Thursday, June 30, 2016

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Essential Traits for Indie Publishing Success


What are the keys to success in independent publishing? There are many important elements, all of which we'll cover in this series. Things like: good writing and editing, quality formatting, good book covers, proper pricing strategies, advertising, reader engagement, and more.

Today, let's drill down to the fundamentals, and look at two basic traits that are essential to indie success:

Patience and Determination.

Without these qualities, I'd still be teaching grammar to thirteen year-olds (not a bad job at all, but being a full time author is even better!) In fact, I'd probably have given up on writing altogether.


We've all heard stories about "overnight" publishing successes. There were the days of the "Kindle Gold Rush", the "99 Cent All Stars", the "Kindle Unlimited Serial Scammers", and the "Fan Fiction Writers Make Good" authors. We've also heard, just as loudly, these eras proclaimed dead.

Is it possible to enjoy a breakout success with your first independently published book? Yes, but it's also possible that Anne Hathaway will show up at my house, offer me a shoulder rub, and my wife won't object.

Translation: It's highly improbable.

The good news is, that doesn't mean you won't eventually enjoy success. Most indie authors don't even begin approaching their goals until they've published multiple, quality titles (three in a series seems to be the frequent takeoff point), cultivated an audience, and honed their engagement and marketing skills.

I self-published (we didn't call it "indie" back then) in 2004. For the first year, I could take my family out to dinner once a quarter with my royalties. After a while, I was able to pay the electric bill, then the car note, then the mortgage. It took more than six years, and a lot of learning, for me to reach the point at which I earned as much from indie publishing as I did from my day job, and seven years before I felt comfortable devoting myself to full-time writing.

It won't necessarily be that slow for you. Prior to Kindle, the potential income wasn't really there for indies hawking overpriced trade paperbacks, and marketing opportunities were limited. We live in a different world now, and that's a great thing, but it still can take time.

It takes time to learn the craft.
It takes time  (for most of us) to save money for things like editing and cover art.
It takes time to build an audience.
And the list goes on.

Let's not forget, though. Being patient does not mean being complacent. We should always be learning, growing, honing our skills, and, let's not forget the big one: working. That's why our next quality is so important.


We're going to fail. Often. It's going to suck. We're going to feel discouraged, experience doubt, want to give up... Don't.

Just because our first book doesn't sell out of the gate doesn't mean we're doomed to failure. Neither does:
A brief dip in sales.
A slow launch on a new book.
A poorly-performing ad.
A few bad reviews.
A bad writing day.
(You get the picture.)

Most writers will give up at some point along the way. Most will dream about writing but never put fingers to keyboard. Some will start writing a book but never finish. Some will seek representation or publication, fail, and give up. Some will indie publish without learning the essentials, fail, and give up. Some will try to do everything write, meet with challenges, and give up. Don't be one of those writers.

Don't give up. You will struggle at times. You will fail. Learn from it. Adapt and attack. Always strive to be your best.

Be persistent. You'll get there!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

A truly dark, gritty fantasy! Book 1 of the Broken Empire trilogy.

Before the thorns taught me their sharp lessons and bled weakness from me I had but one brother, and I loved him well. But those days are gone and what is left of them lies in my mother's tomb. Now I have many brothers, quick with knife and sword, and as evil as you please. We ride this broken empire and loot its corpse. They say these are violent times, the end of days when the dead roam and monsters haunt the night. All that's true enough, but there's something worse out there, in the dark. Much worse.

From being a privileged royal child, raised by a loving mother, Jorg Ancrath has become the Prince of Thorns, a charming, immoral boy leading a grim band of outlaws in a series of raids and atrocities. The world is in chaos: violence is rife, nightmares everywhere. Jorg has the ability to master the living and the dead, but there is still one thing that puts a chill in him. Returning to his father's castle Jorg must confront horrors from his childhood and carve himself a future with all hands turned against him.

Mark Lawrence's debut novel tells a tale of blood and treachery, magic and brotherhood and paints a compelling and brutal, and sometimes beautiful, picture of an exceptional boy on his journey toward manhood and the throne.

