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!)