Tag Archives: Book Writing

Hamlet and Yoda Got it Right

The word aspiring is a load of crap. 

Ok, sure. The word holds the feelings of hope, determination, and perseverance, which is awesome. It is a great word. But in the context of which I’m talking about, it’s a waste of time.

For years I lived under the title of “Aspiring Writer”. I dreamt of the day when I would be able to tell people, “why yes! I am a writer!” I would then smile proudly, full of mirth and merriment. Yes, for years I looked forward to that day when I would able to shed “Aspiring” from my professional title. And then, one day, I realized something which became quite profound in my writer-y path.

I’m a writer. I write. Whether I’m published or not, whether I make a bazillion dollars or not, whether I rise to the lofty levels of the greatest literary minds or not, I sit down and make stuff up in story form. So, I don’t buy into the whole aspiring adjective thing. I have three stories published to date, and a Young Adult Mini-Series in the works, hoping to be finished sometime in the future (details to follow sometime).

So, if you’re like me, and like to make stuff up (or non-make stuff up), don’t aspire. You are “to be” and “not to be”. And please “do”, as their is no try.

Cheers.

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He Who Laughs Last by Dave Sokolowski

He Who Laughs Last

HWLLI’ve known about Kickstarter for a while now: a website created to promote independent projects such as film, books, software, and games. With the rise of websites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe, the word “crowdfunding” was created. The premise of Crowdfunding is to get a group of people to pledge money to a project they would like to see completed. Each project has a certain amount of days to be funded and. if that time it does not get fully funded, then those people that pledged money get it all back and the project goes back to the drawing board. It’s a pretty cool premise and one that I fully support.

That being said, I would like to talk about one project in particular. Dave Sokolowski’s “He Who Laughs Last” is a role-playing game supplement set in H.P. Lovecraft’s world of horror and madness, also referred to as, “Call of Cthulhu”. The idea behind Call Of Cthulhu is that a group of people get together, each role-playing an “investigator” and act out their role through a constructed story line. Think of it as an improv troupe on an old radio drama. One other person in the group is the storyteller, a combination writer/director, who guides the group through the story. It’s alot of fun spending an evening solving riddles and uncovering terrible secrets, all the while trying to not go insane.

So much fun.

“He Who Laughs Last” is published under Dave’s Weird 8, the first of his self-published projects. His story has received high praise from within the role-playing world. He currently has two videos on the project’s Kickstarter page, both of which paint a great picture of Dave’s personal history in the genre along with an overview of He Who Laughs Last.

I highly recommend supporting this project and pledging any amount would be fantastic. I would love to see Dave’s first project be a successful one.

Cheers.

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Finding the balance

At times I feel like Bruce Banner in the Avengers. Especially during the part right before the mild-mannered scientist turns into the Hulk and punches the Massive Flying Metal Dinosaur Robot-thing in the face, he says, “I’m always angry”.

Sometimes I can relate.

Not that I’m going to turn into a monstrous green indestructible guy and rampage the city, but there are times I get frustrated and want to do nothing but yell and say potty words (for the PG audience). In order to work through it, I vent my frustration through music. I have a love of Nine Inch Nails and other “angry” music. On that “artist” side of me, I let myself get lost in the dark, primitive nature of my mind. It’s amazing what the imagination can conjure when in the right (or wrong) frame of mind. I try to channel most of it through me writing a very creepy adult novel and letting the frustration go. I suppose I could exercise and physically drain myself but…y’know, whatever.

But I embrace the balance.

Just as much as I love the angry stuff, I love happy pop bands and traditional world musicians. I will sing along or, just like when I’m frustrated, I fall into the music. There is a certain freedom which comes by opening yourself up and truly taking it all in. I really enjoy listening to “old world” musicians such as Loreena McKennitt and Dead Can Dance and, I have to admit it, Enya’s self-titled first album. While it’s modern and electronic, it has an old Celtic feel to it and it’s great when I’m writing.

So, in finding a balance to my senses of light and dark, I’ve come to enjoy listening to film scores, especially those from the Harry Potter and Sherlock Holmes films. Part three of my book takes place in an alternate Victorian London and they all fit perfectly. I can use them for the fun moments with Jac and the other spookier parts with the antagonist and his shadows and machines. Great stuff, but I might be biased.