My Thoughts:
I stumbled across this book while looking for a beach read, and I'm so glad I found it! Prince of Thorns drew me in from the outset. The main character, Jorg, is... not a nice guy. He's an anti-hero, and he and his band of rogues are hardened criminals and commit terrible depredations from the get-go. Like many great characters, though, Jorg has many facets, some admirable qualities, and a slowly-unfolding back-story that helps you understand how he became the (very young) man he is today. Though some people might be turned off by such a seemingly nasty piece of work, I couldn't wait to find out how Mark Lawrence was going to make me root for this character. I won't tell you how he did it; only that he succeeded. Lawrence utilizes twin narratives: some chapters deal with the present-day story, while others tell Jorg's "origin story." The two stories complement one another and build to a satisfying climax. Highly recommended, though not for the faint of heart.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Advice to New Authors- The Craft


New writers frequently ask me for advice. More often or not, it relates to getting published. "How do I find an agent?" or "How do I self-publish?" 

One aspect that new authors frequently overlook, especially "indie-published" authors, is learning the craft of writing.

We're all bound by Meno's Paradox. Simply put, it's the idea that we can't know what we don't know.
All my life, people told me what a great writer I was, and I suppose, compared to my contemporaries, I had more skill and enthusiasm, but five-paragraph essays didn't teach me how to write fiction. For example, I didn't know my narrator "head-hopped" because I'd never heard of the term.

When I joined my first writer's workshop, I remember posting my first sample chapters with a sense of trepidation, but an underlying confidence. I fully expected to receive the same kind of feedback I'd gotten all my life: "This is awesome! You're great!"

That didn't happen.

I found myself scrambling to look up all sorts of writing rules of which I'd never heard:
  • Maintaining a consistent point of view.
  • Showing vs Telling
  • As you know, Bob.
  • Avoiding adverbs.
  • Intrusive dialog tags. 

And many, many more...

I eventually took my thumb out of my mouth, got up off the floor, and set to improving my craft. My writing improved, as did the quality of critiques I provided for other writers, but no matter how much better I got, there was (and still is) more to learn. If I hadn't given that workshop a try, I'd have sent amateurish works out into the world, not because I didn't want to be the best I could be, but because I didn't know what was wrong with them in the first place.

I see this all the time. New authors whose books are terrible, or not bad, but deeply flawed due to ignorance or flouting of literary conventions. I've seen some writers get off to a hot start, thanks to an appealing book cover, snappy product description, and good pricing and marketing strategies, only to lose steam as readers discover how poorly-written their books are.

Author David Eddings once gave this bit of fairly common advice to new writers (and I'm paraphrasing here): Write a million words. Make them the very best you can be. Bleed, sweat, and shed tears over them until they're perfect. Then throw them away. Now you're ready to write. 

I didn't understand that advice back then, but I do now. I didn't throw away the entirety of my first million words, but I threw away a lot of them. Generally speaking, there's a certain maturity to one's writing that can only be achieved with time, experience, and hard work. As a former teacher, my students sometimes come to me and say, "I've finished my book. I've had it checked for typos and punctuation errors. Now, how do I get it published?" Those situations are difficult for me, because I absolutely don't want to burst the bubble of any writer, but I also know the best advice is, "Don't publish it. Get feedback, learn from it, and then write something better. Rinse and repeat."

Reality check:  I write light, pulpy action-adventure stories with thriller pacing. I'm no literary genius, but readers seem to like what I'm doing, and I try to get better with every book. That said, here's my advice to any writer who is interested in being published:

1. Learn the basic rules of writing.  
You can find this advice in many places. Check out books on writing from your local library or bookstore. Seek out online articles on the craft. Download informative podcasts. Take the time to learn as much as you can before you share your writing with anyone else.

2. Join a writing workshop
If you write speculative fiction, I recommend, but there are plenty of good workshops out there (Critters is one about which I've heard good things.) Some people like to be part of a local, face-to-face, writing/critique group. That's fine, but it has its limitations. The quality of your feedback is limited to what that specific group of people has to offer. An online workshop puts your work in front of a broader group of critique partners.

3. Find alpha and beta readers who read or write in your genre.
These are people who love the sorts of books you write, and hopefully love your writing. They're invaluable in helping you tell the sort of story readers in your genre want to read. For me, these are relationships I developed over time, some in writing workshops, some with fellow authors, and some among my readership as it grew.

4. Read current, popular books in your genre.
If you have no interest in commercial success, disregard this advice. If you want to sell books, it's important to know what's selling right now in your genre. If you're writing thrillers, you might pick up a few tidbits about prose, character, and dialog by re-reading Harry Potter every year, but you won't learn how to craft a tightly-plotted thriller, and you certainly won't learn what readers in your genre are hungry for right now.

You might be thinking, "That's fine for some writers, but I want to do my own thing," or "Won't my book be even better because I'm doing something different?" 
It won't.
If you're writing commercial fiction, you're creating a product to sell. Know your market. Give the market what it wants.

