Indie Writer Codewords: Resume

It’s been a while since I’ve put out one of these. Sorry, but I’ve been pretty busy.

I have decided, though, that I’d like to try and get these codewords organized and written into a book in time for NaNoWriMo. I’m also trying to finish up a short story in the next few days (!), and then the non-fiction writing advice/experience book will follow that. And, if I be so bold, I’d even like to start a Youtube channel and post this stuff on there! Along with other topics of interest.

So many projects, so little time. But in the meantime, here’s the next codeword. (Notice I’ve since discovered that “code word” doesn’t need to have a space in the middle of it?) I hope you enjoy this installment.

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Codeword: Resume

Resumes exist, basically, to get your foot in the door for a new job. It’s unlikely a resume alone will land you the job, but when prospective hirers are searching for folks to fill their much-needed workers’ ranks, how are they going to decide who to put in the maybe pile and who just plain isn’t qualified for the position?

They use a resume. Your resume.

If I were applying to become a writer, what might my resume say? How might I convince the boss (a reader) that they should read my stuff?

Wait a minute! Are you really saying I need to meet certain criteria to write?

Right now, I hope you’re reacting to this. You might be reacting by leaning forward, thinking, “Oh no, you mean I have to qualify to write fiction? Oh, crap! Will I make it? Tell me more!”

But I honestly hope you’re crinkling your nose and saying, “What the hell are you talking about? I don’t need to convince you that I’m allowed to write! You read my stuff and that says all you need to know!”

What makes me think I can or should write? Am I qualified? Do I need to have certain skills or training or experience? Does any of that matter at all?

I think these questions can have value, but mostly they just distract us from our goal. They undercut our confidence. And as we all know, writers are often at a point of crisis on confidence. So all this may be better skipped.

Or not.

Maybe asking these questions will actually help bolster your confidence when it gets low. Maybe you say, “Hell, yes, I can write this! I served three tours in Iraq, who else is going to write military science fiction?”

Or you might moan, “Who am I kidding? I learned all I know about the military from watching Star Trek! I can’t write this stuff!”

Stick with me for a minute here. I know this is a dangerous line of questioning, but I’m going somewhere, I promise.

Okay, if I were going to write up my resume to convince folks (or myself) that I am qualified to write, what might I include…?

Education:

  • I have a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. An actual college degree that says I’ve been trained by an institution of higher learning to be a writer. So obviously I must be good at it. After all, a college degree defines who we are in this country, right?
  • But you can drink your way to a C-average and graduate with any degree you want, does that make you great at whatever it was? Just because you have a four-year degree in psychology doesn’t mean you aren’t crazy yourself. I mean, have you ever met a psych major…?
  • If you were a psych major or are married to one: I’m just teasing.
  • If you were not a psych major or aren’t married to one: I’m not kidding, they’re crazy! (And maybe even if you’re married to one, I might not be kidding. You tell me, they’re your spouse…)

Upbringing:

  • I grew up in the 80s, the best time ever to be a kid. My young, creative brain was crafted by after school and Saturday morning cartoons, like Thundercats,I. Joe, He-Man, and Thundar the Barbarian.
  • Violence and adventure were served in heaping helpings at that time, even if The 700 Club was trying to protect our fragile minds and immortal souls from it. I read Stephen King and Clive Barker in junior high. I grew up on R-rated sci-fi and horror movies. It was great!
  • I saw the original Star Wars movies in the theatre when they first came out. (That’s got to prove my creative heritage, right? I mean, all these other Star Wars.. Just stop trying, you’re killing the magic.)
  • I grew up playing real, table-top roleplaying games with real, live friends, seated at the same physical table and rolling real, physical dice. And we all had a part in shaping the world and giving our characters life. (Playing videogames in other people’s fixed realities, with strangers miles away hiding behind avatars… not the same thing.)
  • All of these things kindled the flames of storytelling in our minds. The next generation, they got bubble-wrapped. And the one after that… For God’s sake, there’s no such thing as Saturday mornings cartoons anymore! It’s all gone hell!
  • It’s also made me a grouchy old curmudgeon, in case you can’t tell. (“Kids these days...!”)

