Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Review of Blue Like Jazz


I wrote this review on GoodReads and on Amazon. I highly recommend that when readers finish a book, they review it at least on the site where they purchased it.

My Review of Blue Like Jazz:

Well written, but mostly immature. Although his take on topics are challenging at times--his insistence to look at things differently--it began to wear on me. By the halfway point, the book was pushing 3 stars. He redeemed himself in the end when he pointed out what I had felt from the beginning: he was being hypocritical. He approached the problems of not receiving love and his own prejudices late in the book and so I bumped it back up.

I read this book after having read two books by Eldredge and one by Francis Chan in the last 30 days. It is odd to see the similarities among these books. Especially the references to pop culture. One thing he added was his apparition of Emily Dickinson. I don't think any Christian writer in his right mind would actually tell that tale. It was the beginning of his redemption for me, though. It was when he first began to be "real" as he puts it.

Nothing about culture validates philosophical thinking, religious beliefs, or human suffering. This is perhaps my biggest problem with his writing style. He elevates a progressive-thinking anti-religious think-tank, a hippie commune, a bachelors-are-us retreat, and an on-the-edge church as morally and spiritually more pertinent than the Midwestern "Republican-supporting" churches of his youth. It revolves mostly around the lack of structure, the value of not being judged, and the name brands of their clothes, the social consciousness of the music they listened to, the authors they knew, the quality of the coffee and beer they consumed, and the lofty intellectual relevancy of their conversations.

Christianity, or "Christian spirituality" as he puts it, is not made more pure because one is socially conscious. I think sometimes this is a misconception that is spread by mainline Christianity's fear-induced hatred of people we see as opposed to our values, our choices, and our love for God. We DO care about other people. We give. We battle our own prejudices. However, in the process of Don Miller's accusations about the Christian experience, he committed the same sin he was pointing towards. The speck of dust he was trying to remove from their eye was in his own as well. By midway through his book, he sounded....judgmental. Unforgiving. Unloving. The only causes that were worthy were the ones that made him appear "socially conscious."

In the end, as I have said, he recants. Repents. The truth is that we all have to struggle to be less selfish. We must all learn to die to self, and to live in love. This delicate balance of acceptance--of God's Great Gift, of each other as made in His image--and sacrifice is the key to living as God designed us.

On marriage and relationships, he was rather hysterical and clueless. These two qualities are intertwined. His friend, Paul, was actually more insightful.

On the topic of the metaphors of love being metaphors relating to economy: that was pure genius, and admittedly not his own idea. I think there is a book title there, something maybe I will pursue: The Economy of Love. Maybe use math symbols and NYSE symbols on the cover. My idea. No one take it, please.

On the topic of loneliness: probably his most lucid writing. I think this is because the topic was near his heart and wired to his life.

On the concepts of serving self: he began the book with this and then spiraled into its net. Even the "Confession Booth" scene was all about him, really. His own need to feel forgiven. To feel a part of something bigger than himself.

On the subject of his father: I think many of his problems actually stem from this loss, this emptiness in his life. His lack of intimacy, his living life like it is the radio station, "K-Don, All Don, all the time," and his need for acceptance comes from this loss. I am possibly playing the Monday-Night psychiatrist here, but I think I am on to something.

I have rambled long for a book I found only mediocre.

In the end, his deliberate cleverness, his way with words are compelling, but his theology is skewed. At the same time it is raw and real, personal and genuine. These qualities overcome his immature theology, his hypocritical liberal bias, and his sloppy scriptural references.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Where to Go From Here


I am at a crossroads in my writing. I have tons of ideas and limited time to write. I have even less time to promote, market, and directly sell my books. I have practically no presence on social media. My current books are languishing in the basement of the Amazon store. Even sales of new releases are non-existent.

I am confident that my novels are fit for public consumption. I just have not found my audience yet. When I do, I would like to have a large amount of product from which they can choose (or buy it all--I won't mind).  To that end, I am compelled to write more. Some would say that having eight titles (3 novellas, a collection of novellas, 2 full length novels, a short story and a collection of shorts) out in just over 18 months is prolific writing. Considering that I am writing part time, perhaps it is. My goal for production is much more aggressive, though. I simply have not found the time or the rhythm to meet that rate.

