of the summer, Man of Steel, I am meditating on the parts of the movie that were my favorite. Whenever I worked at the cinema (my bosses will love this if they actually read my blog) I would sneak away at the same time every shift to catch the scene where Lois, played by the scene-stealing Amu Adams, is assisted by the memory of Jor-El, played by none other than Russel Crowe. Why was this scene one of my favorites? Let me explain.

In this scene, Lois is trapped on the fortress ship. It's only after she's tried banging on the door for help that she turns and noticed a tiny hole in the framework that is the same shape as an object Clark handed her just before they were captured. She discovers that it's a key. After pressing the key into the lock, Jor-El appears and helps her to escape back to Metropolis.

The characters are showcasing their resourcefulness and ability to learn and develop mentally, just like us. Lois is ready to learn on the fly, and she extends her disbelief at speaking to a digital hologram of Jor-El, so we as the audience also suspend our own disbelief. (For those of you who couldn't, aka, the girl at the concession stand that one time who told me the movie was horrible and that Smallville was also an unwatchable show - shame on you! Just kidding. But, perhaps movies and books about space beings aren't your cup of tea.)

This act of using her wit instantly bonds me mentally with Lois. A character like that is not unlike another famous literary heroine, Hermione Granger. She also connected with readers because she constantly used her wit to get herself and her friends out of danger, and if she didn't know what to do, she learned what to do. Isn't this what we do in real life? True, we aren't fighting an evil dark Lord, but we are learning how to survive our everyday lives and using what we've learned to help each other.

My main character, Shelley, is also one of those types who learns on the fly as she encounters ghosts and demons. I hope that she's resourceful. It's these kind of heroines who pull the plot along when the hero is stuck in his stubborn ways (ahem...Harry). If you're stuck with your characters, try having them learn something new - encounter a new idea or item that they've never seen before. You might be surprised what happens!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Macyntire & Hough Cover Preview!

With publication day coming up for my first novel on October 1st, I thought it would be fun to unveil my cover design for Macyntire & Hough. This design has gone through five different versions to arrive here, and I'm pleased with the end result. While this is a paranormal romance, it's also a contemporary romance. I wanted to steer clear of all the dark, gloomy colors that I traditionally see in paranormal romance covers, and go with something warm since the story takes place during the fall. Without further ado, here it is!

I'd love to hear your thoughts. I have a background in graphic design and was excited to try my hand at putting this together. I've done plenty of movie posters for my short films, and this wasn't too far from that. Hopefully this cover entices some people to check out the story and leave feedback. I'm still waiting for feedback from my betas, so I'm anxious to hear what they think.

Back to my revisions! (You can never do enough revisions before sending something out into the world, and thankfully, in this digital age, even after publication, typos can be fixed!)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Editing Your Book

Right now I am going through my second-to-last read-through of my book to find typos and misused words before getting feedback from my beta readers. I've received a small chunk of feedback so far, but I'm holding out for the final wave the weekend before I publish. It's going to be a busy time. I'm a perfectionist, and while that hasn't served me well in the drafting stage, it has served me well in this final stage. I feel more confident that the book is stronger because of this attention to detail, and I will explain my process below.

If you own a Kindle (and if you don't, I highly recommend one. If you don't want to get one, you can still use an app on your phone or computer!) I suggest loading your test .mobi file, which is the book file that you will upload to Amazon, and test it out on your reader. I've done this for my current draft to spot typos and formatting errors, and it's helped immensely.

To save on time, keep a document, typed or handwritten - it doesn't really matter which, and have a section for each chapter of your book. As you read each chapter, type out the revisions that need to be done. I do a misspelled word in all caps so that it's easy to go back and see what needs to be done. My eyes play tricks on me sometimes, and I've read my own material so many times that it's almost boring to do so. I know the story like the back of my hand, and spotting a missing letter is hard work. Really take your time with this stage and read the sentence as if you haven't seen it before. You're more likely to find those errors on your tablet than you are in a PDF. It's also good to see the product the way a reader will see it so that you don't get any surprises when you upload. (I'm sure there will be a few of those even with my process!)

