Wednesday, February 22, 2012

First million words of CRAP...DONE! On to the second million! can check out this blog I discovered; a collection of contributions from 11 established thriller writers.

I've read through a couple posts and am automatically a big fan of this blog. It's limited to story and craft. No indie "biz" reporting, DIE-BIG 6-DIE, rants or Legacy publishing deathwatches here, just great essays on writing.

The current post from Joe Moore is, I think, a must read for Newbs as it deals with common problems with first novels. Makes for a really good checklist of what NOT to do!

Now, I'm not a huge, or a well read, fan of the most popular genre out there; Thrillers. Traditionally I've read thriller blurbs and thought: Seriously? How many jaded, verteran (and HOT) detectives can possibly be targeted over and over again by genius, sadistic (and handsome) serial killers? How many times can the worlds greatest spies always end up on blacklists, left out in the cold and hunted at every turn? Doesn't it cost a fortune to train these guys? They seem to get thrown away a lot.

I don't mean to critisize the genre and any of its writers, Sci-Fi has just been my preference and in the past I've generally been disinterested with most thrillers. I'm sure non Sci-Fi/Fantasy readers feel the same about our favorites.

But I've been reading a lot more (great) thrillers lately and am being inspired by some really strong writing. I believe that every genre work out there, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Pananormal, is made either good or great with suspense. Too often I think writers in the fantasy fields (especially us Newbs) rely on our tech, creatures, apocalyptic stakes and exotic settings to excite and involve readers while disregarding some valuable mechanics.

In Indie works (which can vary greatly in story quality, even among many top sellers that I've started and not finished) I've all too often found myself reading long portions of narrative description (among many other negatives listed in Moore's post) and simply stopped caring about the story and its characters.

I think there's a lot to learn from the folks who create suspense and excitement without monstrous hordes, unstoppable alien forces or immortal, mythical creatures that threaten their heros. They have to make do with what we have here in the real world.

Good times.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Writing Guru Hat In Place...Check!

Writing advice may seem out of place from someone whose published absolutely nothing, but in the last few days I've noticed a few related discussions on indie-writing forums that had me thinking about my past efforts.

Quick overview of me as a writer: I can't remember when I started writing, over twenty years now, since I was in junior high at least. So a while now. I've actually written a lot;

Million words of crap - check!

Obligatory "fantasy fiction" about high school kid who, well, does everything - check!

Derivative schlock based on my favorite stuff growing up - triple check! 

Then next thing I know I'm in college majoring in film, so I'm "serious" about my craft now. I'm reading a lot more diverse stuff, watching "real films", and honestly, writing a lot better.

Throughout these years I've read anything I could get my hand on regarding writing. Not saying I read every tome out there, just most of them. But reading books on writing, thinking about your writing and outlining your writing over and over and over again is, guess what, never-actually-writing.

Which is what you actually need to do.

So why should you listen to any advice I have: in short, because I've spent an awful lot of time doing things all wrong.

This last year I've scrapped a pair of still-born novels and an old script that have festered on my old desktop (and consumed what time I put into writing)  for most of the last ten years and started something completely new. Actually, an old short that's completely evolved. 

Why not "power through" those three train-wreck stories like a "real writer" and find ways to make them work perfectly. Why? Because I can now see that they were broken at the core. 

Here's why, we go back to the recent forum talks I've mentioned.

I've seen (read) folks come straight out and ask for ideas on what to write about: What kind of setting? What kind of protagonist, should the antagonist be somewhat likable or purely eeviiil? Should the characters in the future live in a high-tech world or in tent cities killing each other for rusty cans of Alpo?

And I want to say: We don't tell us what you want to write.

What's this fellow aspiring writer completely missing the boat on?   

It's one of those many boring, technical details that guru's have lamented from one end of the "how to write"  cottage industry to the other.

I'm talking about theme. IE: what is yours?

We can discuss a thousand definitions and perceptions of this pivotal element of narrative structure, so for brevity we'll just check with Wiki:

In contemporary literary studies, a theme is the central topic, subject, or concept addressed in a story.

Sounds good to me. And not having one all those years is why I've always written in useless circles.

I've spent more hours than I can (or care) to count on painstakingly describing my settings,
my protagonists characters tragic backgrounds, how cool my weapons, vehicles and future tech is going to be, how bad my bad guys were and, of course, exactly how "hot" all my female characters have been.