My secondary concern is that in search of my audience and in order to build my brand, I would like to prioritize what I am writing. I have struggled with deciding what to write next. I have a two-month hole (Sept-Oct) which represents about 7 weeks now that the first week of September is gone. In 7 weeks, I can write approximately 50,000 to 60,000 words. This would be equivalent to two novellas. Or a short novel (perhaps in the thriller genre). It could also be a novella and three short stories. Or perhaps two devotional books (non-fiction, religious).

What happens in November? you ask. Well, November is NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. It is a month in which I will partake in the challenge of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. Actually, I am aiming at about 60,000 words and 30,000 more in December. I will write the next three novellas in the Jake Monday Chronicles. Then, I will spend January, and February editing the fourth book in the series, release it in March, rinse and repeat (so releases in March, April, and May).

So, my writing schedule is typically constant. In spurts. For example, I finished a fantasy novella Sunday. I edited it on Monday, Labor Day. I have not written since. Except for this blog. However, my writing is always more productive if I have a plan.

So, I want you to help me make my plan. Tell me what you want to see. Here are my novel ideas (pardon the pun):

1)Built in a Day--Re-telling of Roman history. Grand tale that focuses on the Romulus and Remus story and uses it as a device to fictionalize history. Imagine: Tudors meets Game of Thrones.

This one requires some intense research of history. I want to make it series, perhaps 3 full-length novels over three years or 9 novellas, with three installments each year, packaged as a set of 3 in each for Christmas.

2) All Roads Lead Here--a short story (about 10,000 words) set in a Kindle World: Wayward Pines by Blake Crouch. Kindle Worlds are a separate store on Amazon where authors can download what essentially is "fan fiction." I want to write this story and perhaps 2 more. I want to do it more for the exposure and fan reach than actual sales. Priced at 99 cents, I will probably never make a lot from this one, but Blake has a medium-sized following and a new release coming out this month that perhaps I can ride the momentum. That was my philosophy, anyway.

3)Transforming Souls: Diamond, Steel, Clay & Glass--a devotional book. It will be organized to be used as a book for Adult Bible classes. I plan on writing a sequel to it for teens as well at some point. It can also be a good personal devotional book. I have an outline for it and some great ideas. This is the one I am tempted to start this week. My soul is sort of calling for it.

4)Almost Heaven--a "Love Story" in the vein of Nicolas Sparks. It is about a lawyer from West Virginia who decides to represent a young woman who has been given custody of her autistic niece when her sister dies. The biological father (who had never before seen the child or supported her) is suing for custody and the rights to the inheritance. I plan on writing this one in a pen name. I already have 18,000 words written and it is almost half finished (the goal is 40,000 to 45,000 words, or about 200 pages--a short novel, like the old Harlequin romances from the 70s). I plan for it to be the first book in a series with a connected narrator. The second book in the series is the next one.

5)The Nightengale Effect--a "Love Story" in the vein of Nicolas Sparks. It is about a male nurse who falls in love with a patient. She is a famous local newscaster whose family is involved in politics. She is also addicted to drugs, which is why she is in the hospital. The novel is about how powerful love is, even in the face of addictions and betrayal. This is supposed to be the 2nd in my series (I am thinking of calling them American Heart or something like that) with the connected narrator. It will be 40,000 to 45,000 words (short novel) and written in a pen name.

6)Grey Guards of Avignon--this is a series. I have just finished the rough draft and first edit. It is in the hands of 10 Beta readers and the editor. I hope to publish it next week. However, I plan on writing four novellas in this series. It is a fantasy story about an elite group of body guards (think 3 Musketeers or US Secret Service) who find themselves compromised in a kingdom that is totally corrupt. It is about making moral choices when none exist. Epic fantasy. The first novella was 38,000 words or so (about 170 pages).  Although I really enjoyed writing the first installment, I have some reservations about continuing this one too soon.

7)The Man Under the Mountain--another short story set in Wayward Pines. I want to wait until I purchase the 2nd book in the series and read it before I write this one. It could go down in October, if all goes right. As far as marketing and competition goes, I anticipate that Blake Crouch's friends will be writing several books in this world: JA Konrath, Crouch's brother, Scott Nicholson, and even Barry Eisler. Maybe even Ann Voss Peterson. This could be good or it could be devastating.