There you have it. That's my process for doing a "final" sweep for little crumbs and dust on my manuscript.

If you're interested in seeing what my book cover looks like, check my blog tomorrow at noon to see a peek at my cover! I'm pleased with how it turned out, and would love any thoughts that people have.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

That Lovin' Feelin'

I'm in a very sappy mood today, so I decided to write about a movie couple that is near and dear to my heart.

If you knew me back in the early 2000's you would no doubt have suffered many discussions (actually, me just talking at you) about Sam Raimi's masterful film series Spider-Man, featuring Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst. Those two actors are the key to the entire franchise's success, regardless of what everyone else has to say. I will explain my reasoning for this opinion.

Let me start by saying that I was appalled by the reboot, Amazing Spider-Man, and even walked out of the theater halfway through the film. The characters didn't connect with me on any level, and they felt like cardboard cutouts of the once three-dimensional people I had come to know and love over the course of eight years with Raimi's trilogy. As much as I like Emma Stone as an actress, her portrayal of Gwen Stacy never resonated with me the way Kirsten Dunst's emotional portrayal of Mary-Jane did. As Tobey Maguire's Peter Parker said, "This story is about a girl. That girl." And Miss Dunst nailed it on the head every time.

If you have (or haven't - go out and rent this movie immediately!) seen Spider-Man, watch the scene where Peter returns from testing out his new spider abilities. He's neglected his uncle's plea for help in painting the kitchen and walks in to find that his aunt and uncle are out, finished with the painting. Now Peter comes down from his emotional high with a fresh wave of guilt at forgetting to help his family. He goes outside to take out the trash and runs into who else but the gorgeous Mary-Jane Watson. The girl next door.

Watch through this scene. Do you feel the chemistry and tension between these two characters? The secret that the audience knows is that Peter and MJ need each other, but they just don't know it yet. It works, and it works so well that by the time we get to the finale where MJ is hanging hundreds of feet above death, waiting to be rescued, we are on the edge of our seat, biting our nails to see if she is rescued by Peter (as Spider-Man) or not. It also tugs at our heart strings when we are told by Peter that he can't be with MJ because...he just wants to be friends. Of course, that's just a cover-up for his alter-ego, but MJ doesn't know that. It's the right amount of drama to leave us hanging until the sequel hits (which took so long to arrive, but was so worth it, and is my favorite super hero movie of all time).

Why do these characters work together?

Well, they both have their inner demons, their shortcomings, and their dreams. They have lives outside of high-school and ambitions. They also see each other for who they want to be. Peter encourages MJ to go for her dreams of being an actress, even as her father and boyfriend at the time tell her that she has no chance. MJ encourages Peter to go for a job at being a photographer. In short, these characters are there for each other in a way that everyone else is not. They complete each other. They are good for each other. And we want them together! That desire to see these characters as a couple is what keeps us watching.

I could write an entire post about the new Amazing Spider-Man and how it botched this entire framework, Not to mention that Andrew Garfield's version of Peter Parker flat-out tells Gwen Stacy that he's Spider-Man halfway through the film - all the emotional tension was zapped from the plot before the story even began. Don't do this in your own work, please! Keep the romantic tension. Keep the characters mysterious to a point. We all keep our own secrets as human beings. Nobody will ever know us completely. But, in the case of Peter and MJ, there's a chance that someone can see us for who we want to be and encourage us to go for it. That's what kindles the love between them.

Friday, September 20, 2013

My First Novel - Sneak Peek!

I have read on many blogs that it isn't that important to promote your first eBook, but I can't help myself. I've been working on this project since last October, and as I get closer to my October 1st publication date, I have barely said anything about the book.

Until now!

I thought it would be cool to post the title of my novel and also reveal the synopsis that I plan to use on the "back cover". The book is still with my beta readers, but if anyone has a comment, feel free to let me know what you think!

Without further ado...

Macyntire & Hough

Do life and love continue after death?

