March 2014 Update

Here in Kentucky the grip of winter seems to have broken.  Just here in the last week we’ve seen the temperature hit close to 80 degrees.  Believe me, it was welcome.  It’s been a long, long winter.  I don’t recall a harsher one in recent memory, and I’ve heard a lot of people compare it to the deep freeze of ’77.  I remember that because the schools closed around here because the temps hovered around twenty below for a few days.  Thankfully we haven’t seen anything of that magnitude this year, but it’s a reminder that things can always be worse.

The audiobook version of The Killing Vision is in the can, and it should be up for sale at Audible, iTunes, and Amazon within a couple of weeks.  It’s been an amazing journey, and working with voice personality J. LaLonde has been a dream.  I’ve had a chance to listen to the whole book, and J. brings a vibrancy to my prose that I couldn’t have imagined.  Watch for more information here, and I’ll announce the release as soon as it happens.  In other audiobook news, actor/voiceover artist Gary Tiedemann has signed on to read the audiobook version of The Island.  We’re shooting for a late spring release for this one, and I’ll keep everyone posted as the production moves forward.

I’m starting to see the end of the tunnel on Moon Shadow, and I expect to finish it within the coming week.  Kit Foster will again design the cover, and he’s already got me on his schedule for the first week of April.  I’m really excited about this one, and I can’t wait to release it.  I have really enjoyed working on this book, but it has taken me six months to complete, which is almost three times as long as I had anticipated.  For one thing the characters took on a depth I hadn’t expected, which is always a good thing.  For another, the story hit an unexpected twist and I was forced to look at the book from a different perspective.  I love when a novel takes on a life of its own, but I have to admit, this one has really worn me out.  I will be glad to start working on something new.

As of right now, that something new looks to be the sequel to The Killing Vision.  The working title for the moment is A Vision of Murder, but that may change as the story develops.  I’m still in the “gathering information” stage, which my long-suffering wife recognizes as “those times when I sit and brood.”  Anyone who has known a writer or artist personally will understand this.  It’s just part of our genetic makeup.  A writer spends a lot of energy digging things up from inside, and it’s exhausting.  I remember finishing up The Island last summer and spending a few days recovering because I just couldn’t think anymore and I felt I could sleep for days.  I don’t expect that level of exhaustion this time, but at least I’m prepared for it just in case.

I also have big news in my personal life.  We’re expecting our first grandchild in June!  We’re all very excited, but my wife and I can’t help feeling we’re still too young for this.  Does anyone ever feel old enough for grandkids?  Probably not.  But rest assured this will be one spoiled little girl when she arrives.  She’s already amassing an extensive wardrobe, and Granddad is looking forward to sharing books and stories.  It’s going to be a fun time!

Finally, you may have noticed a couple of changes to the website.  I’ve added a bookstore link where you can purchase my books directly from Amazon.  I’ll probably mess around with it a bit more to add more categories and functionality, but you get the idea.  And as you can see I’m sporting a new headshot for 2014 courtesy of my neighbor, photographer Josh Morgan.  I think Josh did a decent job of making me look cool.  Which is no easy task, believe me.

Until next month, Happy Reading!

November 2013 Update

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about perfection.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch wrote a wonderful blog post last year about how the pursuit of perfection can actually harm your writing.  Her husband, Dean Wesley Smith, also a great blogger on the business of writing, says (and I’ll paraphrase here) that you have to reach a point where you call the work finished and then stop caring about making it perfect.  Unless you are a writer, you probably don’t understand how difficult that is.  We’re taught from our earliest school days to strive for perfection.  Personally, I was never satisfied with myself in school unless I was making A’s.  B’s were like the ugly step-sister – good, but certainly only second-best.  C’s made me feel as though I was already failing, and anything below a C was just plain devastating.  College was the same, and I remember ripping open the envelope with my grades after my first semester at college, seeing all A’s, and bursting into tears in relief.

So going to a mindset where everything doesn’t have to be perfect is almost like telling me I can sprout wings and fly across town.  What if someone reads my story and finds a major flaw in the plot?  What if one of my characters says something in Chapter 2 and then completely contradicts herself in Chapter 10?  What if the sentence structure in that one paragraph on page 170 is stilted or awkward?  What if, what if, what if?

You know what?  The world’s not going to end.  I’ve had these fears lately about the newest book I’m about to unleash on my beta readers.  There was a lot of research involved, and naturally I’m afraid I’ve missed something.  If I have, hopefully my readers will catch it before it goes to final edits.  Even if they don’t, all I can do is remind myself that I wrote the best possible story I could at that point in time.  Then move on to the next book.  It’s a learning process.

