No one talks about the research…

Actually, they do. Lots of them do. I tend to avoid those conversations because I don’t like to be distracted by research. A lot of my stories tend to be based on anecdotal experience and not proven facts, because that is how I live. My experiences are my own, even when other people have them as well.

In fact, there’s been more than one time in my life where I have that “I thought it was just me” moment. Sometimes it is a blessing, sometimes it is a bummer. Depends on the situation.

But research is both. I hate having to take the time away from the flow of my writing to look up that one word or object or something that I *need* for this part of the story. But it usually isn’t something I can just skip over, either. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I’m a pantser (as in they who fly by the seat of) and not a prepper. I don’t do the research ahead of time. I brew stories in my head, and when they start boiling over, they go onto the paper.

I’ve tried to explain this to more than a few people over the years and often, I’ve gotten that same look from people. You know the one, it says, “That seems like an awful way to do things.” And maybe they are right, but this is how it has always worked for me.

I don’t say that as in “this is how it’s always been, why should i change?” I have tried many different ways of writing. This process works best for me. But I digress…

I just finished the first draft on an 8k story submission and thought I would share the things I bothered to stop and look up. Mostly because I find it fascinating all the things that come together in a story:

  • Population density in cities
  • Average square space of a city
  • Emergency first aid
  • Symptoms of blood loss
  • Handyman tasks
  • Storefronts (pictures of)
  • Blinds
  • Leaded glass
  • Grip tape
  • Firefighter’s helmet
  • Fire ax
  • Ax or axe
  • Work shirts
  • Padlocks
  • a host of synonyms and antonyms after the fact

…and I’ll be honest, a majority of this research was all for minute details for a single scene. A ridiculous amount of detail that most people will simply move past as the tension builds. I’m not offended, it’s what has to happen.

Writing, like filmmaking, is supposed to look easy. You want the audience to think about the story, not the amount of work you put into it. If they’ve been thinking about how much research you did to come up with that one object a secondary character is holding, then they’ve lost the story and you’ve lost them.

Anyway, I hope to have more news on this story in the near future. For now, you’ll have to be entertained by your own imagination.

Humblebrag…

But not really. Or at least, not in the actual definition of the word, but the etymological breakdown of it. A humble brag. Because I cannot possibly fathom not sharing this with you all, as it is equal parts amazing and wonderful, but it is still a humbling experience.

So, the long story short is that a friend bought my book for her cousin, an avid reader. Sometime after that, the word comes to me that not only did she like the book, but she has a YouTube channel and is going to do a video review of my book. (At this point, news of such things is as terrifying as it is exciting, as you might imagine.) Time goes by and I hear nothing. Then, all at once, there is a link in my email. “Book Reviews #40: House of Thirteen” it says.

It’s another couple of days before I can bring myself to click the link.

Reviews are scary. They can build you up, or demolish you. Sometimes both at the same time. What you hope the readers will love is sometimes built up too much in your head and they need to point that out to you. Sometimes I rush into reviews like a masochist, but those are always just words. As I learned long ago, “words can never hurt me.” Yeah, right.

This is not just words, though. This is video. This is words with pictures. 1000 words for every picture. 29.97 pictures every second of the video. It adds up to a mountain of intimidation.

But I finally suck it up and click the link, bracing myself for the ugly truth… and what waits there for me is not the reason I will quit writing, but the reason I will persevere. There’s an excitement in her voice that we’ve all heard before: that sound we make when we are excited and want to share this amazing thing we’ve discovered. Except she’s not talking about some random interest – she’s talking about my book!

It’s a walking-on-clouds kind of feeling, and it will last until I realize that I have to somehow raise the stakes in House of Thirteen, Book Two in order to meet expectations.

And that brings us back to terrified, because that’s what I’m trying to write now.

I thought this was a nice segue to announcing the follow-up to House of Thirteen. Book Two will continue the story, and take us further into the mysteries that revolved around out beloved Delaneys. I’m looking very forward to figuring out what kind of trouble Ren and Joe are getting themselves into, as well as what sisters we’ll be introduced to next. And I hope that it will fulfill my expectations, and surpass those of my readers.

To answer Gabby’s one question that I am able to (but not really) in a bit of detail: I do plan on addressing what and why the Delaneys are what they are in more detail. I hope to answer every question I have threaded into the story before I end the series. Unfortunately, there are going to be more questions that answers for the time being, but I’ll get to them all in time. If I don’t, feel free to ask me again.

You can view the House of Thirteen review below. You can follow Gabby on Facebook and Twitter.

If you haven’t reviewed House of Thirteen (or any of my other stories) yourself, please do.

Finally, thank you, Gabby. This means a lot to me.curiousowl

 

Silver Linings…

It’s been an interesting year.

Everyone seems to have an opinion about 2016, be it good or bad. Political turmoil and celebrity tragedy aside, I have found that a number of these moments have kind of tainted my year end. With that came a skewed view of the year, retroactively. It became a dark cloud that threatened to envelope the last three hundred sixty-five days when in reality, it’s been a pretty good year.

