Monday, October 28, 2013

The Writer's Second Greatest Foe!!

As many of you are aware, I started a new manuscript a while back.  And, as you probably are equally aware, I was having difficulty making time to write.  Well, I’ve recently run up against another deadly foe of writers…changing stories.

You see, one of the biggest problems I had previously was that I’d never finish a manuscript.  I’d come up with a really good idea, start working on it like gang-busters (whatever that means), and then. . .   

And then I’d get distracted by another “great” idea. 

I bet I have a couple hundred stories half started on my various computers.

It’s a major problem with most writers.  We’re really good at coming up with characters and storylines and so forth.  Unfortunately, sometimes we distract ourselves away from what we should be writing.

Up until this week, I was working on a story called “Academia.”  It was going to be a fictionalized version of my life in higher education.  I thought it would be funny.  Kind of a satire about academics.

Anyway, I wrote four chapters before I began to get distracted.  I kept thinking about a character (Abby) from my second book, Betrayal in the Highlands, and wondering if she could hold an entire book just by herself.   Sub-plots came to mind.  Supporting characters.  The initial scenes….

And then I found that I was writing about her.  I actually wrote twelve pages today, which is pretty darn good for the first sitting.  And it isn't too bad, if I don’t say so myself!

But I feel really guilty about leaving the other manuscript high and dry.  Unfortunately, I can’t work on two manuscripts at the same time. I’d confuse the voice of the characters.

At any rate, hopefully I can keep with this second manuscript.  Abby and Becky would be fun to write about.  I just have to keep focused!


OH!  Just as an advertisement….  Riddle  in Stone is currently on sale for $0.99 at Amazon  and Barnes and Noble.

 Tell your friends!!!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Writer's Greatest Foe...

Okay, well, I obviously haven’t been writing in my blog very much lately.  That’s bad.  But what’s worse is that I haven’t been writing for fun either. 

So that’s what I want to blog about today…why I haven’t been writing.

You see, I am a professor at a university and I’m a husband to a wonderful woman who loves me deeply and a father to two fantastic kids who don’t pick up their toys unless I hound them to do so.  I also have to workout and take care of myself physically, meditate, and all that.  Finding time to sit down (or stand up, as I actually do) and write is problematic. You might say it’s the writer’s greatest foe.

Whether it’s losing weight or being with friends, “I just don’t have time” seems to be the mantra of most people wanting to do things nowadays.  Honestly, how many times do you say it?  I probably use some variation of that statement five or six times a week.

“I’d love to pick up all the black walnuts littering the yard…but I just don’t have time right now.”

“I know that the car needed an oil change two thousand miles ago…but I just don’t have time to bring it in today.”

And so forth and so on.

What I need to remember is…we all have exactly the same amount of time in the day.  The issue isn’t “having” time.  We have time.  It’s “dedicating” time.  It’s about priorities.  It’s also about expectations.

You see, I always want to sit down and write for hours.  While that would be splendid, it just isn’t going to happen…at least not with any kind of regularity.  And writers need to write regularly.  Manuscripts get stale faster than bread.  We need to write frequently or the story dies.

What I keep forgetting is that we don’t need a lot of time to write.  In fact, my first book (RIDDLEIN STONE) was written in 15 minute increments.   Every day for about two years, I came to work, sat down, turned on my computer (dicked around on the internet), and then forced myself to write something for at least fifteen minutes.  I think everybody could find fifteen minutes to dedicate to writing if they really want to.  If they can’t, perhaps they REALLY don’t want to.

Fifteen minutes…five times a week.

It doesn’t sound like much—but it’s a beginning.  Fifteen minutes.  Bit by bit. Word by word. Scene by scene.

That’s going to be my new mantra  from now on.  Hopefully, by the end of next year, I’ll have something for you all that’s worth reading.

I’ll keep you all posted on my progress!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Four Things Readers Can Do To Help New/Indie Authors . . .

Hey everybody!  I’m sorry for the long delay.  Between getting book two (Betrayal in the Highlands) ready for its release next week, work, and family stuff, I haven’t had much of a chance to do much else; however, I have a few minutes and I thought I’d discuss something on my mind.

Whenever somebody takes the time to read and review my book on Goodreads, I try to send them a personal “thank you” note.  I just figure it’s the right thing to do.  Hopefully, it doesn’t come off as “stalker-ish.”

