Weekend Update

A quick recap on the limited time events happening right now:


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Are you a fan of the sci-fi show Firefly?

I actually missed the show when it was on TV. I was living on a ship in Japan at that time. I didn’t actually discover the show until 2006 or 2007 when I was back in living in a small apartment in Ohio while in nursing school.

You can throw your name into the hat to win all the fabulous prizes shown here, and discover some great new science fiction authors at the same time! Just click here to find out more and register.

And don’t be shy about sharing with your friends!

Oh, I know it could decrease your odds of winning, but if they win you can still go over to their house and enjoy all the goodies anyway! So really, you’re increasing your odds by sharing!

And hurry! Because this giveaway ends on October 10th!


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Yes, another box full of goodies for you! And it’s not even Christmas yet!

Crystal Watanabe over at Pikko’s House has a subscription service for book lovers. Every month, they (read: you) get a new virtual box full of novels and stories delivered to you on the ether. And every month, there’s a new theme.

The theme for October: You guessed it, spooks and ghouls!

Hope over there now to see what all the screaming is about. Just click here.  

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Any Firefly Fans Out There?

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Win a date with Nathan Fillion!

Just kidding. Sorry, ladies.

I missed Firefly when it was live on TV. I was on the USS Cowpens floating about the Pacific at the time. I had heard good things but by the time I got hoe, those ying-yang executives at Fox had canned the show.

I think I actually saw the movie Serenity before I saw the series.

Years later, when I was in living in a tiny apartment in Columbus and going to nursing school, I landed the entire series in a box set and discovered what I’d been missing.

And right now, for the legions of fans out there, there’s an epic giveaway featuring a cargo hold full of shiny prizes! 

The catch? You’ll be signing up to receive updates from science fiction authors who produce books you might just love to read. Not too shabby, eh? And you can unsubscribe anytime you want from them, if you want to.

Meantime, take a chance at winning the grand prize by clicking here!

 

 

Book Lovers’ Box: October Creep-Fest

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You may have heard of subscription services where you get goodies in the mail every month. You may even be a member of such a service! All you do it sign up and every month, like clockwork, you get a nice package chock full of goodies, all related to that month’s theme.

I’d heard of these but never signed up for any.

And, to be honest, I still haven’t. But if you’re a book lover, there is a virtual service like this especially for you.

It’s a digital box stuffed with stories and novels, coming to you every month. This month being October, the box is naturally brimming over with rotten corpses and cursed heirlooms!

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I’m talking about the Pikko’s House Book Lovers Box. There are literally thousands of happy readers signed up for this service, and you can join them. Just check out https://www.pikkoshouse.com/box/  Past themes include a mythology box, end of the world, sci-fi box, fantasy, romance… You name it, it’s a theme. This month not your thing? That’s okay. Take the goodies, share them with someone else, and wait for next month, when you’ll get a dozen or so books you do like!

I’ll let the curator describe it herself; she’ll do a better job than I can:

What is a digital subscription box?

Okay, so you’re probably wondering what a digital subscription box is. Think one of those cool curated subscription boxes you get in the mail, only this one doesn’t come in the mail, it comes via email.

You see, the thing about real subscription boxes is, while they’re fun to open, in the end they essentially amount to clutter (except for the delicious snack ones, cause you just eat those).

So instead of a physical box, I’m offering a digital box of fun things for people who love to read. Free ebooks, ebook deals, tips for writers and freelancers, book giveaways, extended versions of my webcomic, SimpleMarkup, that sort of thing. It’s still got that bit of a mystery surrounding it that’s so attractive in subscription boxes but without any of the physical downsides.

By signing up, you get access to the current box. Soon, I’ll also add archive pages for book-cover puzzles and comics. Join the fun!

As I said, October is Halloween themed: “Spooks and Ghouls.” And there’s 16 authors with horrible relics for you to enjoy!

  • Wicked Innocents by S.H. Livernois (ARC, limited to 80 copies)
  • Blood and Chaos by Bob Williams (99-cent series)
  • Between Life and Death: Dead Woman’s Journal by Ann Christy (free book)
  • Ruin: Kano’s Necromantic Comedy by Karl Radle (free review copy)
  • Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper Box Set by J.L. Bryan (set of 3 free books)
  • Must Love Ghosts, Season 1 by Charity Tahmaseb (BookFunnel freebie)
  • Pretty When She Dies by Rhiannon Frater (99 cents)
  • Vitaortus by Dea Schofield (free novel)
  • Black Candle by by H.P. Bayne (BookFunnel freebie)
  • The Blood Singer by Patrick McNulty (BookFunnel freebie)
  • Soul Breaker by Clara Coulson (free series starter)
  • Infection by Philip Harris (free series prequel)
  • The Raventree Society, Episode 1 by J.E. Purrazzi (BookFunnel freebie)
  • The Secret Diary of Helen Blackstone by Michele Pariza Wacek (BookFunnel freebie)
  • Hungry Gods by J.D. Brink (free novel)
  • Hawk Hallow by J.D. Oliva (BookFunnel freebie)

Yeah, one of mine is in there too. 🙂

If you’re interested, hop on over and check it out. Some of those goodies come in limited quantities, so it’s first come, first served. Enjoy!

 

Vacation Reading 2018

Planetary Defense Command reads at a rate I only wish I could. And his opinions are probably pretty damn close to yours and mine!

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My wife and I recently returned from a hiking trip to Patagonia and the Andes.  I’ll try to do a vacation post later (although I still haven’t posted about last year’s vacation…), but today’s post is about the books I read on the flights there and back.

This year, I decided to read books written by fellow bloggers who I’m friends with online.  Fortunately, they all ended up being entertaining — I believe I rated them all four stars out of five at goodreads.

I’ll give a brief description of each book, but I’m also going to strain my brain and try to come up with something that might have pushed each one into five star territory for me.  I think that’s the kind of feedback I’d like from my friends if I were publishing my own stories.

Here are the books, in the order I read them:

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Penguin Space Ships!

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My family and I went to the Toledo Zoo this weekend. (Which, believe it or not, is probably one of the best zoos in the country, right here in little ol’ Toledo, Ohio.) In the Aquarium, along the ceiling, they had these really cool penguin… trash sculptures. I don’t know what else to call them. They are all made from recycled and reused materials. Mostly clothes hangers and kitchen utensils, from what I can see.

And not only do they make really nice penguins, but I think they make pretty cool space ships!

Take a look and see for yourself.

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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.

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?!!)