Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Musings and Observations

I know I haven't posted anything new since December and I apologize. It's obvious to anyone who visits this blog on a (regular?) basis that keeping up the posts is one of my lower priorities. To be honest, my mind is usually focused more on developing new stories than it is trying to think of something to share here. I'm not saying that I don't care to share with readers via the blog. It's just difficult coming up with something that I think you may find useful/interesting here. I tend to be a private person. I don't think I'm all that interesting (well, that's not exactly true. I think I'm interesting in some ways, just not on a daily basis.) So, I try to share via the blog when I have a new release coming out or when something compels me to write a post. Sometimes, like now, I write a post out of guilt. Still, I hope you glean something useful/interesting from this.

There is something I feel like weighing in about, and that is the quality of self-published books. When I first began writing, self-publishing was considered taboo. It was the last avenue for desperate authors whose writing was considered not worth reading. Since then, the self-publishing revolution has kicked open the gates so any writer could reach readers. I think that's a good thing, because I could circumvent the old gatekeepers, whom I considered elitist. Now, I'm thinking it's also a bad thing, too. There has been a deluge of self-published books, both good and bad, to saturate the market. While there are diamonds in the rough, I think there is far too much rough to sift through in search of those diamonds. Reading is very subjective. What one reader loves, others hate and vice versa. So, it's a complex thing to simply dismiss someone's writing as trash. Sure, there is plenty of garbage out there, but I don't think we can simply dismiss a book because we don't like the subject matter and expect everyone to agree with us. Fans of those books just have different tastes than we do. However, when a book is rife with typos and grammatical errors, well, that's another thing altogether, and that's what bothers me the most.

Since the digital revolution in publishing, the choice to self-publish has been embraced by more and more writers. Some, like me, chose this route for a number of reasons: total creative control, higher royalties, ability to cross multiple genres, ability to write controversial subject matter, etc. Others have simply seen the opportunity to cash-in on no gatekeepers who once stopped them from reaching the masses. This latter group are the ones, in my opinion, who are responsible for the lingering stigma of poor quality that the self-publishing moniker still holds. This is a shame because the authors who actually take the time to edit there work into publishable quality and create beautiful, eye-catching covers are toiling amid a cesspool hoping to give readers the quality that they're used to getting from the traditionally published market. Meanwhile, for each one of these quality authors, about ten to twenty authors are completing their first draft and clicking the Easy Button to what they think is the road to riches.

I know some of these authors who publish what I consider to be crap. It infuriates me to know they are flooding the market with inferior writing. I'm not talking about the subject of their stories, but the mistakes that are in them. It seems to me that these writers are more interested in quantity over quality, and I don't think they care about the readers who legitimately complain about the inferior writing. I believe writers who subscribe to this philosophy want to cast the widest possible net, hoping to snare a larger amount of first-sales. They don't concern themselves with retaining an audience. In addition, I think these are probably the same writers who spam the hell out of the public when they release a new book. "Hey, look at the latest book I wrote. Get your copy today!" is something you hear from them every month or two. They have vast shelves on Amazon, B&N, and elsewhere. I'd even venture to wager that these "books" are less than 10,000 words and priced somewhere around $3 or $4 (the price you might pay for an actual novel--50,000+ words).

There are a few things that bother me about the self-publishing business, but the authors who prefer quantity (of books, not words) is what bugs me the most. They're the ones responsible for flooding the market with crap that readers have to sift through to find quality material. I'm not only a writer, but a reader, too. As such, this bothers me even more because when/if I get a self-published title, I'm already going into the story with low expectations. It's akin to the justice system, but in reverse. Instead of remaining innocent until proven guilty, I view a self-published title as dreadful until proven otherwise, which is why I read so few self-published stories. It shouldn't be this way, but this is what happens when barbarians storm the gates.

I am NOT one of these writers who prefer quantity over quality. Quite the opposite! I try to craft the best story I can. Each story goes through several iterations of editing before I hand it over to a few beta readers (at minimum, two). Once I receive their feedback and address any issues, I give it one more edit to make sure the story stands up to my expectations. If it doesn't, then I don't publish it until it does. I want to fill my virtual shelf, too, but I don't want to fill it with shit. Instead, I want to fill it with treasures (at least, what I consider to be treasures). I can only hope my readers see them as treasures, too. I know I won't please and dazzle everyone, but for those that I don't, I expect their negative reviews to center on the subject matter and not that the writing was horrible.