5. Read critically.
I've been a voracious reader since preschool, yet when I began writing fiction, I was woefully ignorant of many of the conventions of writing. That's because I read for pleasure, but not critically. Michael Stackpole once suggested that an author read a book twice. Read it once for pleasure, and then go back over it with a critical eye, trying to determine what the author did that made the book work (or not work) for you. Analyze the plot structure. Identify literary devices. Look at how the author creates tension, suspense, emotion. Since I read ebooks, I like to highlight well-constructed sentences or nicely-turned phrases that I can go back and learn from later. Let other authors be your teachers.

6. Level up.
Writers, especially indie authors, sometimes plateau. Without top-notch content editing that challenges us, and with the same old feedback from the same old sources, our grown can stagnate. Hopefully, over time, you'll outgrow many of your critique partners. That doesn't mean you throw them away, but you'll find yourself getting the same feedback from them, and will need to seek out new sources of feedback. This can come in the form of new critique partners or professional editors. You can also learn by reading more challenging books. Also, revisit older books, articles, and podcasts on writing to pick up tips you overlooked or weren't ready for the first time around.

 To sum it all up: Don't publish or seek publication without putting in the work to be the best writer you can be, and to make your manuscript the best it can be. Keep trying to improve.

Good luck and keep growing!

Resurrect by Kane Gilmour

Resurrect is an action-adventure that follows hero Jason Quinn as he, along with Dr. Eva Rayjek, races to foil a madman's plot to topple the Catholic church and plunge the world into war.


In the 1850s, a madman proclaims himself the Son of God and raises an army, taking over half of China. A century and a half later, his descendent and legions of devoted followers plan to take over more than just China. 

When alpine engineer and mountaineer Jason Quinn, a man with a past mired in tragedy and violence, meets archeologist Dr. Eva Rayjek after a plane crash in the high Himalaya, neither of them are expecting wave after wave of Chinese assassins. Pursued to America, the frozen ice of the Gulf of Finland, and the heights of Hong Kong, Quinn and Eva connect her investigations with the machinations of charismatic shipping magnate and cathedral-builder, David Hong.

As a scheme to obtain a private audience with the Pope at the Vatican comes to fruition, Hong’s fanatical followers are preparing for global warfare. If Quinn fails to stop Hong’s plan, the entire Catholic Church just might crumble. 

My thoughts: 

Resurrect is teeming with action-adventure goodness: an intriguing historical mystery, a tough, resourceful hero, a dangerous villain, and a globe-hopping adventure filled with chases, escapes, and action to spare. Kane Gilmour has collaborated with and edited Jeremy Robinson and you can clearly see parallels in his solo work. The action is non-stop, and he even includes the Metal Storm weapons that are a favorite in the Chess Team books! The Clive Cussler influence is also evident (which I consider a very good thing.) The plot structure is much like that of a Dirk Pitt adventure, and Jason Quinn is reminiscent of Pitt, not only in his toughness and resilience, but in some of the little details as well.

Recommended if you enjoy authors like Cussler, Robinson, James Rollins, Andy McDermott, Sean Ellis, or David Golemon.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Primitive Audiobook Episode 4

It is a myth out of history, spawned by Native American lore and the stories of Spanish Explorers. But what if the legends are true? Former Navy SEAL turned treasure hunter Uriah "Bones" Bonebrake sets off on his first solo adventure in this action-packed novella.

When television host Joanna Slater hires bones to help investigate one of Florida's oldest and best-known legends, their crew gets more than they bargained for. Mystery and thrills abound in PRIMITIVE!

If you love Indiana Jones, National Treasure, or the works of Clive Cussler, Dan Brown, or James Rollins, give Primitive a try!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Stone of Fire by JF Penn

Stone of Fire is JF Penn's debut novel, with an engaging, Dan Brown/Indiana Jones/Lara Croft vibe.


A power kept secret for 2000 years. A woman who stands to lose everything.

India. When a nun is burned alive on the sacred ghats of Varanasi, and the stone she carried is stolen, an international hunt is triggered for the relics of the early church.

Forged in the fire and blood of martyrs, the Pentecost stones have been handed down through generations of Keepers who kept their power and locations secret.

Until now.

The Keepers are being murdered, the stones stolen by those who would use them for evil in a world transformed by religious fundamentalism.

Oxford University psychologist Morgan Sierra is forced into the search when her sister and niece are held hostage. She is helped by Jake Timber from the mysterious Arkane, a British government agency specializing in paranormal and religious experience. Morgan must risk her own life to save her family, but will she ultimately be betrayed?