Anyway, it’s amazing to me how surprised people are to hear from an author. I’d say more than half of the people who write back use the word “Wow!” and some variation of: “I’ve never gotten an e-mail from a writer before!!!” In fact, many of these respondents have become good friends of mine and have worked tirelessly to help promote my book. (A big thanks to all of them!)

Which got me thinking… Wouldn’t it be cool to have “friended” a young Tolkien or Rowlings or Stephen King right as they were starting out?  And please, I’m not making any connection between me and Tolkien, Rowlings, or King!!! I’m just saying, wouldn’t that have been really, really awesome? Imagine telling Tolkien: “You know, I really your idea of lesser rings of power. Why not talk more about them?” Or, “Hey, why not write a book just about the Ents and their search for the Entwives?”  And so forth.  Wouldn’t that be incredible???

Then that got me thinking of something else…  Maybe some of writing friends WILL be the next Big Thing!  And I knew them way back when!  Wow!  Pretty incredible.  I wonder if the fame really changes people.

And THAT got me thinking of … how can readers and fans help new/indie authors who they like?  

How can you all help make your favorite undiscovered writers become, well… “discovered”?

Here are a few things that spring immediately to mind:

1.      Write a review!   Write a review and post it wherever you can!  Post it on,, and any place else you can think of.  Seriously, a well-written, thoughtful review sells far more books than anything else.  So write a quick paragraph explaining why you sincerely enjoyed the book and post it everywhere you can!

2.      Tell all of your friends!  If you like a book from a new author, tell all of your Facebook, Goodreads, G+, twitter, flesh-and-blood, and imaginary friends!  Tell them, “Hey, you know, I just read this book and it was really, really different/wonderful/exciting/etc.etc.  You might want to check it out!” 

But don’t just mention it once.  Research has often found that people have to hear things three or four times before it really sinks in.  So bring the book up a few different times and in different ways.  The trick is being able to do this without being annoying!

3.      Put the book on various lists! For example, there are all of these lists on—best new book, best fantasy by a female author, best this, best that.  If you like a book, mention it on one of those lists and tell your friends to vote for it. 

When I ask people how they heard about my book, the number one answer usually is: “A friend recommended it.” But the second most common answer is: “I saw it on a list of good fantasy books on Goodreads.”  So the lists really do help spread the word!  Put your favorite books on as many lists as appropriate and get people to vote for them!

4.      Let the author know what you think!  Finally, if you really like a book—tell the author.  Nothing turns a bad day around like getting an e-mail from some stranger who likes what I’ve written.  It’s wonderful!

Also, hearing what readers like and don’t like has really improved my writing.  Much of what is in Betrayal in the Highlands comes from suggestions from readers.  If several people tell me, “Hey, put more in there about Kravel and Gurding!” that’s what I do. 

So write your favorite undiscovered writers and cheer them on!!!  After all, writers are usually emotional wrecks and your support is always welcome!

Well, that’s it for today.  Please remember that Betrayal in the Highlands is going to be released in four days!  This book is far less dark than the first, so if you were put off by rats in a cage…don’t worry, they aren’t in this book!  Also, in the second book, Edmund stops running and begins to fight back. So you’ll be able to see him become more of a traditional hero (although not in a traditional way). He also meets some interesting new friends!  I hope you enjoy them!

Thanks again, everybody!  I’ll try to write more next week!

Have a terrific day!


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Two Words Writers Should Never Use...

Sorry for the delay everybody!  I’ve really been neglecting this blog.  But I think I have good reason. You see, I’ve been getting my second book, Betrayal in the Highlands, ready for publication.  From what I understand, it’ll be released at the end of September.  Keep your fingers crossed!

At any rate, I’ve been working with a wonderful editor, Kimberly Grenfell (if you need terrific story or line editing, give her a try. She has extremely reasonable rates!). We’ve finally gotten the manuscript in good shape and off to the publisher.  Which leads me to today’s topic.

I’ve worked with several different editors over the years and I’ve learned something very valuable.  It seems that I am exceedingly reluctant to accept edits, especially when the matter is subjective (e.g., he said versus said he).

Even when things are clearly wrong, I get this tightness running down my back and I mentally say two words that writers should never use…

“Yeah, but…!” 

Yeah, but… I really wanted that word misspelled!  The English language is dynamic and I’m trying to usher in a new era where “their” is spelled “thier”!