Soon, I will be publishing a murder mystery called Carniville (mentioned here and here). I'm excited to offer this story because it's my first murder mystery and I really enjoyed writing it. I've already received feedback from my two beta readers and made the necessary changes to strengthen the story. I'm awaiting proof copies to send to several more beta readers so I can gauge whether the story is strong enough to release. If it is, then it should hit the shelves near the end of this month or in early March. If mysteries are your thing, then I encourage you to keep an eye out for it.

If you've read this, I hope you're a reader I was able to please, dazzle, and/or entertain. If you've read one of my stories, do me a favor and leave a review on Amazon, B&N, or wherever you got the book. Feedback (of any kind) is always appreciated and lets me know what I'm doing right or what I need to fix. As always, thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Wrapping Up Another Year

Well, this is it. We find ourselves on the cusp of a new year. I've neglected the blog once again (like that's unusual, right?) and would feel pretty bad if I didn't do one last post to close out this year. But what to report? I decided to write a post doing a very short recap of my successes and let you see what I have planned for the coming year. I'm excited about what's on the horizon. So, here it is...

2013 was a good year. I had several wonderful surprises in my personal life and I released a couple of books, both of them southern literature. First there was Lathem's Lament, followed shortly by Rabbit on the Run. I recently heard some feedback from a friend whose mother read Rabbit on the Run and he said she really enjoyed it. It's feedback like this that makes the tedious hours spent creating a story worthwhile.

If you follow this blog or know me personally, you know that I took up studying math using a website called Khan Academy. I started doing this seriously one year ago. When I began, fractions were my arch nemesis. I was unable to do any calculations with fractions. Anything more advanced than that, forget about it! I'm very pleased to report that I have now mastered 81% of the subject matter on the site and am studying precalculus and trigonometry. In the coming year, I hope to be studying advanced calculus.

I hope to carry the momentum of my writing into 2014. Back in March, I gave a sneak peek at the books I was working on. From that list, two of the books were released. Youthanasia is currently shelved until I find motivation to continue it. Carniville is currently in the last few stages of editing. I hope to release it sometime in February. My first beta reader gave excellent feedback for things that needed changing in addition to telling me that it was a good murder mystery. I'm excited about that! Consuming Darkness is another I hope to get out to all my readers in 2014, but it requires a rewrite that will take some time. With that said, I hope to have it out by the end of next year.

At the moment, the book that really holds my heart is called What Goes Around that I briefly mentioned here. This is a creepy horror story that I hope will unsettle anyone who reads it. At the time I announced this story, I was only scratching the plot's surface. Presently, I'm about 200 pages into the manuscript. I won't rehash the synopsis here as you can read it on the other post. However, I will give you a glimpse of the paperback's cover. I hope this book will be ready for release sometime around summer (unless, of course, I switch things up and release it closer to Halloween--how appropriate).

That about sums up what I've been doing and what I hope to accomplish. 2013 was a good year and I hope 2014 will be just as good, if not better. I hope your year has been just as good and I want to wish you a prosperous new year. Feel free to leave any comments or feedback. As always, thanks for stopping in!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Special Deal...and *ahem* an announcement

First, apologies for being MIA for over a month. I've been busily working on several novels and moving one, Carniville, ever closer to publication.

Second, I want to tell you about a special deal I've cooked up for all of my readers (and everyone else in reader-land). If you'll allow me to stand atop my soapbox for just a moment. I promise I won't take long and I'll make this as painless as possible...

I've slashed the prices of all of my books at every one of my distributors. This includes Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords. Every book and story I have available is a meager $0.99. Heck Starbucks coffee is more than that! What could be better than grabbing a novel (or two or three) for a buck or less than five bucks?

In addition, if you purchase a digital version from Amazon, you can also get the paperback copy for an extremely reduced rate (or maybe even for free, depending on the book) through Amazon's Matchbook program. I promise to sign it for you if you see me and want me to. It would be my pleasure.

This special pricing is for a limited time only, so act now. This is a great opportunity to try my writing if you've never read any of my work before. Also, if you're not into horror stories, but enjoy crime fiction, or you like southern literature but hate science fiction, then you're in luck! I write across several different genres. I have books in horror, crime, science fiction, southern literature, and more. Maybe you've read my horror and wonder whether I can pull off writing southern literature? My advice is to part with 99 cents and find out. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

I also have to mention that I reduced these prices today and one distributor in particular hasn't reflected the price change yet. This is Barnes & Noble. They should have the newer, lower prices within a day or two if you insist on getting a copy for your Nook. Since Smashwords distributes my titles to iTunes, Kobo, etc., it will take a few days (or maybe even a week) for prices to trickle out to those retailers.