From ancient Christian sites in Spain, Italy and Israel to the far reaches of Iran and Tunisia, Morgan and Jake must track down the stones through the myths of the early church in a race against time before a new Pentecost is summoned, this time powered by the fires of evil.

The first in the
ARKANE series, Stone of Fire is a fast-paced thriller that explores the edges of faith against a backdrop of early Christian history, archaeology and psychology.

My thoughts:

Stone of Fire is a fun action-adventure story in which the main character, Morgan Sierra, is on a quest to recover the Pentecost Stones- stones collected by the disciples from the empty tomb of Jesus Christ. Morgan is joined by members of the covert group ARKANE, and hounded by the sinister group Thanatos, in a race against the clock to recover the stones and save her hostage sister before Pentecost.

Stone of Fire is a light read, and very fast-paced, with shades of Dan Brown and James Rollins' influences evident. My favorite element is the concept of the Pentecost Stones. I love a good MacGuffin, particularly one that has a Biblical tie-in. The stones are purely of Penn's creation, yet entirely believable. Penn also includes jaunts to fascinating locations, another "must" for me in a good adventure story. I did find myself wishing for more, especially in the first half of the book. There were many places in which I wanted greater detail, deeper exploration, or a few more bumps in the road. In all, Stone of Fire is a thrill ride for adventure fans. I'll definitely give Penn's next book a try. 

The List by JA Konrath

The List was my first JA Konrath novel and remains my favorite. Action, humor, science, and history blend for an entertaining read. 

The Synopsis

A billionaire Senator with money to burn...
A thirty year old science experiment, about to be revealed...
Seven people, marked for death, not for what they know, but for what they are...

The List
by JA Konrath
History is about to repeat itself

My Thoughts

The Listis a riveting mystery-thriller with a sprinkled with a generous dose of humor. When police office Tom Mankowski investigates the scene of a grisly murder, he discovers that he and the victim have something unique in common. As he digs deeper into the mystery, he encounters deadly killers, a heretofore unexpected miracle of science, and history come to life.

It's difficult to say much more without spoiling the story. Suffice it to say, The List kept me up late for a few nights running. Konrath's humor comes through very naturally, and adds to the characterization without detracting from the story or diminishing the intensity of the deadly situation in which the characters find themselves.

The List contains a smattering of graphic language and violence, and some of the humor is far from politically-correct. Personally, I didn't take offense at the content- I choose to write "PG" books, but I don't mind reading books that are the equivalent of an "R"-rated movie. If you're looking for an exciting thriller told at a blistering pace, check out The List.

Six Things a Writer Can Learn from Snow White and the Huntsman

Let me start by saying I didn't hate Snow White and the Huntsman. It was exactly what I expect from most movies nowadays- a light, fun film with cool special effects, entertaining fight scenes, some funny lines, and a predictable story with some obvious flaws. The bar is clearly lower for movies than books, and I think writers can learn from some of Snow White's shortcomings. I should note that problems in a movie's story line are not always the fault of the writers. You never know what wound up on the cutting room floor that could have addressed these concerns. With that in mind, here we go.

Warning! Spoilers ahead!

1- If a character is going to make a stupid decision, give us a reason, even a lame one.

This movie could not have happened if the queen had just killed Snow White like she did the king and pretty much everyone else. A couple of potential excuses spring to mind here:

-"Royal blood is especially powerful but the magic won't work unless I wait until she comes of age to suck the beauty/life out of her..."

-"She reminds me of myself at that age and I can't bring myself to kill her."

(I think there's something to the latter one, but it's never spelled out clearly, it doesn't match with the queen's other actions, and we don't get a flashback to her "origin story" until late in the movie. By then, I've spent over an hour thinking how dumb the queen is.)

2- Time frames should make sense and events should fit together properly.

Snow White escapes into the forest and must reach the duke's castle which, we later discover, is about a two day trek. The bad guys try to catch her, fail (partly because their horses can't cross the swamp at the edge of the forest, come back with the huntsman, fail again, and head back into town. Meanwhile, word has somehow reached the duke that Snow White is alive. He passes this information along to his son who immediately takes off and manages to get to the town outside the evil queen's castle ahead of the bad guys (or at least in time to join them on their hunt- it's early on the same day).