You see, the time to care is when you’re writing.  When you’re creating story.  That’s when you have to do your best.  But caring about your story isn’t the same as trying to make it perfect.  It will never be perfect.  I look back on August  and Drum and think, sure there are phrases or details I could rework, or sections I could rewrite, but I won’t.  Because I’ve moved past those stories.  I did the best I could when I was writing them.  That’s all anyone can do.  Ten years from now I’ll look at The Island or The Killing Vision and think the same thing. Once the book is out, it’s finished.  No more rewriting.  Move forward.  Or as Dean says, stop caring.

In reality, that’s an incredibly hard thing to do.  It’s also a very freeing thing.  The pursuit of perfection can stifle your creativity.  It’s impossible to allow the creative side of your brain to take control if the critical side is constantly acting as overseer and second-guesser.  And if you can’t let go of a story you can’t go on to the next.  I’ve really worked on that all through 2013, and I have written more in the past twelve months than I have in the prior ten years.  Stopping the critical voice while I’m in creative mode, knowing when to stop finagling around with the plot or details and send the story out into the world – all of that has unleashed a tide of creative juices.  It’s been a great ride.

In book news, the illustrations are now finished for Brock Ford.  At least two of the paperbacks will be released before Christmas.  I’m eager for my readers to see these handsome drawings Brian Bowes has created.  I think you’ll agree, he has really brought these stories to life.  Stay tuned to the usual places – here, Facebook, and Twitter – for more info on release dates, etc.  Also, join the mailing list on my Contact page and be among the first to learn about my new books.

Thanks for stopping by.  See you next month.

 

August 2013 Update

In case you haven’t heard, my new middle-grade novel is out.  Zach Ziegler’s So-Called Middle School Life hit shelves on July 21.  This was a story I had wanted to write for a long time, and there is a lot of myself in it.  No swashbuckling adventures or hidden mysteries, but there is plenty of middle school angst.

The Island will make its debut next month, and I’m eager to share it with my beta readers very soon.  I have put off writing the cover blurb as I am right smack in the middle of a pitches and blurbs workshop taught by Dean Wesley Smith, and I want to make sure I use everything I’ve learned and get it right.  The next step is editing and cover design, and those are always fun times for me.  (I know, who enjoys editing?)

Work is progressing on my latest excursion into horror, right now called The Devil’s Catacombs.  I’m about 10,000 words into it and really enjoying creating the characters and their situation.  I have decided that writing from now on is going to be all about having fun. I’m no longer going to brood over and second-guess myself on every word and sentence; as I have learned, writing and editing are two separate things, and it’s hard to let your creativity flow when the critical side of your brain is trying to filter it.  As a result of this “revelation” I am writing more and finishing projects quickly.  And I’m having a ball. I find myself really looking forward to my weekend writing sessions and not dreading my time sitting in front of the computer.  When it ceases to be fun is when I’ll stop.  And I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Because of this new creative renaissance, I’ve mapped out some goals for myself for the next six to eight months.  They’re lofty goals, and if I had written them down this time last year it would have terrified me.  But now I believe they are not only doable but practical. You see, my goal is to one day financially support my family with only my writing, and to do that, I’ve got to keep putting new work out there for readers to discover.  So that’s what I’m doing – writing the best stories I can, packaging them up in the most professional manner possible, pricing them correctly, and getting the word out.  I am so glad to be living in this time of independent publishing in which it can happen.  And thanks to you, my readers, for helping make it possible.

July 2013 Update

The first draft of the latest novel is finished! I was able to write 22,000 words during the week I was on vacation, and now I am exhausted. Writing takes a lot out of you, physically, mentally, and emotionally. There is something about working from deep down inside yourself that is draining, and I’m using this week to recuperate. The title has now changed from Dead Awake to The Island – A Novel of Terror. As the story evolved throughout the writing process I discovered that zombies that were originally the focal point of my idea were only a minuscule part of the plot; the story was really about the island, its culture and secrets. I’m going to let it set for a while and mellow, but will tackle it again in a few weeks for rewrites and edits. I hope to have it out by autumn.

Meanwhile, my new middle grade book is back with me now after being on submission for a couple of months. There was no interest in this story from agents at all. None. I can’t hide the fact that I’m disappointed, but I have to say I’m happy to still have it under my control to be indie-published before the summer’s over. Here is the blub:

Zach Ziegler’s mom says he’s “big-boned.” His grandfather referred to him as “strapping.” His dad, whom he never sees much, calls him “Sporto.” No one uses the F-word: fat. But Zach’s arch-nemesis, Trevor, doesn’t mind pointing out the obvious, and Zach is horrified when Trevor christens him with a new nickname in front of the whole PE class. If that isn’t bad enough, the science fair is coming up, and Zach and Trevor are paired up on a project. But while working together, Zach and Trevor begin to learn things about each other that neither has revealed to another soul, and they come to realize that maybe they aren’t so different after all. This is the story of an unlikely friendship – of setting aside misconceptions and labels and finding the true heart underneath.