Oh, I almost forgot, I also have another promotion that I mentioned a while back that I want to reiterate here. I currently have a BOGO free offer for two of my novels over at Smashwords. Details can be found here.

Okay, I'm off my soapbox now. See? That wasn't so bad, was it? Now for the other announcement:
I have already dropped out of NaNoWriMo! Yes, that's right. I'm a big fat quitter. I had an idea and started off okay, but, quite frankly, I have way too many books in the hopper that I'm currently working on. Most of you probably weren't aware that I was even participating and, therefore, you probably don't even care. Instead of just winking out like a match in the dark, I decided to make my withdrawal formally, here on my blog. Maybe I'll pick up the story later. Maybe I'll put it aside and work on it during next year's NaNoWriMo. Time will tell. In the meantime, I plan to continue working on Carniville, the next novel slated for publication. In addition to Carniville, I'm working on What Goes Around and Consuming Darkness.

I hope you'll take advantage of my reduced pricing or, if you've already read my books, please tell a friend who might be interested. Stay tuned for more information about the release of my murder mystery, Carniville. And, as always, thanks for stopping by!

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Rabbit is on the Run

I have a new book out called Rabbit on the Run. This is a novella of southern literature--quite a departure from what I normally write. The story is set in the Depression-era south, about a field worker named Gordon Mosely who is running for his life from a lynch mob determined to see him swing from a rope for a murder he didn't commit. You can see the cover over in the right sidebar or click the link above to find where the story is available as well as read a little trivia about the story's concept.

If you're into southern literature, then may I also recommend my novel, Lathem's Lament. Despite taking place in different times, I think both stories go well together and compliment one another, especially if you're a fan of a bygone era.

These will probably be the last of the old southern tales I write for a while. I tend to write any story idea I fall in love with, regardless of worrying about staying within the boundaries of a certain genre, as some of you may already know. I'm working to try to finish several books I've already started, which I mentioned in this post and provided sneak peeks of the book covers. While I'm still planning to release those books, new ideas have come to me that I've fallen in love with and some of those have taken priority. My usual plan is to write the first draft of a story and then push it aside to mellow while I return to other works that have, hopefully, already mellowed. Lathem's Lament and Rabbit on the Run are two of those from the last batch of ideas that I've now harvested (so to speak). Carniville is in the editing process right now. Youthanasia and Consuming Darkness are still up in the air.

Lately, I've been returning to my roots: writing horror, and this is reflected in my next batch of story ideas. Currently, I'm hard at work on a story called What Goes Around, about nine children who vanish from a carousel in 1958, in front of their parents. Sixty years later, the children miraculously reappear when three teenagers sneak into the amusement park and spin up the old carousel. I've written nearly one hundred pages of this book, but recently put it aside to edit Carniville. I'm anxiously looking forward to returning to it as well as beginning some other stories I've recently had ideas for. That's about all the inside scoop I have to offer at the moment, and why I've been so aloof from my blog. Hopefully, I'll have more stories ready to publish very soon, stories that all of you who're reading my blog or my books. I want you to be satisfied with what I put out there for you. Thanks for stopping by, and keep a lookout for my next releases!

Monday, September 2, 2013

What's new, pussycat?

Sorry I've been MIA for a while. I've been busily working on some new projects. My son and I began a new silicone Halloween mask. He had never created one, so I wanted to walk him through the process with me. I figured it would be a fun learning experience, which it was. The sculpture turned out really well, as you can see from the picture(s) below. Unfortunately, when we began separating the plaster mold, it broke, so that was the end of that project. All that work down the drain. Eventually, I'll start over as Halloween draws closer.

In other news, I am wrapping up my novella, Rabbit on the Run, which will soon be available via all of my typical distributors. I will provide links for anyone interested in obtaining copies once it is officially released. In addition, I am dividing my time to edit Carniville, a murder mystery involving human oddities; rewriting The Consuming Darkness, formerly known as The Shadow People, the first novel I'd ever written and has undergone many rewrites. (Most of these books I've mentioned in a previous post, which you can read here).