Experience:

  • I’ve served over 13 years in the United States Navy. Four of that was in the intelligence field, two was living and traveling on a warship, and I spent more than five total living in Japan.
  • I’ve been a nurse for ten years, Navy and civilian, with a very wide variety of patients suffering from both physical and mental injuries.
  • I’ve lived all over the U.S. and visited several foreign countries. (Eight, I want to say? It’s been so long now, I’ve lost track…)
  • I’ve lived alone, traveled alone, lived on a ship on sea, and now have a family.
  • I’ve been a student several times and a teacher several times, in differing capacities and fields.
  • I’ve been alive for more than four decades. That’s got to be worth something, right?

So, do these things make me better qualified to be a writer?

I like to think that they help, but you don’t need a resume to be a writer!

The only bullets you need are these:

  • I have life experience. As in, I am alive and I remember and learn from my years of life.
  • I have interacted with other living beings.
  • I have an imagination (if writing fiction).
  • I have decent language and communication skills. (Actually, they should really be better than just decent but if you can get and/or hire some editing help, decent might get you started.)
  • I have the follow-through to get the work done. (Very important! Unfinished stories don’t do anything. Only finished ones matter.)

That’s about it. But these are all very important. If you don’t have the ability to string two sentences together, how can you write more than a paragraph? And yes, even in this age of lazy brained texting (especially in this age) you need language and communication skills.

Most important, I would argue, is life experience. Does that mean that a teenager can’t write an enjoyable story? Certainly not. But the more life you’ve lived, and the more mature you’ve become as a result, the more you can write about. If you’ve never loved and lost, it’s difficult to fake it in your writing. If you’re not a parent, real parents might be able to tell when they read about your characters who have kids.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t write about it. You don’t have to be a combat veteran to write military science fiction. In fact, I’d bet many successful writers of the stuff are not veterans at all. But the gritty details and genuine emotions that come out of the real thing can be recognized by readers with that shared experience. (This is part of the reason I enjoy Starship Troopers so much.)

So you may be thinking by now, “Gee, maybe I should hold off writing anything until I am older and have more worldly experience.”

Wrong.

To think that is to assume (1) you have nothing to write about now, and that (2) when you finally do decide to write your masterpiece, the words will flow from your pen (or fingers) like liquid gold, perfectly formed in every way the first time you finally deem to write them.

Write now, people. Just like everything else, your skills increase as you practice doing it.

I used to think that way. I’d come up with some ideas that were very important to me and think, “Okay, I’ll just sit on that until I’m a better writer.”

How the hell are we going to get to be better writers by not writing?

You also don’t necessarily become a better writer by taking writing classes. They won’t hurt (mostly), but they won’t make you a genus either. I do think I am a better, more conscientious writer because of my college program, but it can be poisonous too.

English classes about essays and grammar are certainly useful in that they teach you how to properly use the language. But in fiction, perfect grammar isn’t everything. Dialogue may not sound as genuine if it’s technically perfect. I mean, how many people actually talk like that? (See what I did there? I should probably have written, “How many people speak like that, but it doesn’t roll off the tongue, does it?)

And knowing what the hell a gerund isn’t as important as knowing how to use them. (I personally don’t know what the hell a gerund is, but I’m willing to bet I use them appropriately nonetheless, just because I know how to write and speak English well. There might even be some on this page, but I’d never know it!)

Speaking of education, I have to say this. Please excuse my soap box.

 A Degree in Writing

My first degree was a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Creative Writing.

Really! I was one of those people!

Well, I didn’t start out as one of those people. I considered a lot of majors when I was seventeen and eighteen years old, generally among the hard and soft sciences. But after taking an interest survey for “undecided” college students, I turned away from science and embraced my love of the arts instead.

My mom would ask me what I was going to do with a degree in writing.

And I’d answer, “I don’t know, I’ll find something. I’m not worried about it.”

What I ended up doing with it was enlisting in the Navy, even though people were saying, “Shouldn’t you be an officer if you have a degree?”

The recruiter said that, no, I could go officer after boot camp. And he should know, right? I mean, military recruiters would never lie to young, impressionable morons just to meet their monthly quotas, right?

Obviously, I was idealistic and stupid.

Well, stupid in hindsight. Just a young, naive dreamer at the time, like most of us at that age.