As usual, I’m stuck on a title. The working title just didn’t feel right. My beta readers have been stymied as well. I may have to resort to using the online title generator. Worked well for The Killing Vision, after all.

On the Brock Ford front, my illustrator has taken some time off to work out some personal issues, but we are now shooting for a Christmas 2013 release of all three books in print. I’m really looking forward to sharing Brian’s great work with all my readers. It has been a long, arduous process but when you see the results I’m sure you’ll agree it has been worth it.

That’s all for this month! Stay tuned to Twitter and Facebook for more frequent updates and don’t forget to drop me a line. I’m always happy to hear from readers!

May 2013 Update

Things have really been moving and shaking here on the writing front!

The Killing Vision was released at the end of April, and it’s selling like hotcakes.  In fact, May looks to be my biggest month for sales EVER.  Thanks to everyone who downloaded it or bought the paperback.

Work on my new book, Dead Awake, is progressing nicely.  Last weekend I was lucky enough to get a whole day of uninterrupted writing in and pounded out 5,500 words.  If I can keep up the momentum, this book should be ready to release by early fall.  It’s going to be more of a horror novel, but still character-driven as is most of my work.  There are zombies involved.  Really.  I’ve got some dynamic characters I can’t wait to play around with, and I look forward to how they interact with one another.  Especially when they get to the island.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

As always, keep watching here, on Facebook and on Twitter for the latest on what’s happening with me, and feel free to drop me a line.

Don’t forget to head over to Goodreads and enter to win one of three signed copies of The Killing Vision.  The giveaway ends May 31.

Happy reading!

March 2013 Update

The first draft of my new kids’ book is done! Yay! Now, to let it sit while I work on wrapping up a few other projects. I hope to have rewrites done in time to begin querying agents in the early summer.

Brock Ford continues to inch forward. Frontispiece artwork is taking shape, and I’m very excited at what I’ve seen. Still hoping for a spring release date, but now it looks more like late spring. 🙁 As usual, I will post any and all updates here.

New project alert! I’m working on putting together a collection of short fiction and poetry, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Most of this stuff dates back to the late ’80s/early ’90s when my voice was really beginning to develop and I was studying under a tough but talented writer/instructor at Murray State University. I also plan on including some real relics for curiosity’s sake. This collection (which of course at this moment has no title yet) should be out in a month or so.

In the “Color Me Starstruck” department, I got to meet one of my literary idols at a writers’ fair in Madison, Indiana. Michael West is a horror novelist known for his “Harmony, Indiana” trilogy and numerous other stories. Most recently he edited an anthology called “Vampires Don’t Sparkle.” I was lucky enough to be traveling back from Indianapolis the day of the event and took a quick side trip to pick up a couple of autographed books, as well get a picture with him. Did I mention he’s also a really nice guy?

That’s it for this month. Lots of exciting things going on behind the scenes, and I’ll keep you updated!

Meeting author Michael West, March 2013

Meeting author Michael West, March 2013

February 2013 Update

The three Brock Ford paperbacks continue to inch along toward publication. Just this week I’ve seen the rough sketches for the interior illustrations, and I am so excited! My illustrator just continues to wow me. I know choosing Brian for the work was the best decision I could have made. Not only do I have professional covers, but the chapter headings will make the books come alive like never before. I’m still looking at a late spring release date (and hopefully more school visits!), so watch here for more details.

My latest book is currently with beta readers. I don’t even have a final title yet, so I’m hoping one of my betas comes up with something great. (Ryan, are you listening?) I’m eager to get the book edited and out, and that should be a release in the summer. Again, stay tuned to the blog for more info.

The first draft for the current work-in-progress, a contemporary middle-grade, is about 2/3 finished. I’m thinking of going the traditional route with this manuscript and submitting to agents. Why, I don’t know. I guess I feel this latest effort has the potential to catch the eye of one of the Big 6. It’s certainly a story written from personal experience. I’ve taken agent Mary Kole’s advice to “dig deep and tell the truth.” We’ll see what happens.

I’m also toying with the idea of putting out a short story collection. I’ve got several shorts and even a bit of poetry lying around. The time just seems right to put it out there and see what happens. That’s a project for when I finish the first draft of the current WIP, while it mellows for a bit.