8)Bald Knobbers--working title. A novel (sort of a western) about the vigilante group in Missouri who were a cross between the KKK and Sons of Anarchy. Their bikes were horses and their moral compass was questionable. They sought justice at the expense of bigotry and corruption. I want to focus on a single character who is working within the group but seeks to disband them. It is a thriller/western feel. About 40,000 to 50,000 words (think a short Max Brand book or Louis L'Amour). This idea was given to me by a young friend, Reese Crawford.

9)The Lonely Ziggurat--a fantasy novel with steam-punk (or "gaslamp") tendencies. I am interested in fusing genres. I like the idea of incorporating some devices of steam punk (think of the game Bioshock or Dishonored) into the setting of fantasy (swords, demons, magic, and dragons). I want to also bring back some of the concepts of my favorite comics growing up--Xmen and Fantastic Four. I think it would be cool to have an "Underground City" ala The Underdark in Forgotten Realms but more like the Morlocks. It is a common theme running through steam punk but I want to insert it into fantasy in a cool and impactful way. I have about three pages of notes on this concept but no real direction for the plot. Just world-building. World building is fun, but it isn't words on paper production. That is what I need right now.

10) My Hand on the Hammer--a short devotional book about our responsibility in the death of our Savior. It will be about 20,000 to 30,000 words (about 100 pages). It was an idea that germinated from Mark Lee's Lord's Supper Thoughts one Sunday. The idea is very dear to my heart and I think there is a place for it as an uplifting reminder to God's people and maybe even a book that an unchurched person might find inspiring and come to know Jesus.

11)Worth More Than Sparrows--Short devotional book about understanding how special we are. It is about developing self-esteem, purpose, and direction in our lives. It is about accepting our roles as servants in God's Kingdom as Ambassadors, Conquerors, and Children. Again, about 20,000 to 30,000 words (about 100 pages). 

12) Walk in the Park--A full-length thriller novel about a young man with a unique power. Without warning, on occasion, he is given a message that predicts the death of a particular person within 48 hours. This "gift" has haunted him since he was a teen. His justification has always been that these were people he did not know. What could he possibly do to save these strangers? Why was he responsible?

Sometimes he will see the message in the newspaper. Sometimes in a text. For years he has ignored the messages. When he gets a message about a former friend who lives about an hour away, he decides to (for the first time) intervene. He discovers that this power comes with great responsibility. 

This book has elements of science fiction melded with a fast-paced story. It is essentially a novel that explores our tendency to be selfish and wrap ourselves in concern for only ourselves. It is a social novel (and a spiritual one, although God is not mentioned, He is there). I have about 4,000 words or so of this one started. I actually had written about 12,000 words, but lost them in a bad hard drive on an old laptop. Needless to say, I was disheartened and put it away.

13) Children of the Mountain--Sequel to Dark Mountain. My original plan was to write this one in the Spring of 2014 and spend a bit of time on it. It is a horror novel that follows two characters from Dark Mountain. I only have it sketched out a bit. No outline yet or list of characters in the novel or anything. Have not even totally settled on a setting. Debating West Texas with Northern Arizona or Southern Colorado. Having problems deciding. Needs to be somewhere scary. Probably Colorado. I hate to compete with Blake Crouch, but I need to stay in the mountains. :) This book has been requested over a dozen times. I am dragging my feet. I do not know why. Dark Mountain is still my best selling book to date.

14)Monday Bloody Monday--the final installment of the Jake Monday Chronicles. With it, I will also produce two more titles: The Monday Collection Volume 2, and The Monday Chronicles Complete Collection, Collector's Edition. This one I cannot write until I finish the other three (which I will write this winter). So, although it is in this list, I will not write it yet.

 So, which book suits you best? Or which story? I am aware that I am genre-hopping. Is that a problem for anyone? I know that it waters down my brand. The thing is, I want to write in all these genres. I read all these genres, including the devotionals.  Let me know what you think. Give me some feedback. I may just be able to be swayed.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Challenge Accepted

Today, I was tooling around on the internet on my lunch break and came upon a link to JA Konrath's blog. I already subscribe to it, but I had not seen his most recent post. What began as a short guest post turned into a challenge.