Truly, it’s not an epiphany I came to on my own – no emotional realization is ever my own doing. It’s the work of a lot of different sources talking me off a lot of simultaneous (and metaphorical) ledges. But eventually, I usually come around.

Like always, when I finally do, I strap on the optimism and redouble my efforts to be a positive influence. Really, that is my favorite thing about this time of year. The unbridled love and kinship for our fellow man, even and especially in the face of adversity. It’s so easy to be bleak, but to cling to optimism and look with blind hope toward the coming year, that is magic. It’s a wonder we haven’t found a way to manufacture this sense of togetherness and optimism at other points of the year. It really is something we should work on.

Obviously, that ball drop at midnight is not some magical eraser. The new year doesn’t come as a clean slate that forgives and forgets. Pain and loss will still be there, depleted savings will still be depleted. But there is hope. There is always hope. And like last year and many years before it, here I am again, ready to draw back the curtain on a coming year.

I wish that you have all the best things happen to you this next year.
I hope that you find joy in all things, no matter how small.
I pray that you not only feel the goodness in the world around you, but that you push that goodness forward into all those around you.
And I hope that even if none of this happens to you, if nothing good happens to you at all, I hope that you still have a silver lining to gaze upon.

I wanted to track down some sort of inspirational quote to sign off the year with, but I kept thinking back to something I wrote myself. It’s self-serving, yes, but it’s also something I mean with all my heart. It was the first taste of holiday goodness to reach out to me this year, and I hope it instills you with the same fire that possessed me to write it in the first place.

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Thank you all for a wonderful 2016.

Happy New Year.

An End of Things…

Happy Halloween!

We’re quickly tying up a number of things around here: October, At Calendar’s End, the year itself… and with October drawing to a close today, there is often another event right on its heels: NaNoWriMo.

The usual 30 days of writing madness has been a staple in my life for many years. Most notably, the last four years have presented me with manuscripts for my published works. It has been a thrilling and fulfilling event.

And though this is the part where I should tell you that I am anticipating the stroke of midnight, when November 1 begins and my fingers start their furious pace into the manuscript of my next novel…

I have decided instead to not participate in NaNoWriMo this year.

I almost titled this post “Why I am Quitting Nano This Year…” but that’s completely sensational and totally inaccurate. I’m not quitting. I’ll almost certainly be back next year. This is more of an early sabbatical.

The truth is, this year, especially the last couple of months, have been excruciatingly busy and stressful and the last thing I want right now is another stressful month. Also, I’ve proudly gotten to the point where I am writing quite a bit during the rest of the year, so Nano is not my only writing time during the year.

I will still be writing in November, and I may find, by some miracle, that I still crank out fifty thousand words. I won’t complain if that happens. But I’m taking an official break from NaNoWriMo this year so that I can concentrate on all the other things on my docket.

Tomorrow, by the way, is not only the start of NaNoWriMo but the next installment of At Calendar’s End. And when NaNoWriMo ends, I’ll be finishing off the series. I can’t tell you how satisfying that will be… maybe more for me than the readers.

I should also be receiving the results from NYC Midnight’s Flash Fiction Round Two soon. Fingers crossed that I will be moving into Round Three for another fast-paced writing adventure.

See? Still plenty in the works.

Happy Halloween. You’ll hear more from me as November starts to upumpkin_gifnfold.

 

Cover to cover…

I’m going to put out the pertinent information first, and then I’d like you to bear with me for some long-worded winding on a related topic.

First, August is here, as undeniable as the rise and set of the sun. And equally unstoppable is the arrival of August: part eight in the series.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, the cover has been delayed slightly. I apologize for the delay, but the story itself is moving right along schedule and you can find it at the link below.

Fortunately for ebook reading, the cover will be easily updated as soon as it is in my hands and I will post its beautiful sights for all eyes.

But even more interesting is how my covers, my work, and my calendar have all culminated in a spectacular announcement:

Today celebrates the third anniversary of Empty Hallways’ haunting re-cover. You may or may not know that the first edition of the book had a very disappointing cover. I did it myself, in a rush of amateur publishing (which I am still finding I don’t know everything about. Surprise, surprise.) but the book was later refaced by my talented cover artist and wonderful friend Brian Ritson.

His cover made me feel like a real author, not just an amateur. And he has continued to provide covers that might actually oversell the content within.

And therein lies the amazing coincidence: today is not only the third anniversary of Brian’s Empty Hallways cover. August will be the tenth cover to proudly display Brian’s art.

Brian will continue to be my artist as long as he can entertain channeling my stories for his art.

So thank you Brian, and congrats!

To three years of work.

To ten covers.

To a lifelong friendship.

Cheers, my friend.

August, as well as Brian’s other covers (and my stories) can be found on Amazon.