So… lot of things going on, yet the wheels turn slowly. Stay tuned!

January 2013 Update

Wow! Has it really been over a month since I last updated my blog? I have been busy, busy, busy!

Right now I’m about a third of the way through my current work-in-progress, a new middle-grade novel. It’s really going well, and I’m hoping this will be the one that finally gets me noticed by the right people. I’ve put myself in seclusion the past couple of weekends and forced myself to write, write, write.

Something I’ve come to realize in the past six months is that my first draft doesn’t have to be perfect. The important part is just to get something down. I can fix it later. That’s what revisions and editing are for. Amazing that I’ve been writing for thirty years and I’ve just discovered that. If I had figured it out sooner, there’s no telling how many more books I’d have under my belt. It’s actually been liberating. I’ve always known on the surface of course that subsequent drafts can fix almost anything, but I would never give myself the freedom to just write in an almost stream-of-consciousness mode. All that changed last fall when I picked up an old unfinished novel and decided to complete it. By utilizing that new freedom, I was able to plow through the remainder of the book in about a month and a half. That book will soon be in the editing stage and will hopefully be out before summer.

On the Brock Ford front, my illustrator plans to work on the chapter headings through February. I’m still shooting for a spring release of the paperbacks. Keep checking back for details!

Now, I like to make a plea on behalf of myself and other indie authors. If you like what you read, PLEASE leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads. It doesn’t have to be lengthy; 25 or 30 words is fine, and on Goodreads you can just leave stars without writing anything. Reviews are extremely important to indie authors because more reviews leads to more exposure and that leads to more sales. Also, if you enjoy my work, please tell other people; word of mouth sells more books than anything.

Please feel free to drop me a line. I enjoy hearing from readers and I love to answer questions!

Writing Updates

I finished the first draft of the new novel today.  This is a crime novel with a bit of the paranormal thrown in.  Not scary, but more of a thriller.  I have been working on this book for more than six years, so when I say it’s done, you have to imagine me doing some kind of happy dance.  Right now the plan is to put it away for a while, at least until after the holidays, before I start revising and editing.  This will allow me to put some distance between the story and myself.

In the meantime, I hope to start outlining the next idea I’ve got in mind, which is an out and out horror novel.  I’m really looking forward to that one.  I haven’t tried to write horror since high school, so this should be fun.

Reading night at the Dawson Springs Library went well, and I enjoyed connecting with a few of my readers and signing some books.  Let’s hope we get to do it again really soon!

On the Brock Ford front, Brian is now working on the third and final cover for the completed books in the series.  Once this is done he will begin the interior illustrations for the chapter headers.  He has been great to work with, and I’m hoping this is the beginning of a long partnership.

Have a great Thanksgiving, everyone!

School Visits!

So I’ve got my first school visit all lined up for next Tuesday. I’m a little excited and a lot terrified nervous! I’ll be speaking to several 7th & 8th grade English classes about writing in the morning and reading to the 3rd Grade in the afternoon.  I have no idea what I’m going to talk about. I’m thinking of going through the process of writing a story – coming up with the idea, working up the plot, and developing characters.  I also might talk about story arc and how all those elements fit in.  I will probably also explain my journey from writing as a kid up to self-pubbing.  I’m really hoping this goes well.  I haven’t done anything like this before, so I’m flying by the seat of my pants.  I want to be informative and entertaining, but I certainly don’t want to bore them.

If you’re a writer, tell me in the comments about your first speaking experience.  Were you nervous?  How did it go?  What subjects did you cover?  If you’re a reader, tell me what you’d like your favorite author to talk about?

I look forward to any and all suggestions!

Old Face, New Place

I  have a confession to make.  I have been writing very little the past few months.  It’s been hard to isolate myself and make myself trudge forward with a story.  However, I have stumbled upon a solution.  I bought my son’s old laptop.  I have set myself up in the family room where my wife usually sits and where the TV is.  I decided I would try working in there for a little bit, just to see how things went.  I’m doing a rewrite of my first novel first penned back in the ancient times of 1984-1985, and I thought I would see how I could work with so many distractions.

The verdict?

I have written more this past weekend than in the past month.  Who knew that simply moving my work area from an office to the center of family life would have such an impact?  I really doubted I would be able to concentrate with so much going on around me, but I have found the opposite is true.  It’s like the noise and activity actually keep my brain flowing.  Sitting by myself in the study seemed to have stifled my creative juices.  Ideas are flowing again now, including my latest project which is to self-publish all my old stuff.  With decent editing and rewrites, of course.

Stay tuned to see how things pan out!