Snow White and the huntsman journey all day and are boated across a lake to a village. A few hours later, the bad guys attack. This is weird, because Snow White, guided by the huntsman, took off as soon as the bad guys failed to capture her the second time. Yet the bad guys managed to: go back to town; get a couple new recruits; get their horses through the previously impenetrable swamp; track Snow White through the forest without the aid of the huntsman, whom they supposedly needed only hours before; either get their horses across the lake or ride all the way around it; and still arrive shortly after Snow White.

Snow White escapes and makes it to the duke's castle. She immediately rallies the troops who (riding horses burdened by barding and armored men) make it to the queen's castle in a few hours. It might be that the duke's castle is only a few hours ride around the outskirts of the forest from the queen's castle, but that leads us to another issue:

3- If a character has awesome powers, yet does not use them to their full or logical extent, we need to know why.

It's established very early in the movie that the queen can't be killed (at least, not by anyone not named Snow White). She can also make warriors made out of... I don't know... shards of mirrored glass, which our heroes can't manage to take down until Snow White kills the queen. She also has a regular army. Considering all this, why has she let the duke sit there in his castle only a few hours away and oppose her? Why not march over, let the mirror warriors do their thing, and wipe out all the men and ugly women (she needs the young, beautiful ones for her magic), knowing you can't be harmed?

Along those same lines, we have a scene late in the movie where the queen is straddling Snow White, knife raised, ready to cut out her heart, when the huntsman and the duke's son arrive. Does our invincible queen who can't be killed by anyone but Snow White spare a few moments to finish the job? No, she turns into a flock of ravens and flies away, leaving her only threat alive.

This leads us to...

4. Magic should make sense.

Can the queen be killed by a "regular guy" or not? At the end of this scene we see her back at her castle, clearly weakened. Shortly thereafter, she's all juiced up again, standing among bodies of young women. The implication is that she was vulnerable in her weakened state, and thus needed to flee the huntsman and duke's son. But wait a minute! That would mean Snow White isn't the only one who can kill her. Deny her a supply of beautiful young women and wait for her to weaken, then take her down. So... is Snow White the only one with the power to kill her or not? The average moviegoer probably didn't give this any thought, but I think the average reader would call you on it in a book.

Other magical issues-
-Why did the huntsman's kiss wake her up but not that of the duke's son? Is it because he shed a tear, or is it simply because he's Thor?

-Snow White can kill the queen because of her pure blood, so why don't we need a little bit of Snow White's blood on the blade before she stabs the Queen? Blood magic is pivotal in the movie and it would be easy to accomplish in the climactic scene. (Or did they do just that and I missed it?)

Speaking of the climactic scene...

5. Fight/Battle scenes should make sense.

I need to attack a well-defended castle. Do I make a plan of attack? Build siege engines? Nope. A cute girl makes a speech, we ride off in a frenzy, arrive at the castle, pull up short, and all together give a collective, "Hmmmm..."

I'm defending a castle and I've got plenty of boiling pitch to dump down onto the attackers. Do I do it while they are milling around waiting for the portcullis to be raised? No, I wait til it's open and the invaders are charging in, then I dump it onto a few of the stragglers.

I'm Snow White and I'm the only one who can kill the queen. Everyone else is a diversion. Do I disguise myself, join the dwarves, and sneak in through the sewers while my army draws the attention of the defenders? No, I plant myself right in the middle of the vanguard and right through fireballs, arrows, and pitch, knowing all the while the dwarves might not manage to even get the portcullis raised, thus leaving me outside where I can't get through to the queen. When I finally get inside, I fight my way right through the middle of the defenders to get to her.

And while we're discussing fighting, the sewer, the portcullis, and all that good stuff...

6. Details matter

The final battle calls attention to one of the strangest details of the queen's castle. We know from Snow White's initial escape through the sewers that the courtyard is a good forty or more feet above water level. Yet, when the attackers get through the portcullis, which is down on the beach, they immediately pour into the courtyard. It apparently exists simultaneously on two planes. Also, if your portcullis and courtyard are down at beach level, what happens when the tide comes in? This would have been an easy fix- just show the troops charging up a ramp to a portcullis that sits high above water level. End of problem.

Speaking of easy fixes, there's a scene in which a dwarf is shot and the duke's son returns fire. His arrow strikes the big bad guy high on the left shoulder at his collarbone. The wound is instantly fatal (he's no Boromir). How hard would it have been to have the arrow strike him in the heart? Meanwhile, the dwarf who has been skewered (and I mean in one side, through the heart, and out the other) lives long enough to speak words of encouragement and put one of those very Bella expressions on Snow White's face.