So, there you go. Not sure if it’s the best way to deal with the black and white that makes up my mind and imagination, but it works for me. I’m sure there are those that say I shouldn’t feed the anger, and I really don’t. I just focus it towards something productive with my art. I have to say, I couldn’t imagine living that way all the time. You need to let it go before it swallows you whole.

Find your balance.

Cheers.

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My Wishes Three

Taking part of Emma Newman’s Three Wishes, I have put together a list of, well…three wishes in order of what I feel is from easiest to hardest. While the actual act of granting wishes shouldn’t be based on a difficulty scale, I’ve

Beware of troll

Beware of troll (Photo credit: mamamusings)

become a bit pragmatic in the last year. Plus, the higher up the difficulty of wish granting completion there is, the cooler that person (or persons) will be. So, without further rambling, I present my three wishes:

Wish #1: I would love to have illustrators willing to work with me on completing my novels. I would be willing to work either on a royalty basis or for a (small) nominal fee or even for free.

Wish #2: Twenty years ago I had the chance to talk with Neil Gaiman but, being immature at half my age and completely gob smacked, I missed that chance. Now I would be ecstatic at the opportunity to do it again. I have a lot to say and ask and will do my best to not pass out. No guarantees.

Wish #3: Earlier this year my wife was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease which is uncureable. While this would be quite the wish to fulfill, needless to say, the granter would indeed be on the highest level of cool.

Well that’s all. Three simple wishes. If anyone feels so inclined to grant or assist with said wishes, I would be incredibly grateful.

Don’t forget about the coolness.

“These three wishes are part of a wish-making community organised by author Emma Newman to celebrate the release of the second Split Worlds novel “Any Other Name”. Can you make any of them come true? Come and see what other people are wishing for and find out how to join in at http://www.splitworlds.com/split-worlds-extra/three-wishes – who knows, perhaps someone could make one of your wishes come true.”

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IndieReCon

Indierecon-logo4

Now, let me first start by saying I love where I live. It’s a small town of 2,200 and we’re the largest of 5 towns around a “major” city of about 14,000 people. Yes, it’s small. We’re about an hour’s drive from somewhere else and about 2 1/2 hours away from an actual city. The kind of city which has really good food–not just “good enough”–and toilets that flush themselves. Since civilization is so far away, it’s not often that one gets a chance to enjoy such things, let alone special events such as concerts, the choice to see a movie other than the 3 offered in town, and what I’ve affectionately dubbed “Word Nerd Herding”. Other people refer to this as Literary Events or Conventions or Seminars or other such gathering-type noun.

I used to live outside of Portland, Oregon, and there is a great annual literary “festival” (add that to the list) called Wordstock. I’m sure there are dozens of them across the country and hundreds abroad. Unfortunately, living where I do, it make’s it a bit challenging to make a six-hour drive one way to attend a seven or eight-hour festival and then drive back. And even if I stayed over-night, It’s still a lot of expensive driving back and forth.

So…what to do?

A short while back I met a fellow novelist, S.R. Johannes, and from her site I learned about IndieReCon. IndieReCon states they are “the premiere online writer’s conference for the independently minded”. After looking through the site and what was being offered, the conclusion I came to was…cool.

The conference (missed that noun too) is run by and focused towards the self-published “Indie” writers, which many authors nowadays have become. Now, one of things that has drawn me to this conference is the location and admission fees:

Online and free.

That’s a nice combination.

I’m signed up for next year’s gathering scheduled the weekend of 2.19.13-2.21.13. I think it’ll be interesting to see how the virtual conference goes. I hope to make some new acquaintances  and attend some panels with people scattered across the planet. That sounds pretty cool.

Check it out.

I’ll…see?…you there.

Cheers.

-SJn

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Hunting High & Low For People I Don’t Know

Circles

Circles (Photo credit: Fillmore Photography)

Before we begin, I must preface this piece with these words: I tend to draw out the negatives of something before looking at the positives. I find this a bad thing. Nothing like confirming your own fears. Now, that aside, let us proceed.

