Ghost of Christmas Past

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Ah, the classic Dickensian Ghosts of Christmas: Past, Present, and Future. For my purposes, they will be depicted in their incarnations from my favorite Christmas movie, Scrooged.

What do they have to do with what I’m about to blog? I don’t know yet, I’m working on it… I just came up with this as a theme to fit what I want to say. Forcing my words to fit that theme is part of what writing is all about, right?

“Your assignment: write X.”

“Roger that. X on the way…”

What I’m really trying to talk about is the past, present, and future of my writing plans, the rollover of the new year, and the exciting news that’s happening now and how it relates to what’s past, present, and coming up.

(Yeah, that’s it! I knew that, somewhere in here, I knew what I was talking about!)

Which makes this the post about Christmas Past. And for the past several months, this guy has been driving…

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That should pretty much tell you all you need to know! But I’ll elaborate a little…

Okay, very little. ‘Cuz it’s depressing, confusing, and more than you really care about.

Basically, got out of the Navy in February, in and out of the Navy Reserve since then (active to inactive, actually), started a job, quit by Naval decree, got another one, went inactive reserve (so Naval decree has way less weight), went back to first job. So December 10th was me starting over yet again! At least it was the job I started back in February, so I am at least familiar. But it’s still starting anew.

So unstable life. Moved from Japan to Ohio, family still settling in and finding their places. My son’s been in three different schools this year.

Every step forward is followed by two steps back. You know that dance, right?

Despite all these real-world setbacks, I’ve still managed some progress in my writing world. My yearly goal for words published (not written, but actually published into the world) is 80,000 words. A novel by definition is 40K, though a typical one put out by the Big Five New York publishing mafia is about 80K. I’m going to fall short of that mark this year, but that’s okay! I allow myself some leeway given all the seismic shocks of our lives this past year. I’m lucky to have gotten anything published at all.

Here’s what I did get out there. Most of these are short stories or novelettes that were written before 2018. One book I did write this year. (Crammed it in in only 2 short months, in fact.) Plus, I have a short story coming out still in Weirdbook Magazine #41, hopefully before the year is out.

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And even though I fell short of the 80K goal, I’ll more than make up for it in 2019. I already have Deus Ex Machina set up on pre-order, which is 85,000 words by itself. BAM! My 2019 goal is already in the bag! And Green-Eyed Monster will soon follow, which is a collection of all these short stories above, plus several more. BAM! Overkill! And those are all already written! So 2019 will be a productive year.

But that’s a different ghost…

We’re talking 2018 right now. The yearly wrap-up.

For a while there I had decided to stop tracking my written word counts. This was likely one of my new 2018 streamlining goals about this time last year. About mid-way through the year, though, I decided to start tracking them again. My monthly, active writing goal is a comfortable 10,000 words per month. Given my chaotic and over-taxed life, that’s not bad. And even without writing new words every month in 2018, I still managed about 86,000—and that’s probably underestimating April and May when I wasn’t quite keeping track. You can’t publish 80K next year if you don’t write some this year, right? Well, even with riding the whirlwind and all, I still cranked out enough to ensure my current and future publishing goals. Not too shabby.

What I did not get enough of in 2018 was business savvy. Marketing knowledge. Cybernetic infrastructure. The administrative and business side of the indie writing biz. I hope to make more time for that very soon.

For now, given the tumultuous real-world events of 2018, I’m pretty damn happy with the way my writing/publishing year turned out. Which I couldn’t really say until right this minute! Because I, like all indie writers, am too impatient and too hard on myself. Which is why doing little recaps like this are good for me (us). Looking back and seeing that, Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. I mean, uh, Yes, Virginia, you did accomplish more than many aspiring writers this year, despite always cursing yourself as a failure. Therefore, No, Virginia, you’re not a piece of shit.

Good job.

Alrighty, that’s it for the Ghost of Christmas Past. Stay tuned. Expect the next ghost at the stroke of one… (This was the midnight ghost, ya know?)

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Two Secret Projects and NaNoWriMo

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Life has been tumultuous here for me, and continues to be as I have some fresh self-inflicted changes coming ’round again. But next week is both my birthday and Thanksgiving, so it’l be a good a week! (My belly will approve, at any rate!) I’m also in the process of trying to switch my biological clock from nights shifts back to day living. It’s 1:30am right now, so that’s a slow-going process.

I have also been working on two “top secret” projects these last couple months.

The first was a short story inspired one day in September as I was eating in the mall foodcourt. (Who doesn’t get inspiration in a place like that, right??!) Seriously, it turned out to be a story I’m proud of and it’s making the rounds for publication right now. So I can’t talk too much about it. But I can tell you there’s biting of the neck and a striking parallel to some real world shit gong on in the U.S. these days.