And if you, Dear Reader, are considering a college career in creative writing or a similarly idealistic path in pure art, please let me extend a bit of advice:

If you’re going to go to college and accumulate decades of debt, you need to get a degree in something that pays. Major in a paycheck (that you will still enjoy), and minor in what you really love (that probably doesn’t pay squat).

I know that’s not what you want to hear, that I sound like your mom.

But guess what?

I’ve been there. And twenty years later, I’ve learned something: Mom was right.

I was proud of my arts degree, as anyone with an arts degree is. And should be. But remember this, my fellow aspiring writers: You have to eat. If you have a spouse and/or kids, they have to eat too. You have to have a roof to live under. You will someday get sick and need money for the doctor. (Unless, perhaps, you live in one of those utopias where healthcare comes with the territory. But even then, you still need a job!)

Most writers also have a “day job.” Very few writers can afford to write fulltime. If you want to make a go at it, then marry well. Or live somewhere where living is cheap. Or learn to type while balancing your laptop against the steering wheel and live in your car. You could be a suffering artist like that—it’s classic right?—or, you could have a stable, productive, semi-comfortable life that makes it easier to venture out and dip your toe in the writing pool.

I graduated with my BFA in 1999. And then, in 2008, I graduated with a Bachelors of Nursing Science. Why? ‘Cuz I needed a reliable job!

And now that I can feed my family and pay my bills with good stability, I can pursue my dreams of becoming a writer. And maybe, with a lot of work and sprinkle of lucky fairy dust, maybe I’ll be a full-time writer someday and won’t need the day job anymore. That’s the dream. But you have to dream with your feet on the ground, lest you trip and fall on your face.

I think you get the point. I know Mom’s a bit paranoid and nags about a lot of things and worries just a little too much about her sweet baby, but in this case, Mom’s right.

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Long Time, No Bloggy

I haven’t been able to get on the ol’ blog much lately. Started another new job, which consists of orientation classes and 13-hour nursing shifts. Also had Navy Reserve drill this past weekend, though my days of drilling may be numbered… (More details on that will hopefully be available in the coming months.)

I had been working on Golden Age Heroes (Secret Origins book #3) last month. Then all this real life shit hit. I also sparked some inspiration for a short story I’m still working on. And I’m thinking I may turn the Indie Codeword blog idea into a non-fiction book for fellow writers. Though I’ll likely continue to post them here too. And would like to make a Youtube channel for the same, plus some other commentary. But when the hell am I going to have time for that?!

I will find the time, eventually. It’s hard when you have two jobs, more depending on what you call a job. But I’m working toward my dreams and taking steps to make them join our shared reality. Just like we all are.

Okay, medical appointment calling my name. Didn’t get much writing done today either, unfortunately… (Life’s too damned busy, ain’t it?!!)

 

Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction Out Now

For a nice pulp-like dose of SFF fiction, you could do a lot worse than to try out Cirsova Magazine. Issue #9 is out now! You can grab the ebook for only $2.99 (or for free with Amazon Prime), and the real life, hold it in your hands paperback for only $8.50.

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And here’s the contents of Cirsova #9. (Click here to see it on Amazon now!)

Novelettes

  • All That Glitters, by Paul Lucas
  • The Orb of Xarkax, by Xavier Lastra

Short Stories

  • The Faerie Pool, by Edward McDermott
  • Our Lords, the Swine, by N.A. Roberts
  • The Bejeweled Chest, by S.K. Inkslinger
  • Jack’s Basement, by Michael Tierney
  • Antares, by PC Bushi
  • Cirque des Etoiles, by Bo Balder
  • Hot Water in Wormtown, by Robert Lang
  • Littermates (Part 2 of 2), by J.D. Brink

Military SF, Space Opera, and Adventure: Ten Books in One!

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I’m honored to have been invited to contribute to the Cosmic Clashes book bundle. My trio of sci-fi stories The Scythe of Kronos has therefore joined this 10-book bundle of out of this world excitement! And you can nab all ten books for less than a buck a piece!

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It’s time to take flight and fight the good fight on the final frontier! The excitement never ends as you launch into a starry realm of intergalactic battles, adventures through space, and ultimate rewards for high-tech genius and bravado. Leap between universes and soar through the stars, led by the boldest heroes of the cosmos. The Cosmic Clashes bundle will take you on the unforgettable interstellar thrill rides you’ve been dreaming of all your life.