Joe claimed that as a joke, for fun, he wrote four novels while drinking, to see if he could write, edit, format, design a cover, and publish the book within an hour. I was not impressed with his efforts, really. I think much of it can be blamed on the beer. Not all, I am sure.

Joe continued to challenge his blog readers to do the same (without the drinking) and even gave us 8 hours in which to complete the "mission." The design was to find the fun in writing again. It is also to prove, I am sure, that independent writers can be so much more prolific in the volume of their work than authors who choose the traditional publishing route.

So, I took the challenge. I began writing MEETING MONDAY at 11:45. I mentioned I was on lunch, right? I quit at 1:00 and went back to my day job. While driving, I put some thoughts together (five minutes and forty seven seconds on Voice Memo app on my iPhone). Then, when I arrived home at 5:39, I immediately sat down and finished the story. Edited it. Formatted it. Designed a cover. Wrote a very short blurb (that actually should not be qualified as a blurb). Picked categories, pricing, digital rights, etc. And hit "Publish." It was 7:42. Not bad.

What I wrote was a prequel to my Jake Monday Chronicles series. It is basically an origin story that tells the tale of how Jake and Halley met. I had planned on writing this in 2014 to go along with the release of the Omnibus Edition of the Jake Monday Chronicles. My intent was to write a slightly longer piece. However, the limit was set between 1,500 and 2,500 words. It came in at 1800. Good enough. I wrapped it up and put a bow on it. I will add some more to it and re-publish soon. And, of course, it will be included with the other extras that I am stacking into the Omnibus Edition.

In the meantime, I am going to finish the fantasy I started. It is a novella. I am on the tenth chapter of fourteen. It was inspired by a wild game of D&D Next with some college-age gentlemen that I DM'd. When we finished the session, the guys begged me to write a short story about it. I am windy. I turned it into a novella. I am quite happy so far. I am working with a young art student to draw the cover and several beta readers. I should have it published the first week of September.

It was incredible to take this challenge. I know I can produce stuff really fast, but I usually drag my feet.

This journey of indie publishing is incredible. It is so fulfilling. I am not getting rich, but every review, every sale, every borrow puts a smile on my face. Writing is fun to me. Thank you, Joe, for reminding me.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Amazingly Broken: The Plagiarism Fallout

For those who have not heard about the buzz today, a fellow indie author, Jordin Williams, has been accused of plagiarizing other authors' works.  From the evidence I have seen here, I believe that the accusations will hold true.  Certainly, the actions of the author and of Amazon indicate that she is guilty.

I do not want to broach the validity of the claims, as that is up to others and I trust the right things will be done in response.  However, I think a discourse about professionalism, ethical behavior, and dedication to the consumer must be engaged.

I will begin by saying that I find the actions of authors who plagiarize to be ironic.  Hypocritical, even.  We bemoan piracy of our work, but some among us are willing to steal from the others.

The fallout will come, if it hasn't already.  I have not even checked The Guardian or other periodicals hostile to independent authors.  I am sure the lambasting will continue.  Now, the target of their ire will be the unethical independent authors who are allowed to steal from traditionally published authors' works and make it into the top 100.

The sad part is that they are right.  We don't have any constraints.  We have no "gatekeeper" to check our work and make sure it is original.  It is bad enough that we have no one to validate our work in terms of its fitness as a literary work prepared for public consumption.  We indie authors are rebels with a cause.

That will be the mud that gets slung at us.  And they will be right.  To a point.

I disagree that we do not have gatekeepers, that there exists no constraints, accountability, or repercussions for unethical business practice.  I do not agree that we are all hacks with no talent that cannot get a "normal" book deal because our work is inferior.  Or worse, we are in this book thing as a new business model to exploit.

Our gatekeepers, our constraints, our accountability is the market itself.  The readers provide the ultimate in judgment.  Not that their judgment is consistent.  Even the best written books in history have 1 star reviews.  Even the most popular authors have detractors.  In fact, it seems that the more popular a particular author becomes, the more they attract disappointed readers.

But, I digress. Despite readers' fickle and contradictory natures, they provide a screen for what is deemed "good" or "acceptable."  When something is wrong, and I mean really wrong, readers will sniff it out and that is the end of it.