Calling all writers & readers & in-betweeners:

I’ve been told by a few people that one of the best ways to progress with my novel is to find others in the process of writing their novels. Equal parts therapy group and motivation group, being a part of these groups can help develop one’s story while, at the same time, assist in maintaining one’s sanity. I’ve heard of these writers getting together once and month or so, to share their writings and receive helpful critiques from one another. It seems to be a, “takes a crazy one to know and work with one.”

So, in this arena, I have two possible issues with this notion. The first issue is I currently reside in a major metropolis of 2,200 people and the closest area is even larger with a populace of approximately 13,000. While the possibility of finding a group is small, there is possibility nonetheless. So this issue isn’t really more of an issue as it might be a scavenger hunt of fellow writers working in the YA and/or adventure genres. Again, not impossible, just, y’know.

The second issue—and this is a bit embarrassing to me—is that I know next to no one who is also working on a novel in this genre. And I do think it’s important to find someone(s) in the same ballpark so they can understand/appreciate what I’m trying to achieve. While I could work with someone writing a deep literary piece about two souls trapped alone together (yep, all chock full of metaphors), the other writer and I may not be on the same creative page and therefore might be able to give the best critiques. If your mindset is about a young socially awkward tomboy thrust into a struggle between the waning light and encroaching darkness. But there’s also clockwork soldiers and anthropology and snow globes and a touch of magic thrown in for good measure. I love it. Again, maybe this isn’t an issue either as it is more of a(n) (ir)rational of mine. I’m sure it’s the second option.

See? Not that I can find people and it may take a bit of searching, it’s I hope I can do it. Guh. Don’t tell my wife. It drives her nuts. Me too.

I just chatted with a one Susan Kaye Quinn (a great person and writer) and she directed me to her site where she has a bunch of people listed who could possibly start up or bring me into their writer’s circle to begin the process. Of course she also suggested I “FINISH THE NOVEL” and then go from there. Geez. Get all rational and stuff.

That may take some time, but it never hurts to start looking for people. Finishing my novel would help too.

Off I go.

Cheers.

Ps. See? That last part was pretty positive. Or maybe not. I think I have issues with my positivity. Damn.

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Interview: What I Did With My Summer (and Spring) Vacations – OR – Where Has The Time Gone?

Interview

Interview (Photo credit: smiling_da_vinci)

Me: Well, hello there. It’s been a long time. How are you?

You: [pleasant and appropriate response. Pleasant return question.]

Me: I’m fine. A little tired right now (without proper caffeine, 4-ish hours of sleep tends to make one a touch tired), but otherwise I’m hanging in there.

You: [agreeing response. Friendly inquiry as to my goings on these past four-five months.]

Me: What have I been up to? Well, let’s see: my wife brought into our world a brand-spanking new beautiful baby girl. She showed up a bit earlier than we had planned and so we spent some extra time to make sure she was ready to come home. And since she’s been home, I’ve found it near impossible to stop chewing on her toes and to keep from staring into her steel blue eyes all day. Her laugh is deep and her smile is pure joy.

She’s magic.

You: [amazed response with heartfelt congratulations. Comment along the lines of, “sounds like you’ve been busy”.]

Me: Indeed. On top of that, we decided to move during this summer as well. Granted, the move was in-town (a whopping 0.4 miles between homes), but doing the majority of it with an infant did provide its fair share of challenges. Fortunately, we have some awesome friends that helped with the big pieces and together we got all moved in and (most) boxes unpacked.

You: [general inquiry as to the progression of writing or other projects.]

Me:  With the arrival of the little one, I did put Jac And The City of 1,000 Worlds on hold while we adjusted to a new life and a new routine and new sleeping schedules. I’ve spent the last month reacquainting myself with Jac and her accidental adventure. I was really excited to find out that I really like the story. While that may sound a bit odd for a writer to say that, I spent many years looking at stories I had completed and hating them or spending my time thinking about how I could have made them better.

You: [off-handed comment regarding degrading one’s own work.]