This bundle includes the work of Dean Wesley Smith, Sabrina Chase, Stefon Mears, Robert Jeschonek, Harvey Stanbrough, Russ Crossley, Michael Warren Lucas, Perry A. Wilson, and Blaze Ward.

Oh yeah, and me.

Click these links to find it at its home on BundleRabbit, Amazon, B&N, Apple iBooks, and Kobo. Grab this 10-book deal while it lasts!

 

Fantasy eBook Sale: End of Summer Quest

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Being the end of summer and beginning of another school year for youngsters, young adults, and even many grown-ups, I thought I’d try throwing up my first novel for a 50% off sale. Tarnish: The Thunderstrike Saga is now only $2.99, vice the usual $5.99 for the ebook. That price change should have kicked in everywhere by now, but if it hasn’t, just check your second-favorite retailer.

I slightly reworked the book description blurb for this event. See what you think:

Armed with a mythic sword and burdened by his father’s legacy, Wil Thunderstrike embarks on his first quest in this epic fantasy adventure.

Everyone knows the stories of the Colors Three. That trio of adventurers who traveled the breadth of these realms in the post-war years, stalking the traitorous Crescent Moons and bringing justice to those downtrodden left in the Dread Duke’s wake. 

Tavern masters have been spinning those tales for ten years. Ian the Black and Trevor the Red are ten years older.  More so, for the warrior’s life is a hard one.  And Gregor the Golden?  Most likely dead along a mountain pass, in search of more glory than any mortal man needs.

Who, then, will defend Redfield when evil rises from the Blood Marsh? 

Billy Cole is the sixteen-springs-old son of Ian the Black.  Maybe older.  Being the heir of a legend is a heavy burden to bear.  And though “Billy Strong Back” is used to hard labor, it takes more than strength to be a man.  And more than a sword to make a hero. But he’ll be one. Even if he must become a villain first…

Witness the birth of William Thunderstrike in this heroic fantasy epic that breaks the mold for gritty coming of age tales. Praised for its unique storytelling, engaging detail, and heart-felt characters, Tarnish stands alone in the annals of fantasy fiction.

Want more Thunderstrike Saga? Pick up The Prince of Luster and Decay, a Tarnish prequel!

It’s kind of long, I know But I’m not sure how to prune it back. I mean, I could prune it down, but I think this captures a lot of the good stuff. We’ll see, I guess. (Any suggestions are welcome!)

Here are some direct links in case you would like to take advantage of this very temporary reduction in price: Tarnish on Amazon, B&N, iBooks, and Kobo

I’m also experimenting with Bookbub Ads to see what happens there. I’m not expecting any miracles, but it’ll be interesting to finally give it a shot and see how it works out. (For you writer-types out there, I’ll try to remember to let you know via another post in a few weeks.)

While you’re at it, you might also want to pick up The Prince of Luster and Decay, which is somewhat of a prequel novella to Tarnish (features some of the same characters back in the war days.). Click here to find that book wherever you buy books.

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Indie Writer Code Words: Sun Tzu

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Yes, this series continues despite set-backs!

Most of those set-backs  relate to “real life” where the struggle is real! (Hence the INDIE WRITER bit, right? It’s part of the definition of terms.) Lately the biggest factor there has been the Navy Reserves, which they sell as a very part-time gig. It’s not, folks. It’s still the Navy, which I thought I had gotten out of…

Anyway, on to the code word: SUN TZU.

To describe this code word, which I came up with just very recently, here is an excerpt from an email I sent to Henry Ponciano, one of my go-to cover artists.  (You can check out his Deviant Art page here.)

*
Henry,
I have other books already in this same superhero universe, in other series. One is INVASION which you already made a cover for a few years ago! And there are others in the SECRET ORIGINS series, which I am working on the 3rd book right now to release the same time as DXM, which is the cover you just made for me.
So I have been thinking that “sometime” I should really redo all the covers so they look the same. So even though they aren’t the same series, they are the same universe that share heroes and histories and you can tell just by looking at it that they are all related. best way to sell them, right? how would a casual reader know those books are also the same vein if they look totally different?
so i have been thinking, “yeah, that is the smartest way to go. but i’m not going to do that. not now anyway.”
WHAT??? Why the hell not? what am i waiting for??!!
so even though i personally like the covers i have, and i already have an idea for the next one, it would really make sense to go forward with the thing that’s best. that i know is best. why not do that??
it’s Sun Tzu right? why go into battle knowing i’m not doing the best thing, knowing i’ll lose?
So let’s Sun Tzu this bitch, Henry! what’s your availability?
*

Okay, that may or may not help much to illustrate the meaning behind the code word. But it was written within minutes of the lightning strike that established that term in my writer’s mind.