Yeah, but…it really doesn’t matter that the name of that character keeps changing! Aragorn had multiple names! In fact, maybe that person in the chapter four is a cross dresser, which is why I keep interchanging “he” and “she"!

Yeah, but…this is a fantasy novel!  Maybe the dead guy from chapter three was resurrected! That’s how he appeared in chapter thirty! Or maybe he had a twin! Ever think of that?

It’s all so stupid of me, I know.

I’m not sure why I’m so resistant to changing things.  It’s one of my worst character flaws. 

How DARE you suggest that my plot doesn’t make sense!  Clearly you just don’t “get it”!! Hummmpf!

In fact, I once got a letter from a publisher politely suggesting that I make some plot changes and I kept thinking, “BUT THAT’S THE WAY IT HAPPENED!” -- as if my story were really true and I was just recording the facts.  Ugh! I'm an idiot.

It’s difficult to change.  But in order for me to become a successful writer, I really have to let go of that resistance.  I’m not saying that I need to blindly accept all of the edits.  I personally have very strong opinions about “he said” versus “said he.”  But I need to be able to open myself up to the possibility that the changes being suggested make my story better. Moreover, just because the editor wants to change every fifth word, it’s still MY story.

Well, that’s it for today.  Back to my day job and the stack of exams I have to grade.  Before I go, just a friendly reminder…if you’ve read my book and haven’t already done so, please post reviews wherever you can (,,, etc.) and please tell all of your Facebook, Goodreads, G+, and real friends!

Thanks!! See you next time!


Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Most Difficult Thing To Write…

Hello again, everybody!

Well, in my last post, I talked about a new project I wanted to start and how I was going to chronicle all of the different steps I take to create a novel.  However, I’m going to have to put that endeavor on hold for a bit while I get my second book, Betrayal in the Highlands, ready for publication hopefully later next month (but probably in September, we’ll see.)

Anyway, Betrayal in the Highlands is currently being edited by the wonderful Kimberly Grenfell.  Seriously, if you ever need an incredibly talented editor to not only go line-by-line over your entire manuscript, but also provide insightful feedback regarding your manuscript’s plots, characters, and so forth—you can’t go wrong with Kimberly. You can find her website.  You’ll be glad that you hired her!

So while Kimberly is smoothing out my many typos and writing gaffs, I have to face the worst part of writing a novel.  I have to write the promotional blurb.

If you don’t know what a promotional blurb is, think of the trail for a movie. You know, the brief commercials about a film where a guy with a deep voice says something like:

“In a world where all hell has broken lose, one man stands between salvation and utter ruin…a fat stuttering librarian named Edmund….”

Promotional blurbs are a book’s commercial.  They usually appear on the back cover and advertisements.

Along with the book’s cover, the promotional blurb SELLS the book. 

Whenever somebody puts Riddle in Stone on their “to read” list on, I try to send them a quick e-mail thanking them and asking how the learned of my book.  Ninety percent of the time, people will say something like: “Oh, I was looking for a good fantasy to read, read the description of your book, and thought it sounded interesting.”

So the blurb is really, REALLY important.  Good blurbs can sell bad books.  Good books have difficulty overcoming bad blurbs. 


The problem is—I suck at it. 

If you haven’t written a promotional blurb before, picture summarizing you entire novel and all its many plots and twists and characters into a single paragraph.  Honestly, it is the hardest piece of writing I’ve ever had to do.  Harder than the book itself. Harder than even my dissertation.

So, dear reader, I could use your help and I could use it really quickly (I need the blurb within a week or so). 

Below are some rough drafts of blurbs.  Please help me polish them (or help me write something completely different).  Again, the idea is to create something that sounds so good you’ll want to go out and read it!  Any and all help will be gratefully appreciated!! 

There are a few key things that I think need to be in the blurb: 

1.      Edmund knows a secret that is potentially dangerous for all of humanity.

2.      Goblins will go to any lengths to capture him. 

3.      Just when he thinks he’s safe, he realizes that the woman he’s loved since childhood is telling stories about him, stories that will make things much worse for Edmund and his friends if anybody starts to believe them.

4.      Edmund has to risk getting captured by goblins in order to get to Molly.

5.      Molly has already promised not to tell people about Edmund, but she’s doing so anyway.

So here are a couple rough versions that I have so far…

Version 1:

Pursued relentlessly by evil goblins for the ancient secret he knows, Edmund believes that he has finally found safety in the inviting confines of a sleepy coastal town far from the frozen mountains of the Undead King.  Then he learns that the woman he has loved since childhood is telling stories about him—stories that, if people start to believe them, will have every bandit, cut-throat, and aspiring king out to kill him and his friends. Edmund has to evade his goblin pursuers, get back to his hometown of Rood, and stop the stories from spreading.  But how can he convince his former love to stop talking when she’s already promised not to reveal his secret?