I've stalled on Youthanasia, a science fiction novel about the pros and cons of immortality, due to a lack of enthusiasm. That's not going to stop me from finishing the story and publishing it, though. When I say "lack of enthusiasm", I don't mean it's a substandard or mediocre story. It just means that some other ideas have stolen the spotlight in my imagination and I'm choosing to focus on them right now, which I will talk about in a minute. Also, I've kind of run up against a wall as far as the plot is concerned. I'm not sure where to go with the story while keeping the reader engaged in finding out what happens next. After I let it ferment and mellow for a while on the back burner, I'm sure I'll find a way around that obstacle.

The story who holds my heart at the moment is a new work of horror that I'm currently writing called What Goes Around. I've only spent two days working with it and, already, I've managed to put down a little over twenty pages worth of story. If you don't know what to make of that, let me just clarify by saying that the words are flowing like Niagara Falls; coming extremely easy, which isn't always the case. Since it is still in its infancy, I won't divulge too much, but I will give you the synopsis to whet your appetite. It goes something like this:

In the fall of 1958, in front of onlooking parents, nine children riding a carousel suddenly vanish. Despite efforts to explain the phenomenon, the children were never found, questions went unanswered, and the amusement park was closed.

Until Now...

Nearly sixty years later, three teenagers sneak into the newly-opened park on a dare and spin up the old carousel. They face a startling discovery when the nine children unexpectedly reappear. The boys and girls look the same as the day they vanished, but something is fundamentally different, because...

What Goes Around, Comes Around

I'm excited by this story's potential and hope readers are, too. I've already developed a cover for it and plan to hone this story into a reasonable facsimile of the product I see in my imagination. If I'm successful, then this will be a creepy romp through a sinister landscape that keeps readers captivated, turning pages to find out where these children have been and what mysteries the merry-go-round holds. Already, while writing it, I've given myself plenty of goose bumps. I hope I can pass them on to anyone who chooses to indulge in the story. As I get nearer to finishing it, I'll release a sneak peek of the cover.

Finally, I have some exciting news about an available title. My novel, The Old Royal, has been optioned to be made into an audio book. The narrator is a talented individual named Stephen Self. I've already listened to his audition for the book and his performance of the first chapter. I'm excited by what I've heard and anxiously await the finished product, which will be available on iTunes, Audible.com, and Amazon. Once I know the details for where you can get a copy, I'll post the links.

Stay tuned for further details. And, as always, thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The virtue of knowing where you're going

Before I jump into the meat of this post, I want to address something I'm sure will pointed out by more astute readers of this blog. I've mentioned before why I don't post advice about writing. Some of you may think this posting will run counter to that notion, but I'd argue that it doesn't exactly. When I said that I don't like to dole out writing advice, what I was referring to was the actual nuts-and-bolts mechanics of writing. Nor will I blow sweet-nothings in your ear in order to try convincing you to sit your butt in the seat and commit to writing when you don't want to. Hell, I don't even do that when I don't feel like it...anymore. Although, there was a time I did do that. Also, every writer is different, approaching the task a different way with various motives. Writing is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Therefore, I will assert that I do not create blog posts instructing other writers how to go about the task of writing.

There. Now that my little disclaimer is out of the way, I want to talk about why I think outlines are a good idea when writing. Again, you might be pointing to the disclaimer, saying "Hey! You just said you wouldn't tell others how to go about writing." To which I would agree and point out that I am only illustrating why I think they are good to use. This blog is about me, my writing, and my other hobbies. Now, I don't always use outlines when I write, at least, not the traditional outline we learned in school. But, I do use some form of outline, in the loosest sense of the word.

If you're like me, the word outline probably makes you cringe as you think back to that rigorous, structured form the teacher made you write in grade school. Forget that. Unless, of course, you think back on it with warm regards. If that's the case, then, by all means, embrace it. Also, if that's the case, then you probably already use outlines. For the rest of you, I want to paint a better picture of the outline. It doesn't have to be that stodgy old tool you're imagining. When I sit down to write, I don't like feeling confined by rigidity and rules. I think that stifles creativity, which should flow like a river, free and wondrous. So, my writing environment is as free from rules as possible. I want to be comfortable. My outlines hold to that philosophy and can differ from outline to outline. One might be a list of bullet points, each corresponding to major plot points I want to cover in the story. Another may resemble that more rigorous, traditional outline if I can visualize the story more deeply and want to capture those details for days or weeks down the road when I might potentially forget them. And, still, others may resemble notes more suitable to appearing on napkins, pieces of cardboard, or what have you.