In addition, I believe this characterization of independent authors as incompetent as a whole based on this case is unjust.  Our lot are not the first to participate in such incredibly repulsive business.  We will not be the last, either.  Traditionally published authors have participated in plagiarism, lying, making up facts, and such for years.  They are not above this behavior and neither are their publishers. Isn't that right, Quentin Rowan?  New York Times?  Washington Post? Isn't that right, Oprah?

The point, though, is that this behavior should not be condoned.  Amazon did the right thing to pull it down immediately.  People who went on the Goodreads page for Ms. Williams' book (which has now been pulled down, sort of) and flagged the book as plagiarized did the right thing.  Readers who contacted the author with their displeasure did the right thing.

The author, who has disappeared digitally in just hours after reaching as high as at least 58 in the Kindle store, did not do the right thing.  Even more irony: the title of her book.  Amazingly Broken.  Well, she got that right.

However, painting all indie authors with the "incompetent" or "exploitative" brush is also wrong.  A few bad eggs exist in every bunch.  We cannot all be held to the same standard as an outlier.  That has been our argument all along. Whether challenging the quality of our contribution to "literature," or our devotion to our craft and art, whether pointing at the ugly covers, or the poor marketing choices, whether laughing at the rate of financial failure of authors, or staunchly defending old business models for their own sake, the critics of indie authors really have no leg on which to stand in this matter.  Williams screwed up.  She will pay for it.  And, for a time, so will every indie author.  That is unfair.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

One Book at at Time

So, I was in a little town Wednesday, doing my day job (selling commercial roofing solutions) and I saw a little "Chapters" book store on Main Street. I was inspecting the building next door so I stopped in and gave the manager my card.  I hoped to get an agreement for a consignment opportunity or maybe a book signing.  This town is almost 100 miles from my home.

The manager informed me that she and the owner are very particular in what they shelve because they are limited on shelf space.  I looked around, and she was right.  I noticed that the mystery and romance sections dwarfed everything else in the store. I got the feeling that either that was the preference of the owner and/or manager, or it was the preference of their customers.

I also noted something that I feel is becoming very common in book stores.  Most of the window space and the front of the store was home decorations, nick-knacks, and local memorabilia.  In a store that was 25 feet wide and about 100 feet long, the first 20 feet of the store contained very few books.  It was an education to me.                                                      

In the end, she recommended that I donate a book for them to read and to determine if they wanted to stock the book. I chose only to offer a book that had some local flavor or interest.  I don't think I would have much chance getting some of my other titles past their vetting.  She was very nice and the next time I trek there, I will stop in again and hope to meet the owner.

Sometimes authors have to find personal relationships with individual book store owners.  Even though most books do not find a large success in individual stores, the long tail story is that building on a dozen stores or more can significantly impact an overall sales plan. In the end, we have to sell one book at a time.  In that relationship that we build as we hand-sell that title and connect with our readers, we can find a special moment that transcends the commercial aspect of writing.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Book Review--HANNAH COULTER by Wendell Berry

HANNAH COULTER is like modern Faulkner.  In sentence structure, tone, scene, and subject matter,it is reminiscent of Yoknapatawpha County (Faulkner's fictional county in Mississippi).  The story held little suspense, marginal character development, and no discernible plot.  However, the narration of an old woman reminiscing about her life held me in sway.  It was like listening to an elderly grandmother weaving tales while crocheting and swinging on the front porch.  I could almost hear the squeaking of the chains on the swing and the clicking of the darning needles. 

However, even though the narration was strong, I believe it was also its weakness.  At times, the circular usage of a word transcended the poetic intent to become irritating.  My wife and I both read the book and made great fun of this.  One reflective word, like "love" or "live," would be repeated like:  "We would live in our love and love the life we lived.  Nathan and I found solace in our love because it was our love..." and so on.  About the middle of the book, the narrator slips into this fugue of reflexive use of key words and phrases to the point where it almost became a drudgery to continue.  Rather than waxing philosophical, it became pedantic.  But, I carried on and in the end decided to love the one I was with (tee-hee). 

I can recommend this book to most folk who can do without car crashes (although there is one hilarious account), people being shot, detectives solving cases, conspiracy theories, court drama, zombie apocalypses, or shiny vampires.  It is a novel about place.  It is a novel about acceptance, growing old gracefully, and the distorted lens of nostalgia.  It is an unassuming novel that laments simpler times, simpler ways of life, and the encroachment of "civilization."  In this way, it connects again, perhaps more fully, with William Faulkner's works in a thematic way.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Tag, You're It!