Version 2:

Edmund knows a secret—an ancient secret that, if in the wrong hands, could destroy all of humanity. Pursued relentlessly by sadistic goblins, Edmund hides in the inviting confines of a sleepy coastal town far from the frozen mountains of the Undead King.  For a moment, he believes he’s safe.  Then he learns that his former childhood love, Molly, is telling stories about him—stories that will get Edmund and his friends killed. Edmund has to abandon his sanctuary, avoid being captured by goblin hunters, and race back to his hometown to convince Molly to stop talking about him. But how can he get her to stop talking when she’s already promised not to reveal his secret?

NEW Version 3:

Hunted relentlessly by sadistic goblins, Edmund believes that he has finally found safety in the inviting confines of a sleepy coastal town far from the frozen mountains of the Undead King.  Then he learns that Molly, the woman he has loved since childhood, is telling stories about him—stories that will surely get him and his friends killed. Edmund has to evade his goblin pursuers, get back to his hometown of Rood, and stop the stories from spreading.  But how can he convince his former love to stop talking when she’s already promised not to reveal his secret?

**One of the problems with this these is that I use the word “secret” twice and I can’t figure out a good way of altering it while keeping the context.


Here are some more drafts:

Edmund believes that he has finally found safety as far from the frozen mountains of the Undead King as possible.  Then he learns that Molly, the woman he has loved since childhood, is telling stories about him—stories that will get him and his friends killed. Edmund has to get back to his hometown of Rood and stop the stories from spreading.  However, if the goblins catch him, all of humanity is doomed.

Edmund knows a secret—an ancient secret that, if in the wrong hands, could destroy all of humanity. Pursued relentlessly by sadistic goblins, he hides in a sleepy coastal town as far from the frozen mountains of the Undead King as possible.  For a moment, Edmund believes he’s finally safe.  Then he learns that Molly, a woman he’s loved since childhood, is telling stories about him—stories that will get him and his friends killed. Edmund has to abandon his sanctuary, avoid being captured by goblin hunters, race back to his hometown, and convince Molly to stop talking about him. If he fails, all will be lost.

Edmund’s old, boring life is gone forever. Pursued relentless by sadistic goblins, he hides in a sleepy coastal town as far from the frozen mountains of the Undead King as possible. However, this quiet respite will not last, as he learns that his childhood love, Molly, is revealing information about him—information that will get him and his friends killed. Edmund is forced to embark on a perilous journey home to confront the woman who broke his heart. If he fails, all of humanity will be doomed.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Writer's Process: Step One!

I know what you are thinking! You’re thinking, “Two blog posts within a week! When did hell freeze over?”

Well, I’ve had a bit of an idea that I’m excited about.  You see, I have just finished the second full draft of my third book in the Riddle in Stone series.  This one will probably be called “Blood in Snow” although I also like the title “A Terrible Time for a Holiday.”  No real reason why. It just sounds fun.

Anyway!  So I have the third book in fairly good shape, plot-wise.  I just need to let it sit for a couple months so I can read and edit it with fresh eyes.  While I’m letting book three sit, I want to start writing a new project. 

Now, I often have people asking me about the writing “process.” So what I want to do over the next few posts is to walk people through what is happening to me with this new project.  I want to go step-by-step over what I do when I start something new.  Make sense? 

For me, the first issue that arises when starting a new project is selecting an idea.

You see, I have TONS of ideas for books and television shows and off-Broadway theatre…and commercials! I have TONS of ideas for commercials, most of them very Monty Python-esque and not at all fit for American daytime television. 

The problem that I often have is that I start one project and then get distracted by an idea for another project before the first one is completed.  So I really need to select a project that’ll be captivating enough for me to finish. 

Further, it has to be somewhat developed in my head.  I don’t need to know the entire plot.  In fact, I prefer not to know how things are going to end.  That way I look forward to finding out what happens.  But I do need to feel like I know the main characters relatively well. I need to be able to hear their voices and feel their attitudes.

How do I get to that point?