But all the individual pieces (that were so brilliant when I wrote them and even more so when revised) never seemed to fit right when finally put together in that hundred yard long scroll of pages or the folder with dozens of individual chapters doomed to never be sequenced in any effective (or entertaining) way.

I all but guarantee you the aspiring writer mentioned above will see the same results.

Did I have problems with plotting as well. Yup. Every newb does. But a plot is like a combination lock, it can start in one place and end in one of a million others. Which end point is right?

What's a clever trick to figure out when to twist your plot knob right or left?

What's your theme?    

Has your brilliant idea gone nowhere despite the 60k words you wrote? Did it have all these awesome ingredients that didn't mix? Are your beta's telling you things you don't want to hear about your plot's believability or scenes seeming "forced" or "contrived".

Then you may have raised a structure that doesn't have a single square inch of solid ground under it.

You may have a theme problem. God knows I have before.

Guest Blog: Fantasy Author Ty Johnston

Today is another first as Fantasy Author Ty Johnston stops by for our first ever guest blog. Today will be a departure from the usual Indie Book blog subjects, and even from writing itself as Ty gives us some awareness of very pertinent issue that can affet people in our trade; writing and staying healthy. This is good stuff folks.

Now here's Ty:  

First, the good part. David, I’d like to thank you for letting my take over your blog for the day.

Now the bad part. I’m not going to talk about writing, at least not directly. I’m also not going to talk about reading or books.

What I am going to write about here is health. Mainly, physical health. Don’t go away, you writers out there really need to hear what I’m going to type.

As someone who lives with congestive heart difficulties and has an internal defibrillator implanted in his chest, I believe I know a few things about physical health and some of its relation to writing. I learned the hard way. Hopefully other writers won’t have to if they pay attention to me today.

I was a newspaper editor for nearly twenty years, and the last few years I’ve been writing fiction for a living. All of that work over the years amounts to a lot of time sitting on my rear in a chair. And as a newspaper professional always on the go and facing constant deadlines, I rarely ate a decent meal but grabbed what I could when I could.

That is not a way to live. It is not healthy for the body. Ask my heart if you don’t believe me.

Finally after years, and almost when it was too late, I smarted up. As a fiction writer, I’m not under the consistent deadlines I faced as a journalist, so that helps some. I also have forced myself to eat better, which is easier nowadays because I work from home.

And then there’s exercise.

Everyone hates exercise, right? Well, maybe not everyone, but enough people do. We groan and complain about it. We feel guilt when we don’t do it, but then gripe about how tired we are when we do exercise.

The truth is, regular exercise can keep you feeling better and, more importantly, it can keep you alive. For some, exercise can add years to your life. For others, exercise can literally keep you alive from day to day. I know. I’ve been there.

Okay, so I’m a fiction writer blogging about health instead of chatting about writing. What gives? Why am I doing this?

For one very important reason. Writers as a group spend too much time on their tails.

There. I said it. And you know it’s true.

We are always saying we never have enough time to write, and when we do write we often spend hours upon hours sitting at a keyboard. And that’s when we aren’t fooling around on the Internet or playing video games.

With more and more people taking up fiction writing as a part- or full-time profession, I think it’s important we give a thought to what writing does to us physically.

I am in no way suggesting we should give up writing, but that we should take the time to work regular exercise into our daily lives.

For those who only write part time, this might not be as much of a problem, but it might be. For those of us who write for a living, who spend eight or more hours a day writing, we definitely need to consider our health.

Sitting too much, for extended periods of time, is simply not good for us. But don’t take my word for it. Check out a few of these articles or videos:

What can writers do about this? The specifics should be between you and your doctor. I know my cardiologist has suggested I walk more and get a recumbent exercise bike.

How much exercise do you need? How much activity should you have a day? Again, that’s for your doctor and you to talk about. I’m no health professional, so I don’t want to offer advice other than to suggest most writers need to be more active.

But like many people, I will admit I am looking for ways to cheat. I still plan on getting my allotted amount of exercise, but with a recumbent bike I’m practically sitting back almost as if I’m in a reclining chair. That leads me to wonder if I can have my netbook in my lap. To get some writing done, of course.