I read an interesting blog post today by agent Kristin Nelson that you can find here.  The hot topic this week in publishing concerned "discovery."  Meta data key words reflect one way that end users search for books (and other products online). It got me to thinking about my own "meta data," blog labels, and "tags."  In the past, I have just randomly selected some words that I thought people might search and then find my book.

I did not know that tools on the internet existed that track meta data and searches.  If only I had known.  This would effect the words I choose.  Especially considering that on Kindle Direct Publishing they only allow you a total of seven meta data tags.

My debut book, DARK MOUNTAIN, is a thriller/suspense novel that has elements of paranormal/occult and some elements of horror (especially if people actually ingesting blood makes you queasy).  I chose to use meta data tags for "vampires" and "werewolves" but I declined to mention them in the description.  Then, I also have this dark cover with the tag line, "Sometimes evil runs in the family."  My other five tags were, well, embarrassingly bland.  My name.  The title of the book.  "Thrillers," "suspense," and "Oklahoma authors."

I have changed them now, almost 9 months later.  My tags are now, "Stephen King,"  "horror,"  "vampires," "paranormal thriller," "occult," "Lee Child," and "suspense."  We will see if this increases sales.  This will be an interesting experiment.

My newest book, CRY ME A RIVER, is a suspense/thriller with elements of romance, adventure, and espionage.  It takes place in Colombia.  It has an assassin, a rogue DEA agent, a handsome photographer whose family owns a drug cartel and the woman who hires him.  Of course, she doesn't know his past and soon she becomes a pawn in the fight to protect the family business.

The meta data tags I chose for it seemed fitting, but lo, I have only sold two copies since December 6.  I thought with the Christmas rush and the fact that I gave away over 500 copies of DARK MOUNTAIN, that I would get some attention drawn to this book.  I think it has a catchy cover, but I think that maybe the market is flooded right now.  I don't know.  I think it is the better book.  So, I am experimenting with the data tags on this one as well.  I chose "Lee Child," and "Clive Cussler" for this one as well as "romance," and some other tags that have been getting hits.

We shall see.  I will give it thirty days before I evaluate other ways to boost my sales.  How about you guys?  What are the key words you search for when you are seeking your next read?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

De Ja You

Plots are a dime a dozen in fiction.  One author, Christopher Booker, would have us think that there are only truly seven plots in fiction:  Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, The Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth.  Whether you agree with his assessment, regardless of the finiteness of plots, there are thousand upon thousands of STORIES.  An unlimited, unfathomable, inexhaustible supply of tales. 

And yet, sometimes, we can find similarities.  It would be easy for one to attribute this to influence.  I read Stephen King and then write a story about a girl lost in the woods, or attacked by a dog.  How many stories have been written about authors who have a "dark side" and it comes out to kill?  I could, if I sat and thought about it, come up with hundreds of other examples from authors ranging from Virgil, to Homer, to Shakespeare, to Hemingway, to John Irving, to James Joyce and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

But, what if I said I opened a book to peruse it and found a story strikingly like my own?  One which I had never before picked up?  What if I said my own story is barely published and originally written in 2008 while the book in question was published in 2010?

Some would want more proof.  Alright.  I have published the story in question, the first chapter of a fantasy "Work in Progress," on my website.  You can find it here.  It is the January excerpt.  While you are there on my website, take 2 seconds to enter the contest by answering one simple question.  There is a small prize in a drawing to be held at the end of the month.

Now, the published work, by an author which I like, SM Stirling is here.  You can read the sample (the first chapter) and compare for yourself.

You can see that I don't have a naked person running through the woods, but I do write something similar:  a panther that is able to communicate via telepathy.  Ok, his is a tiger with black on black striping and eyes of molten sulfur (great imagery, I am sure you agree), while mine is a true panther, but there are similarities.

Now, this got me to thinking about every time I have read a fantasy that tread over the same dwarf, elf, and dragon cliche, or every police procedural that walked that familiar path of evidence, motive, accessibility, and concurrence.  It also reminded me of the similarities of romances:  boy meets girl, boy is a bad boy and girl finds out too late, etc. 