I don’t know what other authors do; but I daydream—A LOT.  During faculty meetings, on the treadmill, when my boys are prattling on about stuff.  I tend to be in my own little world most of the time.  So I tend to toy with characters and their backgrounds and their perspectives on the world in my head.

Once I get a fairly good feel for who my main characters are, I think of a situation that creates some sort of ongoing conflict.  And this is really important!  The situation has to be rife with possibilities. It needs to be able to spin off into a hundred different ways; otherwise, I’m going to get bored. So will the reader. 

For example, I’ve often thought about having an entire novel set during one night in a bar.  The concept interests me.  But I don’t have enough skill as a writer to pull that off.  I need more outlets for possible action and reaction.  I need a broader concept and more room to run, creatively speaking.

So… this is what I have so far… 

For my main character, I have a newly-minted Ph.D. in special education, young, bright-eyed, energetic, wanting to change the world “one child at a time.”  Can you picture him?  The kind of person who wants to sing Kumbaya and cheer everybody on.

For the situation, I have the world’s worst university.  People are hopelessly dysfunctional…to the point of pulling practical jokes on each other that could turn deadly. 

I’m going to try to put the two together.  I don’t know what’ll happen.  But I think there’s a story there.

So now I go off and write a bit!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Five things I've learned about writing...

Hello everybody!

I'm sorry that I've been away so long.  To be honest, this summer hasn't been as relaxing as I had hoped.  Between getting Book Two: Betrayal in the Highlands ready for release (hopefully in September), writing Book Three:  Blood in Snow, and actually working for a living...things have been a bit busy.

At any rate, rather than write a completely new post, I'm going to be a lazy ass and re-post an interview that I did for Jaye Viner on her wonderful blog WRITE CASTLES IN THE SKY.  Thanks to Jaye for having me on her blog and promoting Riddle in Stone!!!  Please check out her stuff!

I'll try to come up with something more original next time!

1.      You have to study the craft of writing

It always amazes me how many people “want” to write a novel.  As soon as I mention something about my first book, Riddle in Stone (shameless plug), they nearly always say something like, “You know, I think I’ll write a novel someday. I have several really good ideas!” 

What amazes me even more is that people seem to think that, since they can write an e-mail, they can write a novel—as if a novel was just a REALLY long e-mail! 

What people don’t realize (and I had to learn the hard way) is that writing is a craft. You have to study it. You literally have to approach writing as if it is a job or you’re learning a new language. You have to read other authors and examine why their stories work or why they don’t. You have to read the “how to write books” and join online writing communities. It takes a tremendous amount of effort, but without knowing the craft, it doesn’t matter how much time you spend typing away or how many good ideas you have.  You probably won’t get published. 

2.   It’s all about marketing and promotion

Nearly every publisher that my agent approached wanted to know about my “marketing plan.” Even before they read the manuscript, they wanted to know how I was going to promote my book.

Silly me, I thought I was the writer and that they would take care of everything else.  But that’s not how it works—at least, not for new writers.

New writers need to market their own books. My publisher will make sure my book is on Amazon and Goodreads and so forth, but I have to get online and talk about my story. I have to beg and plead for people to read and review it.  Otherwise, it doesn’t sell.  (By the way…PLEASE read and review my book! J)
Most days I spend far more time promoting my books than I do writing them!

3.   EVERY sale, every review, every blog post counts!  

My publisher has contracted me to write three books. However, that doesn’t mean they’ll publish them.  They published the first book and are getting ready to publish the second (Betrayal in the Highlands…another shameless plug!), but there won’t be a third book unless the first two sell well. 

And sell “well” really doesn’t mean thousands upon thousands of copies.  Sometimes the only thing standing in the way of getting another book published is a few dozen copies sold. 

So if I want to keep writing (and keep my main character alive), I must write something worth reading, but I also have to make sure the readers know my book is out there. That’s why I need people to review my book and talk about it on their blogs, facebook accounts, twitter, and so on. Otherwise, all that time in front of the computer, typing away goes for naught. 

4.    Writing is a team support

I’m not the most social person in the world.  I feel uncomfortable around people, especially people I don’t know.  That’s why I love writing so much. It enables me to sit in my darkened office, basking in the glow of my computer screen, all alone.

But I’ve learned that writing really is a team support. It took a huge (and growing) number of people to get Riddle in Stone published and selling. There’s my agent, my publisher, the wonderful people in the art department that made my book’s cover (By the way, the cover sells the book. Make sure it’s good!). There are also the many people who read and edited the first drafts of the manuscript.