As a way of promoting his new novel Demon Chains, fantasy author Ty Johnston’s blog tour 2012 is running from February 1 through February 29. His novels include City of Rogues, Bayne’s Climb and Ghosts of the Asylum, all of which are available for the Kindle ( ), the Nook ( ) and online at Smashwords ( ). To learn more about Ty and his writing, follow him at his blog

Monday, February 13, 2012

Coming Soon! The dark Sci-Fi action thriller - The Doomsday Door - blurb

With that I'd like to do here today is a pretty big deal. It's huge for a writing blog these days I think. Something magnificent, Earth shattering and simply stupendous.  

I'm actually going to blog about writing. that about?
A blog from an indie writer that doesn't deal with marketing, sales, web prescence, hot Kindle action or some type of Big 6 deathwatch?

I know. I said 2102 was going to be crazy.

It's been pretty quite on the inde-pub news front and when I do publishing business posts  it's never out of some ambition to be a Kris Rusch or Passive Guy type of "Biz" blogger. I have neither the time or the inclination to do as much following, research and analysis as they do. Probably never going to either.

Rather, my most recent posts originated when I've come across indie-biz tidbits during my own personal research and following. Things I simply decide to share.

That said, I've been a lot more productive lately and my first "real" novel is finally coming along. I haven't gotten a cover done yet but I have a design concept and I'm pretty sure I've narrowed down a few designer choices as well. I might possibly have scored a very sweet deal on an editor as well

Today I'm rolling out the current blurb for "The Doomsday Door", an apocalyptic sci-fi thriller (wether or not it actualls 'thrills" has yet to be determined I guess). So if you stop by take a look  and let me know what you think, wether it be good or bad.  I plan to have sample chapters up as well if anyone takes an interest in this. 

BTW, this and other blurbs are under the "coming soon" tab above if you'd like to see what else I'm up to.

Incident Day, as it would be known by the survivors, was the begining of the Spawn invasion of Earth and the end of mankind as we had known it. Following a cataclysmic event that shook the world the creatures had appeared. More bio-weapon than animal and virtually impossible to kill, permanently, the Spawn spread across the globe faster than any plague, laying waste to armies, cities and nations. 

Centuries in the future, an aging soldier turned scientist, Colonel Laurence, leaves the safe confines of the underground cities, embarking on a potential suicide mission across the barren hell of the surface world. Escorted by an elite squad of hardened operatives his mission will take them through the most dangerous region of the former United States. With both his true destination and mission a secret, he knows that only he has the chance to learn the origin of the Spawn and to perhaps do the impossible; to undo the past.

In our present day, Willard Graves had seen all his dreams and loves slip away over the decades, hitting bottom when his career suddenly ends. Isolated and friendless, Willard faces only emptiness and regret for the rest of his days. Until he has the vision. A vision where an entity, who Willard sees as a God, chooses him to be humanity's savior from a dark future.

But first Willard must bring the new God into our world. First he must build the Doorway.

Within the connection of these two timelines lie the secrets that Colonel Laurence must learn to save humanities future or risk losing what little is left of mankind.   

So there it is in 3.5 nutshells. As a Blurb I know it may be a little long but this isn't a screenplay or movie pitch (make it 30 words/second or less....or you DIE!) I've seen some pretty long blurbs on Kindle books and, providing the opening sentence or paragraph has some "grab" potential I don't mind reading a long description. 

It's also something Fantasy/Sci-Fi writers can get away with given that you don't know what type of world is involved and backdrop is often key to story and not just window dressing.

It's absolutely NOT carved in stone as the final blurb, and I definitely plan to whittle it down to make it more friendly on the eyes. Feel free to offer any advice or critiques wether it be on the blurb itself or the story.

Thanks as always for stopping by.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Difference A Year Makes.

So me and the family were in NYC this past weekend just for the fun of it. We didn't see any shows or events and as we're Philly Eagles fans we most definitely WERE NOT there to soak up NY Giants Superbowl fever and/or atmosphere. Oddly enough we hardly saw any of it.

Long story short; our kids think that staying in hotels overnight is the greatest thing in the world. It's up there with Disney, the beach or Six Flags. For our son's birthday this year he begged and pleaded to stay overnight in NYC. My wife and her sis, our family's event planning dictators, had little hesitation at getting out of their houses and seeing some sights and some stores so off we went up I-95 packed into a mini-van.

Great trip, lots of fun. Ice skated in central park, saw the WTC memorial, filled up on great pizza (Maryland pizza just blows, Dominoes is your best bet). Good times for all.

What does any of this have to do with a writing blog?