My Father & Mr. Brooks

Many years back, when I was a precocious young lad, my father devised an ingenious method of education and torture – you’ve heard of edutainment? This is tortucation – or it might have been for some other kid.

When I got in trouble, my punishment was not a simple grounding. Instead, I had to read a book and write a book report. At home. Had to. The horror.

I was allowed to choose the book, but my dad got veto. I wasn’t such a fan of writing then, but I already enjoyed reading. The writing… well, you can see where that got to. I was already a reader, I don’t think anything in the world could have stopped that. I had a good system and a lot of encouragement to get me into books. But if ever there were a fundamental set of moments in my life that turned me into a reader, this is where it started.

While I got to choose many of my own “punishments,” on occasion my dad would pick out a book and tell me that was the one I was going to read. It was a test. He’d pick out books he already knew, and ask me questions about them, to see what I was getting from the reading. Often enough, I was getting the story, but not the subtext. I needed to be persuaded into understanding that – I won’t lie, it took years.

But through this process, I was introduced to many of the greats: Isaac Asimov, Piers Anthony, Anne McCaffery, Harlan Ellison… and somewhere among them was Terry Brooks. And of all the authors that attempted to cross the line from the “dad’s authors” camp into my own favorites, Terry was one of the few who truly won me over with his brand of fantasy.

When people recollect their favorite stories, when they get glassy eyed about a story, like they’ve been there – like they’ve lived there… for me, that was Landover, the magical land in Magical Kingdom for Sale – SOLD.

I’m not going to get into the story. I’m not even going to persuade you with anything but the fact that I love it. It was MY Harry Potter… long before Harry would ever figure out his legacy. It’s a series that I have never finished, mostly because I didn’t want it to end. But after last night – close to twenty-five years after that first introduction – I feel like I should finally finish it. I feel like I owe Mr. Brooks that much.

I met Terry Brooks tonight at a signing in one of my favorite places – Schuler Books, Eastwood. (There’s nothing wrong with the Okemos one, I just prefer Eastwood.) He read us a bit of his latest work, he answered all the questions we had to offer. He was charming and down-to-earth and just everything we all hope our idols will be.

And if you have ever met one of your heroes, you know that everything you think about while you are watching them, everything you think about when you are in line, everything you want to say – it’s gone when it’s your turn to say anything. Maybe you are better than me, but I stammered out a thank you. It carried all of the words I wanted to say, and whether he heard all that or not, he still seemed appreciative.

Then I did something I had been debating since I parked my car.

I brought a bookmark. One of my bookmarks. On the front was the House of Thirteen cover, and on the back, I wrote something (in the car, where I left most of my wit and courage).

I wrote: “Terry – Thank you. For a lifetime of inspiration.” Then I signed it.

I handed it to him and stammered out something about hoping it’d be worth more someday. He looked at it, then he said thank you to me.

Me.

We talked for a quick second, he asked where he could find my books, and he said he’d check me out. I got a photo, we shook hands, and that’s where my moment ended. Even if it was just banter, I appreciate the hell out of it.

Seriously, Terry Brooks, thank you. For the twenty-five years of wonder you have instilled in me. For being part of a great and wonderful pantheon that I strive to one day join.

For being you. And for doing what you love.

Thank you.

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Christmas Wishes and Humble Thanks

When it comes right down to it, I don’t write because I want to be famous. I don’t even write because I’m good at it – that’s completely subjective, anyway. People tell me I am a good writer, I have no reason not to believe them. I’m a writer because I have stories to tell. Stories that want to be told, and they have no one else but me to tell them… those poor, unfortunate souls.

I love to write, but I wouldn’t say I’m very good at the process. I get bogged down by the difficulties inherent in world building, by characters that don’t want to adhere to their own motivations, by all of the steps required to go from that spark in my brain to a finished novel. It’s exhausting, and sometimes I think that I can’t possibly keep going.

But I keep going. And here’s the rub: I write for me, first and foremost. If I didn’t enjoy doing it, I probably wouldn’t bother. But I also keep going because of everyone else who won’t let me fail.

Obviously, there are the people who buy my books and who leave me wonderful reviews that help rejuvenate me, but it goes far beyond that. I am surrounded by talented people who are willing to invest their time and skills to help me improve mine. Wonderful friends full of heart who continue to push me forward when I don’t think I have it in me anymore. People whose lives have sometimes only briefly touched mine, but have left me so much better for having that moment between us.

I am blessed to know so many amazing people who I will never be able to thank enough. If there were time to write enough books to dedicate one to each of the people in my life, I could fill a library with my thanks. That will probably not be the case – though not for lack of trying.

I can only say thank you.

Thank you from the very bottom of my heart.
Thank you for all of the support and encouragement from my first release up to now.
Thank you for all the future support I will receive.
Thank you for being my stepping stones to whatever comes next.
Thank you for everything.

Merry Christmas to you and yours, and a Happy New Year to us all. One full of promise and potential and the best of surprises.