But most of all, there are the readers.  The readers tell me what they like and don’t like. I ask!  I can’t become a better writer without listening to what they have to say…no matter how painful that might be. Even negative reviews can help me improve!

There are also the people who are willing to mention my book on their wonderful blogs and the people who read those wonderful blogs! As I said before, writers can’t continue to publish if people don’t buy their books.  That’s why we need people to champion our stories and to write about them on the internet.  We can’t promote our books by ourselves. We need you!

5.   You can’t please everybody

Finally, I had to learn that all books have their critics, even the classics. Nobody likes everything.  No matter how hard I try, I’ll never write something that everybody enjoys. Some people will always HATE my work.  And that’s okay. It doesn’t reflect on me personally or condemn my soul to hell. All I have to do is keep trying to become better.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Writing as a Team Sport

I once told my wife that I loved writing because I didn’t have to deal with people I couldn’t erase with my delete button.

Back then, I thought that writing was a solitary endeavor.   I pictured me as a grizzled old man, hunched over the crumb-infested keyboard, my haggard face warmed by the glow of my monitor, a cup of steaming tea by my right hand.

But the fact is . . . writing is much more of a team sport than I originally believed.

Yes, when I sit at my computer typing away, I sit physically alone; however, I have the echoes of various people in my head.  For instance, I constantly have to keep in mind the readers and reviewers who have given me feedback on my previous work.  They’ve made some valuable points about my first novel and I want to learn from them.

There are also tons of other people who have helped me get published.  My agent, Joelle Delbourgo, for one.  The good people at Diversion Books are others.  More recently, I’ve found an incredible editor who has been going over my second manuscript (Betrayal in the Highlands) with a fine-tooth comb.  I’ll be speaking more about her once she gives me permission to rave about her services.

There are also the dozens of the people who have helped promote and pimp out my book.  Without them, I probably wouldn’t get a chance to write a second one.

I simply could not be writing without all of these wonderful folk . . . my “team.”

And writing is a sport of sorts—complete with various leagues and champions and scorecards. 

In the Big Leagues, score is kept by the thousands of books that are sold and the number of weeks on best seller lists.

In the Minor Leagues, in which I am currently swinging, we keep score by the number of positive reviews we get on Amazon (fifteen so far) and Goodreads (thirty-four! Yippie!!). 

That’s not to say struggling writers don’t care about sales.  We do.  In fact, occasionally four or five people might buy my book in the same day and I allow myself to dream of being called up to Big Leagues where I could hobnob with the likes of Stephen King and J.K. Rowlings.  (For some reason, in these daydreams, I'm always wearing a tweed jacket and smoking a pipe. Go figure.)

It’s a dream.  But the grass is just as green on Minor League fields as it is in the Big Leagues.  I'm happy to be playing the game regardless of what stadium I'm in.

I suppose this is what I want to say to the other writers out there, especially the yet-to-be published writers who are trying to break out onto the playing field:

You need a team.

Get a good group of people around you—people who will tell you honestly what in your story works and what doesn’t, people who are insightful and energetic and supportive. Surround yourself with them and listen to their suggestions. Allow them to help you promote and market your book and above all, don’t try to go it alone.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Writer's Depression...

As many of you know, I suffer from depression.  It’s nothing too serious.  It’s just one of those things that makes me who I am.  It could be a beautiful spring day, the sun shining, birds singing, the leaves all green and waving in the warm gentle breezes—and I still have a tendency to feel down. That’s who I am.  I’m an Eeyore.

This time of year is particularly difficult for me.  The school year just ended.  I’m coming off the stress of grading hundreds of finals and papers . . . and students are complaining because they only got an “A-.”

However, I’m a bit down today for another reason.  You see, I just finished the second draft of my third manuscript (tentatively titled, Blood in Snow).

This is problematic for a couple reasons. 

First, Blood in Snow is the last of the trilogy that Diversion Books has contracted me to write.  I don’t know if they’ll have me write anything else.  So it’s a bit of an end for some characters that I’ve grown to love.  In a strange way, I feel as if there’s been a death.  Friends are gone and I’m never going to see them again.

Second, the end of the second draft is a kind of milestone for me when I write.  The first draft is all helter skelter—paragraphs incomplete, dialogue long and rambling, conflicting details in the plot—it’s just a skeleton of the actual story. 