Tadin Hough is a ghost who desires a quiet afterlife.

That plan is out the window when he opens an art gallery with Shelley Macyntire, a mortal. Things become more complicated when romance sparks between them.

But, just when things look promising, a demonic soul collector sets his sights on Tadin. His peaceful days with Shelley are numbered.

Can he protect Shelley and everything he loves from being dragged into the bowels of Hell?

Some additional info on the book before I finish - it's the first of a series, though I don't know how many books I plan to do. That all depends on if I can come up with enough stories for the characters. The book is set in my native state of Maine (love it here - especially in the fall, which is when this book takes place) and I'd describe it as a paranormal romance, or at the least, a romantic thriller.

I'll premiere the cover of the book on this blog before publication. Not sure when exactly, so it will be a surprise!

The book is going to be my first time trying KDP Select, so I will make sure to post when the freebie days are for Macyntire & Hough. It might be a little bit, but I'm anxious to see what I can learn from my first publication. Now, back to editing the manuscript!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Tween Backlash

I've noticed a really disturbing yet amusing trend at the movies this year and part of last, and that's the decline of what I call tween movies. These are generally based on a super-hyped best-selling teenage girl romance series like Twilight or The Hunger Games, and they've been shoveled at us as a global audience, expecting us to just open up and eat them.

Well, the fact is, almost all of these adaptations have fallen flat - not only at the box office, but also as source material.

"But, wait!" you say. "These are best-selling book series! They have a built-in audience! How can the source material be bad?"

I will explain my reasoning. Those statements you just uttered are the same ones that studio executives uttered when they signed the contracts to push these films into production.

It's absolutely true that these book series have a built-in audience. The problem with the audience is that these books are popular because they are books. Moreover, the audience is pre-teen thru teen girls and they are reading these books for escapism. That's right - good, old fashioned escapism. The stories take them away from their math classes, their study halls, and their dramatic, mundane high-school lives and transport them into a world where they are different, special, and the entire world revolves around the decisions they make. I may not be a teenage girl, but I read for the same exact reasons when I was in school - and even now. Authors like Brian Jacques, Robert Jordan, and Terry Goodkind gave me places to go where I belonged.

Now, back to the issue at hand of Hollywood trying to cash in on this literature love. Going to the movies is not the same as reading a book. For one, the amount of time it takes to read a book and get to know the characters is a lot longer than it takes to watch a movie. In two hours a screenwriter will try to cram an entire month's worth of reading and emotional journey-taking with the characters found in The Moral Instruments. It doesn't translate well.

What about the source material?

My argument is that most of these book series, like The Mortal Instruments, for example, started off as fan fiction for mega-hits like Harry Potter. Because of this starting point, the stories become very convoluted, like a stew of all these author's favorite stories tweaked just enough so that they don't get sued for plagiarism. It's disturbing to me as a writer because I haven't before seen such a wave of unoriginality in the book world.

As a disclaimer, I am an advocate for fan fiction. I used to write it myself. I was one of those kids who wanted more of the same. I wanted new stories about Harry, Ron, and Hermione. I wanted them in their own worlds doing new things and surprising me.

I did not, however, want to see someone taking an established franchise and changing the names around, mashing together werewolves and Muggles, and passing it off as a new, original piece of work. I didn't like it when Eragon did it with Tolkien's place names, and I don't like it now with Hollywood capitalizing on it in their marketing campaigns. Some readers may not agree with this, but I stand by my belief that if you are going to write, make sure you write something that is original. Being inspired by your favorite book series is one thing. Converting a piece of fan fiction into an "original" piece of fiction is entirely another.

Yes, they made money on the books. But the rest of the world is not enthused, as the box office displays. There just isn't a market for such shallow adaptations. We want to be introduced to something we've never experienced before. We're waiting for the next literary world to sweep us off our feet and invest our money and minds in the stories that are sure to leap from said world.

I guess my warning is the same one that all my writing professors gave me when I first started out: Borrow delicately. Nobody likes reheated leftovers.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Outlining With Notecards

I just finished outlining another book, and have found a few things that have worked for me.