The second is a new book about writing. More specifically, self-publishing and the writer’s journey. It just went live a couple days ago and is currently only available on Amazon. The book started out as a blog series right here on this website and has now grown into a 140-page book! (Amazon says it’s 115 pages, but when the paperback version comes out, I’m pretty sure it’ll be more like 140.)

I may publish the whole thing right here on this blog, one chapter at a time, eventually. I can’t right now because I went ahead and did the exclusive KDP Select deal on Amazon. The benefit is that, if you’re a prime member, you can potentially get the book for free. When my 90 days is up on that deal, though, I’m going wide. So if you’re an Amazon member, now is the time to score a free book.

I wanted to get it out in time for National Novel Writing Month. People all over the world take on the challenge of cramming in some serious writing in the month of November. I hope some of them will consider checking out my book on the subject. I’ve got 20 years of experience and advice to offer. This book isn’t about making it rich, quick. It’s about hanging on for the long haul and how to actually get your work in front of the reading public. If that interests you, go ahead and take a gander.

Come to think of it, it’s also “Mo-vember,” for mustache growing and men’s health awareness month, but I forgot about that until just this minute! Growing a goatee anyway! 🙂 (Which I no longer have to shave because I’ve officially switch from the Select Reserve (active reserves) to the Individual Ready Reserves (inactive). No more drilling means I can be as fat and hairy as I like! (Which I still plan to keep a leash on, but good to know I have that freedom now.)

Okay, going to do some editing on Deus Ex Machina (the long-promised superheroic sequel to Hungry Gods), which I still hope I might have out by Christmas–or January, at the very least. Then it’s off to bed!

Good night.

Free for Halloween: Superheroes and Vile Villains!

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Collateral Damage, and all the Superheroes and Vile Villains books, are FREE right now on Amazon. These are four collections of short stories featuring spandex-clad goodies and baddies doing what they do best! Grab them while they’re free!

What’s that, you say?

I only come on here to tell you when to go get shit?

Yeah, I know. (Hangs head in shame.)

I’m a busy guy right now! Still on hospital orientation for the new job, possibly getting over to the inactive side of the Navy Reserves soon (yeah! more freedom!), and it’s Halloween for goblin’s sake! Mostly off of work today but have school work to do for the job, then trick or treating later.

I have been working on some writing though, just in time for Nanowrimo. It’s a book about writing that I hoped would be out by tomorrow but I just finished the second draft last night. So maybe out next week? It’s not a holy tome full of instant success secrets or anything (and I hope you wouldn’t believe me if I said it was), but it does feature some secrets. More on that soon.

I’ll be going to night shifts for a month starting next week. I hope that means I’ll have more time to do writing stuff, such as get Deus Ex Machina through the second draft (finally!) and some other stuff. The night shift thing is a two-sided coin though. (Aren’t all coins two sided?) I get more time to myself, but I’m also tired as hell. So we’ll see how that works out.

Meantime, if you like superhero short stories, pick up a volume or three of Superheroes and Vile Villains!

 

Tattoo Friday

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A couple weeks ago, Facebook was kind enough to remind me of a post from a few years back. (Thanks AI Overlord… I guess…) I saved the pics to my desktop and have been meaning to post them here for poops and giggles.

This was one day when I was napping on the couch or something. (Which I never do–who’s got time for that?!) I specifically told the artist I wanted my tattoo to look like “an old black-and-white monster movie,” but this day the fam decided it would look better in color.

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Please ignore the hairiness and other unsightly features. 🙂

In other news, does anyone know jack shit about all these modern author-oriented cyber gadgets out there? Automating email, setting up a landing page for free book downloads, stuff like that? I’m a bit of a luddite and a savage and all this cyber shit that’s making everyone else rich just confuses me. 😦

I’m also hoping to start revising the second draft on Deus Ex Machina so it can be out by Christmas or New Years. I have kind of decided that I can’t bother with trying to write any new words for the rest of the year in order to get all this other stuff done. Doesn’t help to have book two of a series in draft form if you never get around to finishing it off.

Plus I need to figure out this internet thingie, plus a bunch of other things around the house I sill haven’t gotten done in the last 5 months. But my four-day weekend is actually a two-day, ‘cuz I have Navy Reserves this Sat-Sun, and Friday is already about gone. And Monday I really need to study up on taking care of cardiac patients. Geez, these civilian hospitals are full of sick people! In the Navy, everyone is young and healthy. It’s a bit of a learning curve.

But we bought some lottery tickets that are sure to free me from the day job tonight! C’mon baby, no whammies, no whammies, no whammies…!

Okay, enough whining from me! Enjoy your weekend, everybody!

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?!!)

 

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?