During the second draft, I flesh the skeleton out.  I fix the holes in the plot, complete the fragmented sentences, and get things in better order.  I then set the manuscript aside for a few months, letting it germinate, so to speak, before I polish it a couple more times.

There in rises the problem . . .   I don’t have anything to do.

Oh, I’m sure I should start another manuscript.  Maybe I could even begin working on a fourth book in the series and hope that the first three sell well enough for the publisher to buy it. 

I should. . .

But I can’t.

My heart just isn’t in it.  I don’t know why.  I’m just not in that mindset.  I’m in a funk and I’m having difficulty getting out.  

Deep hole filled with fuzzy darkness . . .

I suppose that I just need time to “mourn” the passing of my characters and the completion of my contractual obligations to Diversion Books.

Maybe I need another “hobby”/”compulsion” on which I could perseverate. 

Maybe I should see this point as a success and be happy!  After all, I set out to do something I’ve always dreamed about doing…and I did it!!  What’s more, many of you seem to like my little stories.

But I can’t.   I’m an Eeyore and seeing the dim side of the bright lining is what being an Eeyore is all about. 

“Oh, bother . . .”

I suppose if I stare at my beloved computer screen long enough, the radioactive glow will eventually warm my heart…and I’ll start writing again.  Only time will tell.

Do any of you have this issue?  Do you feel really down after you complete a manuscript?  What do you do to pull yourself out of it?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

God Bless!!!

A couple days ago, somebody asked me what I’d do if I became the “next” Rowlings or Tolkien.

Without hesitating I said, “I’d stop promoting my book.”

Honestly, I love writing. But I HATE promoting my book (Riddle in Stone…a dark fantasy available for $2.99 at and other places where e-books are sold). 

Seriously.  I really can’t stand this marketing stuff. And I’m sure that many of you are getting tired of hearing me talk about my book (Riddle in Stone). And for that, I am HUGELY sorry. Sincerely! 

I am so tired of asking people to read it, to review it, to spread the word!  But it’s what authors have to do nowadays otherwise books don’t sell.

UGH!!!  I feel so dirty!

I’m afraid I’m just not a “marketing kind of guy”.

I’m a “dark room, antisocial, writer kind of guy.”  It’s a good day when I can just bask in the humming glow of my computer screen and not interact with anybody. 

No offense.

I just hate trying to get enough people to buy RIDDLE IN STONE so that my publisher will publish more of my manuscripts.

With that said, I have stumbled upon something really wonderful. 

Many of you experienced writers mentioned it to me before, but it wasn’t until a couple days ago that I checked it out.

At, you can make ads promoting your book.

This is how it works. . .

You create a little ad with the picture of your book and a brief blurb (I think 150 characters long). The ad appears on the side of Goodread’s pages. If people click on the ad, they are taken to whatever link you want—such as your book’s page on Further, you don’t pay unless people click.  I think I pay $0.50 per click.

Not a lot of people click on the ad, so it really doesn’t cost that much. Only 12 people have clicked on my ad. 

But the big thing is that you get people to view your ad and see your book!

So far I have had 24,731 views.  Now, of course, most people aren’t even noticing my little ad.  But some are! I’ve noticed a significant upswing in how many people have put Riddle in Stone on their “to read” list. In fact, within the past couple of hours, five new people put Riddle in Stone, on their “to read” list, whereas I hadn’t had somebody do that for a couple of weeks!

And I’ve only spent $5.00, which I think is a bargain!

What’s even better is that you can target certain audiences. For example, you can make your ad appear for people who like “fantasy, horror stories, and thrillers.”

You can also play around and see which wording seems to attract people the most. 

For instance, I have three ads running.  One is pretty straight-forward.  It basically says, “Tired of feeling like a loser, Edmund sets out to become a famous adventurer, but his first quest goes horribly wrong…”

The second is supposed to be more mysterious: “Edmund knows a secret, a secret that every king, thief, and assassin would kill to have…” 

And the third focuses more on the romance aspect of my story: “Trying to win the heart of the woman he loves, Edmund sets out to come a famous adventurer…” 

It’s interesting to me that the one focusing on romance is getting far more clicks than the other two.  In fact, the straightforward one isn’t getting ANY clicks…which gives me a clearer idea of how to approach the market.

Plus, it’s kind of fun to see how many views they each get and by what groups of readers.  It’s like watching the stock market or a telethon.  Okay, that didn’t sound too exciting, but you’ll have to trust me!  It’s fun!