The entire process of meditation and then the actual process of writing the plot points down with a pen and paper took about two weeks. I needed that time to mull over some ideas that I wanted to fit in, organize each of the story threads (central characters, antagonists, secondary characters) and the end up with a complete story. Beginning, middle, and end.

I know that in Scrivener you have the option of outlining your book like a cork board, and I started doing that. The only issue with me is that I am rarely in front of my actual laptop. If I am, it's because I'm at home and I've made the time. The days of my Macbook Pro being conveniently portable are about two years in the past. Now? I simply carry around my iPad and a notebook (that never fails!) and do all my writing and creative thinking with those. Anyway, I ended up resorting to actual physical notecards this time as I did on my first book.

The easiest part of this process was that I could add notecards and swap them around if they didn't make sense. I love starting at the beginning and working my way to the end. There is an undeniable flow that comes from visualizing the story this way. That may be different for you, but for me, I need to see the cause and effect in chronological order. I did know the ending before I started though, so I wasn't blindly wandering in the dark!

Once this outline was finished, I consulted with one of my beta readers to see what she thought about some of my plot ideas. I ended up getting some other story threads that I hope to explore later on.

Certainly, I suggest using the three act structure like the screenwriters use. It helped me get this story down quickly compared to the months of my first outline, and I am now ready to start writing each chapter. What is the life-upside-down event at the beginning? What is the turning point? The reversal? The black moment of no return?

If you're at this stage in your novel-writing, I highly suggest a stack of notecards. You never know what you might add, subtract, or swap around as your story takes root!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Power Of Observation

Here are the statistics:

By the time we die we will have spent six months waiting in lines.

What a horrible waste! Think of how much you could get done in six months. I could read a handful of books. I could write a novel and outline a second one, and perhaps even craft a few short stories. Six months?! I want that time to be useful!

The good news is that it can be useful.

My challenge to you is to stop the next time you're waiting in a line and observe both the person in front of you and the person behind you. What impression do they make on you? What do they look like? What are their mannerisms? Perhaps they are a car-full of little league soccer players and the neighborhood mother, carpooling them to practice. What is her life like? It's up to you as the writer to make it up! Be inspired.

Jot down these things after you're done waiting in line, or on your smart phone - wherever you keep your notes, and save these sketches for characters down the line. This is a great way to observe people and get realistic characters out of your time waiting for lunch at the fast food restaurant, or even at the supermarket.

Monday, September 16, 2013

What Ryan Murphy Has Taught Me

It's all about tone.

It's all about the characters.

It's all about their inner demons.

If your work doesn't have these things, it doesn't matter how intricate the plot is - it will fall flat.

Take a look at how many television series get canceled after only four or five episodes. Why don't they click with the audience?

I use the example of Tera Nova, a series that I waited an entire year and a half for. It was supposed to be Jurassic Park meets Dinotopia meets Stargate, and it didn't turn out that way at all. After the first episode the entire series fell flat because the characters weren't strong or consistent enough to keep the viewers interested in their struggles on Tera Nova. Secondly, the tone was all over the place. Was this supposed to be a family drama? A science fiction action/adventure? A romance? The writers didn't seem to know, and the audience definitely didn't know. I lost interest fast. Add to that the one-dimensional character yanked directly from Spielberg's War of the Worlds (no surprise, since he executive-produced this series) and you have a yawn-fest.

With Ryan Murphy's American Horror Story, you know what you're getting from the very first scene. It's horror. A haunted house. Ominous music. The characters are all struggling with their inner demons - and they are believable. We want to know more about them, and we do! Who didn't want to spend more time with Constance Langdon, the extraordinary Jessica Lange? Who wasn't intrigued by Violet and her romance with the troubled ghost, Tate? I couldn't get enough.

Tone is the veil that lays over everything in the story, tying it together into a cohesive whole. If you can get the tone and your characters right - and consistent, everything else will fall into place.