Sun Tzu is the ancient Chinese master who wrote “The Art of War.”

The main idea is this: Win the battle before it starts.

How do you do that? By scouting, planning, setting up, and making the right decisions.  You figure out the absolute best path you can take, and you take it.

Do our leaders these days so this? Hell no! Almost none of us do. Even when we know it’s a bad decision, we do it. Every day.

For me, as an indie writer, it means following the best practices, rather than knowing and NOT following them.

Case in point: I’ve been creating different series within the same universe and, even though a series might have uniform covers that indicate it’s a series, one series to the next in the same universe have nothing to do with each other.

To see what I mean, go here, where all my current Identity Crisis Universe superhero books are.

You’ll see the pair of Secret Origins–Masks and Secret Identities–books look similar, but nothing like Hungry Gods, which is in the Identity Crisis series.

I am currently working on Identity Crisis Book 2 and Secret Origins Book 3. I have a cover for IDC 2 that looks like IDC 1. And have had the plan for SO 3 for years, which looks like SO 1 and SO 2.

But if you see the books from these two related series, featuring some of the same characters, all next to each other, you’d never guess they are related. They just don’t look the same. And cover appearance is 80% of why a reader picks up a book. (Right?!)

I realized that NOW is a great time to consolidate the appearance of all these books so that I don’t have 2 IDC books and 3 SO books, but 5 IDCU books! Wouldn’t that be better? Then everyone will know there are 5 books here, not 2 or 3. (Actually, there’s six including Invasion, and more planned for the future.)

Another case in point: The fact that I have all these different series started, in different genres, and have been working on them for years. Had I focused (as I knew I should) years ago, I’d have one or two complete series right now and be a hell of a lot more successful as a genre writer than I am now. My total word count is over half a million! But it’s spread out so much that you’d never know it.

…Okay, I kinda feel like I’m talking to the wall. (I’m actually talking to a screen, so pretty close.) It’s not you, it’s me. I worry that I may not be expressing the point I want to make. Visually, you’d get it. Or rather, you WILL get it when the task it done.

And the more I blather here about it, the less I’m actually making it happen elsewhere!

In summary: SUN TZU means, if you know the right, best course of action, take it! Don’t do what I have done (and most of us do), which is say, “Yeah, Path A really would be best, but even knowing that, I’m going to take Path B instead. It’s easier and faster, which is all I care about right now.”

You say your books aren’t going as quickly and wide-spread as you’d like? Have you done what you know to be best, like spend a few more bucks on the covers and editing? Or are you knowingly taking the wrong path?

How can you expect better results when you already decided to take the wrong course on purpose?!

SUN TZU my friends. Don’t go to war knowing you’re going to lose. What’s the point of that?

Last Kickstarter Days for Pulp Fiction Mag Cirsova

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I’ve been meaning to get back to a few different blog posts that have been swimming in my brain, but just haven’t found the time. TIME, as I always say, is THE most precious resource. It disappears second by second, constantly, never stops leaving and never comes back. SUCKS, don’t it?

But you know what doesn’t suck?

CIRSOVA Magainze! It’s one of the big pulp rev titles that are bringing back sci-fi, fantasy, and mystery that is written to be FUN. All the big literary SFF mags want stories that are  politically correct and have the big thrust as something that your English teacher would like.

But most of us aren’t English teachers. We what about the rest of us?!

Cirsova is for the rest of us.

And to ensure there’s a Volume Two to this magazine, we need a few more people to care. And, frankly, to show they care by contributing a couple bucks. And/or telling some other folks they know who aren’t English teachers (or are—they like this stuff too, they just can’t admit to it!) about it too.

GO HERE to Kickstarter and see what you can buy for your couple bucks. And help keep this indie mag going and keep giving indie authors somewhere to publish!