While we're on the subject of Snow White, how is it that she's been imprisoned for a decade and believed dead, but some random guard immediately recognizes her when she escapes? How does anyone know what she looks like now? And how is it that a girl who's been locked in a small cell for all these years has the strength and stamina to make a two-day journey through the forest, then strap on armor, grab a sword, and give as good as she gets in battle?

And why didn't the bad guys put bars across the sewer mouth after Snow White escaped through it? We know from the dwarves' trek through it that some sections of it were barred. Why not that one?

I could go on, but you get the picture. Overall, these issues probably did not bother the average moviegoer at all, and maybe I'm off-base with a few of them. That doesn't change the fact that they were all things that distracted me. A writer doesn't want to jolt her or his readers out of the narrative by making mistakes such as these. If the reader stops thinking about the story and starts thinking, "This doesn't make sense," then we haven't done our jobs well.

Good and Bad Writing Days

Back when I had a day job, my writing days were mostly the same: come home from work, attend to 'real life,' and once the kids were in bed, settle in and do a little writing. A good writing day meant that I got in 250-500 words. A bad writing day meant I struggled and usually failed to accomplish much of anything. Now that I write for a living, I've gained added perspective on what constitutes a good or bad writing day.

My good days look something like this:
-Get up early.
-Have a quick workout while my coffee is brewing.
-Turn on some upbeat music and start writing.
-Take a break every hour, spend a little time online, get back to work.
-Meet or exceed my daily minimum. Feel awesome!
-Work on something promo/marketing related.
-Enjoy the rest of my day. Get in bed early and enjoy some guilt-free reading time because I've met my daily word count and I feel good! I'm going to own the publishing world some day.

A bad writing day looks like this:
-Sleep in.
-Get online while I have my first cup of coffee. I don't have time to work out because I slept late, and I'm already off-schedule, so what's the big deal if I spend a little time on the web?
-Check email. Check Facebook, check Twitter, follow the interesting links, check Facebook again. Check my eamil again.
-Get another cup of coffee because my mind is now muddled and I can't seem to get focused on writing.
-Check my sales rankings while I'm having my second cup of coffee. Agonize over the lowest-ranking title while taking for granted the higher-ranking titles.
-Obsess over the poor quality of my work-in-progress while letting my mind drift to all the great ideas I could be putting to paper if I wasn't stuck in the middle of this mediocre project.
-Check Facebook again. Maybe there's someone out there who's having a worse day than me.
-Someone is having a worse day than me. Now I feel bad for sort-of wishing it on him or her.
-Remind myself I can always go back to teaching, which finally motivates me to get writing.
-Turn on YouTube and find something slow and meditative to listen to because I'm so stressed.
-Grind slowly through 250 words because I'm sluggish from no workout and the relaxing music.
-Obsess over all the errands I have to run, and remind myself I should already be done with them, but I slept late and didn't get started on my writing.
-Contemplate carving "FML" into my forehead.
-Go ahead and run my errands, vowing to write tonight, just like I used to.
-Sit in my chair with my laptop, watch reruns of The Office, visit all the sites I visited this morning while reminding myself that I really should have gotten up early and had a regular writing day today.
-Either give up and go to bed early, or stay up late, trying to make myself write.

I've heard many writers say the biggest decision regarding productivity is whether or not to get online. I agree that time spent online is, for me, the biggest time waster, but I've found the decision about what time to go to bed is the most critical to my writing success. I don't know if I'm a night owl by nature, or if I just got into that habit in seven years of doing my writing at night. What I have discovered, however, is that if I can make myself go to bed at a reasonable hour, I make better decisions the next day. If I wake up well-rested, I'm in a better frame of mind, and not inclined to procrastinate online or in any other way. My writing day is more productive, and I tend to enjoy the rest of my day without beating myself up over the writing I didn't do.

What's the biggest decision you make in a day?

Why I (and most other authors) Won't Read Your Book

No, I won't read your book. Does that sound harsh? I don't intend to come across that way but sometimes it's best to keep it simple. Occasionally someone asks me to read her or his manuscript and give feedback, and I have to decline. Most of my life I fantasized about writing for a living and part of that fantasy included all the awesome books I'd get to read in the form of authors who wanted my feedback or endorsement. Now that I'm fortunate enough to make writing my career, I can't do it. Here's why:

1. I already have a lot of reading to do and a limited amount of time in which to do it Like everyone else, I have favorite authors whose new books I want to read and that list is always growing. I also read non-fiction both for research and for pleasure. Finally, I periodically read manuscripts for some of my peers with whom I already have a working relationship and they do the same for me. My plate is full and my virtual "to be read" pile never seems to shrink. (Also, I mostly consume books in audio format, so there's that.) 
 2. Things can get awkward Those who read widely in the action-adventure genre have probably noticed a great deal of overlap between their favorite authors in terms of subject matter and settings. New authors don't always understand this. I have a massive list of story ideas, settings, and ancient mysteries I hope to use in future novels. If you're writing action-adventure, odds are there's something in your book that's on my list. I don't need someone accusing me of stealing ideas from a manuscript I was kind enough to read.  
3. Manuscript critique is a professional service and it takes time If you ask me to read an average-length book, that's going to take me about fifteen hours. (I read faster when reading purely for pleasure but reading and analyzing what does and doesn't work slows me down.) Then it's going to take time for me to reflect on and write up my critique. You're essentially asking me to give you two work days of professional services for nothing. If you don't think that's an issue, call an accountant and ask her to do your taxes in her spare time or call a teacher and ask him to give your child fifteen hours of free tutoring. I'm betting they'll decline.    
So what can you do? If you're a writer seeking feedback on your work, I encourage you to seek out online critique groups. I was a member of sff.onlinewritingworkshop. com and got a great deal out of it, but I know there are other excellent ones out there. You can also look for opportunities to cultivate relationships with other writers, either in local writers' groups or online groups and forums. You can also hire professionals who are experts at manuscript critique (just make sure to vet them thoroughly before you hire them). I hope some of this post has been helpful. Now get back to writing! David         Save

What Gordon Ramsay Can Teach Us about Writing

A while back I stumbled across Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares. Though I'm not particularly interested in the culinary arts, I was immediately hooked. I'll admit to getting a kick out of his rants, over-the-top reactions, and the juxtaposition between his clean-cut image and his foul mouth. That's what started me watching; what kept me watching was something entirely different.
I soon came to recognize patterns in the show, in which Chef Ramsay visits a struggling restaurant in each episode and tries to help them turn things around. The failings Ramsay identified, and the solutions he proposed, were quite consistent from episode-to-episode. In looking at these patterns I realized writers can glean valuable lessons from Gordon Ramsey.
Always use fresh ingredients:
It seems like every struggling restaurant Ramsay visits is either serving reheated leftovers or using ingredients that have lain around in the cooler much longer than necessary. It might not be obvious at first glance, but it's evident at the first bite.
Likewise, our writing should always be fresh. In action-adventure, it can be tough to come up with settings and MacGuffins that haven't been done before, but I try to come up with new places, stories, or historical mysteries to incorporate in my stories whenever possible. This doesn't necessarily mean we have to come up with something that's never been done before. It might be that we simply put a new twist on an old story. I do this any time I include Biblical figures or artifacts, for example, in my novels. This sometimes offends people, but at least there's a surprise in store.
One of the hallmarks of the Ramsey rescue program is simplifying the menu. Invariably, the struggling restaurants are trying to do too much. Offering a huge menu is detrimental in a variety of ways I won't outline here.
What are the parallels for a writer? It could be many things: too many point-of-view characters (or too many characters, period); too many plot threads or subplots; too many unnecessary or redundant scenes; too much description; or simply, too many words. Obviously, you can point to plenty of examples of skilled authors who can handle all of the above, but without judicious pruning, the typical author will produce a flabby, self-indulgent book.
Appearance matters:
Ramsay always gives the restaurant in question a facelift, typically: new tables and chairs, new decorations, fresh paint, and a motif that captures the restaurant's theme, history, or offerings.
The most obvious way this applies to authors, particularly those publishing independently, is book cover design. A book's cover should be pleasing to the eye and, at a glance, tell the reader what sort of book this is (adventure, fantasy, paranormal, science fiction, thriller...) The biggest mistake I see authors make is the idea that the book's cover should "represent the contents of the book." Often, this results in a cover that's little more than a disjointed collage of seemingly disparate elements (and sometimes these elements are mini-spoilers). I try to choose a single, iconic image that ties in to my book. For example, the cover of Buccaneer is a pirate ship. Pirates make up only a small part of the story, but it's a clean, striking cover. Would I truly have been better off with a mish-mash of [spoiler warning] Oak Island, pirate symbology, a Templar cross, dragons, Excalibur, the Holy Lance, and the Holy Grail? Not only would such a cover be a mess, it would ruin several surprises in the story.
Another missed opportunity is series branding. If you have several books in a series, they should be tied together by some design elements. In my case, each cover has a single, central image; my name at the bottom, in white, all in the same typeface, and the title at the top center in large letters, with the subtitle directly beneath the title and set slightly to the left. Also, inn the main "Dane Maddock Adventures" series, all the books have a one-word title. Thus, when a reader browses a site like Amazon, it's immediately evident that the book is part of a series and that there are more books available.
Recapture your enthusiasm:
In just about every case, most of the restaurant staff is going through the motions. Ramsay can come across as a jerk, no question about it, but he reminds me of some of my favorite football coaches. He berates you when you screw up, teaches you how to do it right, and praises you when you do well. Where he truly shines is the one-on-one talks he has with discouraged employees, particularly chefs. He helps people recapture their passion for cooking and reminds them of why they started cooking in the first place.
This is critical for a writer. Don't misunderstand me- writing is work, and you're not likely to be successful if you sit around waiting for a visit from your muse before you begin writing. That said, it's essential to hold on to your love of the written word. Where's your passion? What are your favorite genres and types of stories? Who are your favorite authors and what is it about their writing that fires your imagination? What new challenges excite you and stir your creative pot? Why did you want to be a writer in the first place? Every writer has bad days and gets discouraged, but if you don't love writing, don't do it.
I hope this reflection helps. Happy writing!