Interesting thing: we're pacing around the blocks by our hotel (as tourists are apt to do) looking for a diner we had seen earlier and while I'm ensuring that our three year old doesn't bolt in front of trucks, town cars and SUV taxis speeding by at only arms length my wife asks, " this a publishing place?"

I turn around and am stunned by the glorious bookstore themed wood and glass lobby of  Random House's NYC building.

And my wife says: "Stand there for a picture! We'll save it for when you're published here someday."

What came out of my mouth next would have burned the ears shut on 38 yr old Dave, the lifelong aspiring writer, like the Lords Prayer would do to a possessed teenage girl. You don't know how old I am so I'll tell you it would have been a year ago. It was almost a year ago, while perusing my daily kick of traditional agent and editor blogs, that I started hearing about "those indie guys".

That D.W. Smith guy. That Barry Eisler guy and that new Dave Gaughran guy. Most notably there was that Hocking girl and that Locke guy. Even that Bob Mayer guy (whose Area 51 paperback I had read a long time ago!) were all talking about the latest indie publishing thing.

And of course, that fucking vitriolic, big mouthed Konrath guy that everyone in "real publishing" seems to despise so much.

Independent publishing. Been around forever. Vanity presses courting loser wannabe's, paying to print their own sad books nobody would ever read. That's all I'd ever heard or read. Nothing good was ever said about it. Ever.

Then why all this noise?

Curiously I went on a Google quest and started reading what all these new experts had to say. Of course they'd all been shouting their messages longer than this last year. Konrath's been the outspoken indie-pub pundit leader since 2009. Others have been successful at it for longer but PW and legacy blogger's never  mentioned that kind of stuff.

Being in my hole in the ground I hadn't noticed any of this until the widely publicized Hocking and Locke deals. Then EVERY one of my pro-traditional agent, editor and writing blogs was talking about all those "sell-out" Kindle authors.   

I shouldn't have to draw you a picture of what happened next.

Flash back to last Saturday night in front of the Random House building on Broadway when I replied to my wife's optimistic statement:

"Fuck that! I'm gonna indie publish."

"Why are you trying all that stuff again? Remind me."  

I pointed to the glittering splendor of the lobby and the towering building situated on insanely prime Broadway real estate. "Y'see all this?" I asked.    

We both looked up at the fifty-two story opus of glass.

"Let's say, hypothetically, I write a bunch of books that sell well. Crazy runaway bestsellers."

"Hypothetical, sure."

"No matter how much I sell or make this is were the bulk of the money will always go."

"And if you you e-pub yourself and your books do really well?"

"Then I keep almost all the money for myself. I also have control over everything else involved which is about a two hour long discussion. If something doesn't work I can change it. I can write what I want when I want and as much as I want."

"Why would you be limited to what and how much you can write? Don't they want lots of books from you?"

"Long story hon, but for some insane reason, no, they actually don't. A related item is called the 'no-compete clause', almost every writer has to sign one, especially an unknown newbie. Let's just say when you're trying to make a career as a writer it's a living hell." 

"But don't they do things it's impossible to do on your own."

"Traditionally, yeah. They always did with paper books. I never thought there would be another way but just like with hundreds of other industries digital tech and the internet has changed everything. The reader of the future isn't someone driving around to bookstores and browsing for hours. They're sitting on their couch with their device, downloading instantly and for a lot less money because they don't have to cover the shipping costs for millions of tons of paper and they don't have to pay for this" I pointed up at the magnificent building a chip shot from Central Park. "Things have really changed."

"But isn't there a movie coming out from that new big writer, they're saying it's the new Twilight? That was done by a big publishing house wasn't it? 

"Oh yeah, they're still in business and they have all the top name writers still writing hits but if you look at the percentages those writers are lottery winners. I'm talking about statistics, not luck. Those writers are the Tom Brady's, Mark Zuckerberg's and Lady Gaga's of publishing. They get taken care of and they make a ton of money because of how popular they've gotten but you have to look at the other 99.9% of writers out there. That's not reality for most people, the vast majority of writers are lucky if they make 30-50k to live on but almost all of them still have to teach or work another job. If I did get accepted by a big publisher as an unknown nobody I'd get printed and have one copy stuck sideways on a shelf in a bookstore. That's about it.

"But bookstores are closing. I read that Barnes and Noble is in trouble now."