The outline is only there to serve you, the writer, in whatever capacity helps. When you're writing a novel, it's like setting off on a quest through a forest. You might clearly see the trail heading off into the trees and gleefully follow. But, at some point, that trail may begin to disappear among the brush until you are lost among the trees. Having an outline is like having a compass and map as you navigate the unfamiliar territory. If you've written before, I'm sure you can recall times when you've sat down to write and soon find yourself floundering with what you've written, unable to determine where you are in the plot or where you need to be heading. If you've outlined, you can reference it to get your bearing and get back on course. I've done this and been thankful for having my outline to keep me on track.

I've mentioned that I go about creating my outlines differently each time. Here's why: each story, like people, are uniquely different. Stories demand different kinds of attention. Sure, I've written spontaneously without having the benefit of an outline, but these are rare cases for me. More often than not, I will have some form of outline as I get started. These outlines may contain the high-level bullet points I mentioned earlier, illustrating the course of the story from a bird's eye view. Typically, obstacles will crop up during the course of writing, however, that need to be circumnavigated. At times like these, I will resort to making another outline, one more granular, pointing out how to get me from point D to E in the larger outline. But, as I've said, my outlines differ from story to story. Case in point, I've also written with a partial outline, leading me the first chapter or two into a story. Once I get to that place where the trail ends, I stop writing, pick up my outline and brainstorm about where I want to go from there. Then, I will sit and outline the next chapter or two until, finally, I have reached the end of the book. Each of these techniques depend on the story I'm writing and whichever one feels good to me at the time.

This is how I go about writing. Every writer is different, so I don't recommend you do things like I do. Unless, of course, you feel comfortable doing this. Writing is hard enough as it is. Feeling good about how you approach and feeling comfortable while you're doing it are keys to finishing. So, if you find that you can't finish a story because you often find yourself lost in the woods, maybe creating an outline to chart the rest of your journey will help you across the finish line. It's definitely beneficial for me. And, if you came here seeking writing advice or words of motivation, I don't want to disappoint. Instead, let me recommend a blog that I find instrumental in these areas. Chuck Wendig's Terrible Minds is a great source for writers and he's very funny (at least, I think so). Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Better late, than never

I know it's been a while since my last post, and I apologize for that. Since that last post, I released my latest novel, Lathem's Lament. It seems that a new release would be an exciting occasion for any author. So, you might be wondering why there wasn't more fanfare. Well, that's because I've been very busy--er, distracted--lately. You see, I've been concentrating my efforts in areas unrelated to writing. Namely, I recently gained custody of my youngest son, which is a huge relief and something I've been working toward for some time. However, there are still some legalities I must contend with, which are causing distractions.

But, of course, you didn't come here for any of that extraneous stuff. No, hopefully, you're here to learn more about my latest book. Well, thanks for your interest! Let me indulge you. Lathem's Lament is a Southern Gothic that I released April 4th. It's the story of few residents of a Georgia farming community in the summer of 1952. The main family, the Whitfields, are worrying about their oldest son, Lathem, as he fights in Korea. In addition, they also must contend with failing crops, mounting bills, some nefarious neighbors, and racial clashes.

The plot of the book came to me after reading several authors, namely, Faulkner, Caldwell, Steinbeck, and, probably more importantly, John Grisham. It may strike some people as odd to see Grisham's name among those who influenced a work of southern literature. First, I want to point out that I was largely inspired by William Faulkner's presentation in his book, As I Lay Dying. I thought it was brilliant how he told the story from each character's point-of-view. Of course, Faulkner is probably best known for his stream of consciousness, which is something I don't necessarily enjoy, but did execute. In my book, each chapter is from a different character's perspective, even their thoughts. What better way to get to know the people in the story than to get inside each one of their heads? Second, I have to give John Grisham a large part of inspirational credit, because it was his book, A Painted House, that really fueled my desire to write a southern novel. After reading his book, Lathem's Lament had taken root and began to grow quickly in my mind.

If you're a fan of southern literature, I highly recommend you read Lathem's Lament (of course, you saw that plug coming, didn't you?) Also, if you're not really a fan of southern literature, I'd still recommend it. Despite the rural southern setting, this book is an engaging character study, chock full of diverse characters with varying situations. And, what Southern Gothic doesn't have a supernatural element? As an added bonus, I've included the first chapter of my next story, Rabbit on the Run, at the end of the book. (You can find a lineup of my next couple of books here.)

So, if you haven't gotten a copy yet, see the book's page on my website for links where you can get your copy today. I think you'll enjoy it. And, if you do, please, leave a review. I'd certainly appreciate it. Thanks for stopping by.