Review- The Lost Island by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

The Lost Island is book 3 in the Gideon Crew series. While I enjoyed the previous installments of this The Lost Island might not be up there with my favorite Pendergast books, but it's by far my favorite of this series.
series, they fell short of the duo's Pendergast series.

Here's the synopsis:

Gideon Crew--brilliant scientist, master thief--is living on borrowed time. When his mysterious employer, Eli Glinn, gives him an eyebrow-raising mission, he has no reason to refuse. Gideon's task: steal a page from the priceless Book of Kells, now on display in New York City and protected by unbreakable security.

Accomplishing the impossible, Gideon steals the parchment--only to learn that hidden beneath the gorgeously illuminated image is a treasure map dating back to the time of the ancient Greeks. As they ponder the strange map, they realize that the treasure it leads to is no ordinary fortune. It is something far more precious: an amazing discovery that could perhaps even save Gideon's life.

Together with his new partner, Amy, Gideon follows a trail of cryptic clues to an unknown island in a remote corner of the Caribbean Sea. There, off the hostile and desolate Mosquito Coast, the pair realize the extraordinary treasure they are hunting conceals an even greater shock-a revelation so profound that it may benefit the entire human race . . . if Gideon and Amy can survive.

My thoughts:

The Lost Island is a true adventure story, with a treasure hunt, elements of history and mythology, mysterious creatures, mystery, and action. It has the feel of classic adventure stories, but with modern pacing. All in all, great fun! Highly recommended for adventure lovers!

Primitive Audiobook Episode 3

Some legends are true.

It is a myth out of history, spawned by Native American lore and the stories of Spanish Explorers. But what if the legends are true? Former Navy SEAL turned treasure hunter Uriah "Bones" Bonebrake sets off on his first solo adventure in this action-packed novella.

When television host Joanna Slater hires bones to help investigate one of Florida's oldest and best-known legends, their crew gets more than they bargained for. Mystery and thrills abound in PRIMITIVE!

If you love Indiana Jones, National Treasure, or the works of Clive Cussler, Dan Brown, or James Rollins, give Primitive a try!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Primitive Audiobook Episode 2

Free audiobook!

Some legends are true.

It is a myth out of history, spawned by Native American lore and the stories of Spanish Explorers. But what if the legends are true? Former Navy SEAL turned treasure hunter Uriah "Bones" Bonebrake sets off on his first solo adventure in this action-packed novella.

When television host Joanna Slater hires bones to help investigate one of Florida's oldest and best-known legends, their crew gets more than they bargained for. Mystery and thrills abound in PRIMITIVE!

If you love Indiana Jones, National Treasure, or the works of Clive Cussler, Dan Brown, or James Rollins, give Primitive a try!

Primitive Audiobook Episode 1

Free Audiobook! Narrated by Jeffrey Kafer, Primitive is the first book in the Bones Bonebrake Adventures series.

Some legends are true.
It is a myth out of history, spawned by Native American lore and the stories of Spanish Explorers. But what if the legends are true? Former Navy SEAL turned treasure hunter Uriah "Bones" Bonebrake sets off on his first solo adventure in this action-packed novella.

When television host Joanna Slater hires bones to help investigate one of Florida's oldest and best-known legends, their crew gets more than they bargained for. Mystery and thrills abound in PRIMITIVE!