I understand that as authors, we tap into the "Muse," and use our imaginations to concoct new, exciting, never-before-written accounts.  We explore and create new worlds, our own sciences, our gods, religions, societies.  We use our existing world and twist history or create new futures.  Yet, every post-apocalyptic story seems similar in ways, don't they?  Fantasy worlds, no matter how divergent, are familiar and share elements.  Every genre has its iconic elements.  Zombies lurch, vampires bite, dragons fly, women are swept up by the leading guy, and police solve crimes. 

I am not trying to be negative here.  I am saying that we share something.  We share the wonderful world we live in and the thousand upon thousands of stories that have been and will be created.  I think there is a wonder in it.  Whether we are succumbing to influence or calling upon a common human theme of love, abandonment, grief, hope, triumph, quest, voyage, or death, we share a common story.  We share a connection.  There is no shame in what we have in common.  There is no shame in our differences either because even in our individuality, we have something in common.

What about you?  Have you ever come across a story like your own, even a simple element?  Or have you read two books and found so many similarities that it made you wonder?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Death of a Protagonist

I am almost 75% through with reading George RR Martin's A STORM OF SWORDS and have invested approximately 2600 pages of reading into this amazingly gritty and realistic fantasy series he has created.  Last night, as I neared the 70% mark, I almost threw the book across the room.

I don't want to spoil the story.  Besides, many may not have read the books. I was mad, though.  Disappointed, infuriated, annoyed, and mad.

For those that are familiar with Mr. Martin, I am sure you know what I mean.  One protagonist, fine.  Several flamboyant tertiary characters, alright.  After GAME OF THRONES and especially A CLASH OF KINGS, I was beginning to get used to perusing the back of the book and considering striking out all the characters who are now dead.  It felt novel that an author was as free with the deaths of so many characters.  To be sure, he has populated this world with more characters than I have Facebook friends.  To kill off a few feels like culling a herd or at the least, As the World Turns.  Turnover is inevitable when betrayal and violence are common.

But, at the end of the chapter after the Red Wedding, I was shocked even beyond the loss I felt from the two noble wolves of House Stark.  The pup, too!  It cannot be!

Before you respond with condolences and a spoiler alert, I already know.  I was weak and flipped through looking for Arya's chapter.  Found it.  Now I am wading through more about the Onion Knight and this weirdly accurate witch, Milisandre.  Sometimes I wish he had put some of these story lines into another book entirely.  I am always tempted to skip them.  I guess some other readers may want to skip the feasts and the tourneys with their endless descriptions of armor and weapons, food and names of folk we will never meet again or that will soon be dead.

Case in point:  the singer that threatened to blackmail Tyrion.  Why even bother?  He's dead in four paragraphs and mentioned in passing during the feast.  But to what did he amount?  Another corpse to add to the considerable pile.  Another sick joke.  I dunno.  I guess I feel Martin's greatness is dulled through the continual cutting of ties with so many well-fletched-out tertiary characters that come and go so quickly.  Their deaths are often more flamboyant than their lives.

Which leads me back to my original complaint and the rubbing of my cat the wrong way, so to speak.  I am developing a love/hate relationship here.  I am aware that some of this is manufactured.  The author is deliberately pulling the strings.  Characters are created for effect rather than catharsis, or triumph.  As far as I can see, the great lesson, the moral of the story, as far as the Red Wedding goes is two-fold.  Lords will always have bannermen that envy their positions;  the only way to deal with them is with strength.  The second is something that I think the author plans to use going forward:  to harm others to whom you have extended hospitality under your own roof is to bring a curse upon yourself.

Despite this, I feel empty, betrayed, and am loath to trust Mr. Martin going forward.  I don't know. Is it just me?  I feel invested in Catelyn and Robb, Bran and to some extent, Rickon.  Jon and Sam.  Dany and even Ser Jorah.  If these people die after we have invested 2600 pages in them and knowing that we have 2000 more pages yet to come, are we not to feel their loss?  Or is that the point?  Unless we care, they do not matter?  Or is it what Little Finger says to Sansa?
"Always keep your foes confused.  If they are never certain who you are or what you want, they cannot know what you are like to do next.  Sometimes the best way to baffle them is to make moves that have no purpose, or even seem to work against you.  Remember that Sansa, when you play the game...The only game.  The game of thrones."--A STORM OF SWORDS pg 841.
 What do you think?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


I appreciated the journey, but not every avenue he took. The final section was drudgery as much of it was regurgitated, poorly written, or trite. I also respect the pioneer spirit for which Konrath is famous. However, sometimes his ego is as large as Rush Limbaugh. Confidence is an aspiring trait. Smugness and self-righteousness is not.