"Yup, when Hechinger's and Builder's Square died Lowes and Home Depot bought up their locations but no one's ponying up a half billion to put new bookstores in all the Borders locations and no one will do the same if Barnes and Noble goes down.

"Ok, but not every writer who puts their book online is making millions."

"Oh God no! Very few are making a fortune. But would you mind if I made, say, 20-30k a month after I have a dozen books published?"

"Hell no!" She laughed.

"Well, a lot more writers are doing that now where before they barely made enough in a year to cover their car payments. It's possible where before you got a 5k advance, if that, and most people never sell enough to earn it back. They basically "owe" the publisher throughout their careers. A lot of writers with traditional publishing experience are calling it indentured servitude now that they can e-publish on their own." 

"That's pretty harsh."

"That's what they have to say about it."
She thought for a second and then asked. "But don't a lot of people still think that "real writers" only come from publishers?"

"Oh yeah, lots. But that's changing. quickly actually. Read some reader blogs, people who swore they'd never use a Kindle or ipad get one and never touch a paper book again. Publishers can only put out so many books a year so they're very selective but there's a lot of great writers out there who write outside of the molds, the trends and the formula's. Whenever a reader finds an indie book they love, that a big NY house would never have touched, it's more money they'll never make and another tiny nail in their coffin."    

"Your mom will never use a Kindle. I asked her if she wanted one and she said "heck no"."

"Probably. But she hasn't actually seen one yet. If you told me she'd get a Wii for excercise or a Nintendo DS for playing games I'd call you crazy. I gotta say, finishing that new King paperback that's 800 pages is taking me forever. I just can't do it, I'm too used to a device. It's a big change. Amazon sold tens of millions of Kindles this last year and tablets are still a relatively new thing. There will be hundreds of millions more e-readers and tablets, as many as there are cell phones, before you know it. More and more people are getting hooked on them. Paper book sales are dying and readers don't really seem to care. A whole generation is being raised on using devices for everything, not just sending texts and playing games. I hate to say it but paper books are essentially dead, it's just a matter of time."

"No one knows that for sure?"

"When's the last time we bought a CD or a DVD? How about a VHS tape? Is the internet going away?  Is anyone getting tired of mp3's, boycotting itunes and paying for the big casette tape comeback? The future of books will definitely be digital, one way or another."

"Good point, we download everything now."

"So you take away that huge, expensive paper printing and distribution process and all publishers will do for writers in the future is put their books online for them."

"What about marketing? Guys like Grisham and King have sold hundreds of millions of books. I've never heard of any of those independent writers you like."

"Yeah, the really giant sellers have always been with traditional. But, except for a handful like Rowling and Meyer's, the huge sellers all took decades to get there. Kindle publishing's only been here a few years, it took paper publisher over a hundred years to get where they are now. The popularity of e-books has multiplied in only a couple of years where it's already more profitable than paper and it's everyone's focus now.Will some new writer put out something that catches on with readers and takes off and sells tens of millions and gets a movie deal? I don't think it will be a matter of if but when and from who. They're called viral hits for a reason. There's hundreds of millions of  young people in India and Asia reading on their phones right now. Who do you think will find a way to connect with them? Dead tree pushers who think it's still 1986, where anything different is just a silly fad to be ignored, or Amazon and Apple?

"Ok, so there's no point in getting on a bookshelf if they're going away but if you want to be published digitally, if that's the future, then they can do it for you. Isn't that what you want?"

"Yeah, but for editing, doing a cover and uploading I'll only get about 17% of the money because they'll take over 50 and Amazon gets their 30 off the top. Plus I would never deal with a big publishing house all alone so I would get an agent. That's another 15% of my cut. All that money gone for things I'm perfectly capable of doing myself when e-pub becomes the majority of book sales, which they will."

My wife, the business school grad, thought for a second and said: "Well that's a shitty deal! If it was money for the family, even a little, and you signed a deal like that I'd be furious with you."


I snapped the pic you see above and turned and walked away from one of publishing's Mecca's without another glance and only thought about finding my next slice of NYC pizza.

A year ago God knows what I would have done instead; cried from an overwhelming sense of reverence, gotten on my knees and forehead and solemnly hummed, pounded on the class and screamed like Dustin Hoffman in the wedding scene from The Graduate, pressed something against the glass and gyrated until I left a stain?

Who knows.

But I never would have had a dismissive conversation about traditional publishing and then went looking for more of the worlds best pizza.

What a difference a year makes.