Since I have a feeling that the romance aspect of my story is going to attract more readers, I’m tinkering with new ways to rephrase the other ads so that I can attract female readers (who tend to buy a lot of fantasy books). 

How is this?

Riddle in Stone
Tired of being made fun of, Edmund sets out to become a famous hero, but finds being a hero isn't as easy as it sounds. (Dark Fantasy)

What do you think?

At any rate, the Goodreads program has really made promoting RIDDLE IN STONE fun and interesting. And best of all, it seems to be working.  Another person just added my book to their “to read” list!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

How Do You Know What Your Characters Should Do??

Well, it’s the last week in the semester here in the ivory tower!  Next week is finals week, which always overwhelms me more as a faculty member than it did as a student.  At any rate, I want to take a moment out of my grading to relay a bit of a conversation that I had with somebody.

You see, last week, a fellow struggling writer read my last post and e-mailed me.  The thrust of his e-mail was that he understood the need to, as I said in my blog, “stop thinking and just write.” However, he said that he had difficulty getting started because he never really knew what his characters “should do.”

Evidently, my reader doesn’t like to plot things out and is a “pantser” (as am I) and he feels overwhelmed by all the different things that his characters COULD do.  So when he sets up a situation, he can never decide whether his characters should do x, y, or z.  He freezes because he doesn’t know what the “best” course of action should be for the rest of the story. Action x could allow the characters to go down such-and-such a path, while action y allows the characters to develop a completely different way.  He asked me, “how do you choose what your characters do?”

This is an expanded version of my answer to him . . .

I told him that I don’t “choose” what my characters do.  My characters choose.

I know that sounds flippant, so let me explain.

As a writer, I view my role as being a kind of recorder.  I simply write down what I see my characters doing.  I don’t try to force them to react any particular way.  I don’t have any endgame in mind.  I simply put them in a situation and then sit back and watch the fun.

I believe my e-mailer has difficult doing this for one of three reasons.

The first is that he doesn’t let his characters go.  He doesn’t let them be who they want to be.  He wants them to do something (what that something is, he doesn’t know).  He isn’t willing to let them do what they want because he doesn’t know if it’ll be interesting and worthy of a story.

To this I say, everything is worth of a story.  Just make sure you have characters with conflicting desires or perspectives. Which leads me to the second issue that my e-mailer might be having . . .

I don’t think he knows his characters. 

This is probably going to sound crazy, but my characters feel real to me.  I can imagine what they would say to nearly any question.  I can picture them sitting around a dinner table bickering back and forth.  I can imagine them getting old or being young.  This degree of familiarity makes it so much easier for me to write about what they’d do in any given situation.  If they are walking in a forest and come to a three-way fork in the path, I know that Edmund would sit down and analyze each and every path. Pond Scum would throw a leaf up in the air and skip down whatever path it landed closest to.  Abby (a character in book two none of you have met yet) would leave the paths and start walking through the woods, because she doesn’t want to go anywhere other people have already been.

So the question thus arises . . . how did I get to know my characters so well?

And my answer is this--I honestly don’t know.  Maybe it’s because I daydream about them a lot in faculty meetings. Maybe it’s because, subconsciously, Edmund is largely me and Pond Scum is somebody else in my life. 

I don’t know. 

I do know that I get to know the characters better with each passing draft.  That’s where they really develop.  I might have a vague view of who they are in draft number one. But the view of the characters sharpen as I get into drafts three and four. 

Which leads me to the third issue that I think my wonderful e-mailer might be having . . .

He isn’t willing to re-write. Or more precisely, the thought of “re-writing” bothers him, as if he sees re-writing as a mark of failure. 

To this I say--you have to be willing to re-write sentences, scenes…the entire novel-length manuscript.  Even if the writing is BRILLIANT and a heavenly light shines down upon your computer screen, you still have to be willing to re-write it.  That’s what writing is!! It’s a process of re-writing. 

So my suggestions about deciding what your characters should do?

1. Get to know your characters.  How is up to you.  Maybe try therapy.

2. Allow your character to do what you think they would want to do.  

3.  If it doesn’t work, re-write the scene and have them do “y.” If that doesn’t work…keep re-writing.  Keep re-writing until everything fits.  However, their actions should be consistent with their personalities and past behaviors.  

At least, that’s what I think.  What do you think?