If you are considering self-publishing, or are just a writer and curious, this tome can be instructive, inspirational, and at times witty. Konrath's humor waxes from droll to dirty, but his wit is as fine-edged as a sickle. The thing that I liked most about this book was that it contained as much about the craft and business of writing as it did the finer details of self-publishing. In terms of self-publishing, the material answered more of the "Why?" of self-publishing (the moral, ethical, financial, and cerebral reasons) than the "How?" (formatting, cover art, editing, marketing, etc.).

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Giving Mood

Sometimes evil runs in the family.
Dark Mountain
I have been in a generous mood lately.  I just wrapped up a three-day free Christmas download offer for DARK MOUNTAIN.  Over 400 people downloaded it this time.  Now, over 2,000 people have a copy of Dark Mountain.  I am excited and humbled. 

 I want to keep spreading the love, so I have been giving away three signed paperback copies of CRY ME A RIVER.  I am doing this via Goodreads.com.  So, if you have a Goodreads account, you can still enter to win until noon Saturday, January 5th.  Click on the link on my website or go to Goodreads and click on "Explore" and then "Giveaways" and then scroll down until you find CRY ME A RIVER.  As of this post, over 400 people have requested to enter for the three free copies.  The giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents only.

Cry Me A River
So, now I have concocted another giveaway.  On my website I have been offering monthly excerpts of my writing.  For the month of January, I have decided to run my first Quarterly Reader's Appreciation Contest.  To enter the drawing for a free Scentsy plug-in, simply read the short (less than three thousand word) excerpt and answer the question in the month of January.  Rules and more information are provided as well as book trailers, and previous excerpts to read.

I plan to continue being generous.  My next title, MANIC MONDAY is set to release by the end of February and I will be offering it only on Amazon, at an introductory price of 99 cents!  It is the first of the MONDAY CHRONICLES and I am super excited about it.  Also, I will be offering DARK MOUNTAIN for free 5 times every 90 days, so watch out for those giveaways if you haven't already downloaded it.

Why am I doing this?  I want to expand my readership is the simple answer.  Also, I am naturally generous.  My dream is that every title I offer is read by at least ten thousand folks.  I don't know 10,000 people personally, so I am relying on good old "word of mouth."  So, if you like my writing, or like me, please spread the word.  Thank you in advance. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Book Review--LOVE DOES by Bob Goff

I am so glad that our youth minister, Mike Baskett, gifted this to me. It is a delightful book and made me laugh, inspired me, and made me almost cry at one point. That is a feat.

I highly recommend this book to people who may struggle with faith from a standpoint of a cerebral, bookish approach. Some people are more inclined to do, rather than to analyze, theorize, or be a spectator. This book is for those people who like to do.

This book encourages us to grow closer to God, to have a more personal relationship with Christ by being servants, allowing Him to use us, and move us. Bob is a quirky fellow, and his writing style is indicative of his whimsical nature. I am so glad I read this book. It is perhaps the best individual book of faith I have read outside of the Bible itself.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year

It is a new year.  I launched three titles in 2013. I have several titles planned for this new year.  This means new writing goals.  New opportunities.  New relationships with new readers.  I am excited about the stories I have to tell and the potential readers who will have a chance to enjoy them.

New writing goals means that I need to be on this blog more in 2013. 

So, here is my resolution:  I will post once every week at minimum. 

Most of these posts will be in the form of writing tips, some will be excerpts of stories, some will be reviews of books, and some will be simply discussion about reading, writing, or publishing.

If you are reading this and are not a follower please consider joining me on my writing journey.  I love to interact with fans, to share stories, to discuss characters and plot, grammar and punctuation.  Come along, comment, and "Like," check out my website or click on the links around my posts.  Life is about engagement, it is about being a participant.  Join with me on this adventure and let's do something great together.