Me: A bit ridiculous, isn’t it? I spent a long time languishing in the classic and self-induced Struggling Artist where nothing is good enough and all attempts end up in gnashing of teeth, tearing up my work, and casting them into the flames of my own creative misery.

Not exactly the most productive way to spend one’s time.

You: [absolute agreement.]

Me: So, now I look back at my previous (and current) works with joy and pride. Even in my younger years, the stories I wrote, are great ones. While the tools and language of my trade were not yet fully developed, it’s great to see and recognize that I have come a long way from my hormone and angst-filled days of high school. Thankfully.

You: [genuine gladness with the new ideology.]

Me: Me too.

You: [general inquiry into anything else I want to discuss.]

Me: I want to say thank you to everyone who has and continues to support me. My friends, my awesome beta-reader (relax! the book ain’t writing itself you know!), and my extended and immediate family. I have three wonderful children and I count my blessings every time I think of them. But, most important of all, is my wife. By far the most impatiently patient woman I have ever known, he

r love and support and encouragement drive me to become a better writer, father, and husband. While I may spend a lot of my time with my head in the clouds, she’s there to make sure I don’t drift off into space.

Thank you, honey. I love you so much.

You: [happiness with my sentiments.]

Me: I think we’ll need to wrap things up here on my end. I have a sleeping baby and that’s precious time to write and to do the laundry.

Take care.

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Coulda Shoulda Woulda: Rethinking the Rewrite During the Write

Mobile phone

Mobile phone (Photo credit: Matthew Burpee)

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.” – Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

I was right in the middle of working on my book when a notion popped into my head:

Wait a minute. Maybe if I move critical point #1 to physical location #3, then I could do away with physical location #2 which, while it could be great, may not be neccessary, so I could just pull the last 80 pages of the book and resctructure the book entirely. Granted that would kill months of work and possibly the outcome of the orignial intent of the book but would that help?

Back in the day, I would drive myself nuts trying to perfect each senctence I just wrote and then trying to perfect the sentence I was about to write. I convinced myself perfecting the prose would bypass the need for a rough-draft rewrite. Even though I embraced my love of perfectionism, I would talk to wife and complain that I had spent hours to only end up completing one paragraph on my book. After a while of me whining and complaining to my wife again, she would cut me off with, “just finish the damn book already! Quit worrying about every little detail and just write! Don’t even stop for typos. As a matter of fact, turn off the grammar and spell checker and just write. Get it all out and worry about all the commas and crap later.”

One of the main things that I love/hate about my wife is that she’s (always) right. It kind of drives me nuts some/all of the time, but in this particular situation I listened to her and have done my best to embrace completing what she, like Anne Lamott calls, the Shitty First Draft.

I’ve second quessed myself for most of my writing career with few exceptions, namely the projects that I’ve actually finished. Crazy that: I’ll finish a short story or a blog post. Then I’ll go back and read through it to make sure it’s, well…good. But one of the best parts of writing something is getting to the end and then spending a moment looking back at it and thinking, “holy crap. I just wrote [insert project]. Awesome.”

Earlier, I caught myself thinking about my Coulda Woulda Shoulda and stopped. I thought back to what my wife said. Here I actually considered tossing a huge chunk of my book and then spending a good chunk of my time rewriting another part of it. And the crazy thing is that it might have worked but on the other hand it might NOT have worked. I sure wouldn’t know if either direction would be best because I would still be clinging onto my perfectionism and not doing the one thing that I should have tatooed on my forehead:

Finish it.

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miTunes: the voices in my head can harmonize

Treble clef with transposition

Treble clef with transposition (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love music.

While it may sound a little cheesey to say music feeds the soul, I find music can help recharge my internal battery or calm my emotional storm. And not only do I love music on a deeply personal level, I find discovering a film score or collection of songs can take me and my writing to a whole other level.

All the way back to high school, I recall putting together “soundtracks”. While others simply refered to them as mixed tapes, I always seemed to wrap a theme around the songs. At first the tapes started out as “fast songs” and “slow songs” and, as an old friend simply called his tape, “good stuff” (for fear of getting in trouble with his parents, he refrained from originally wanting to name his mix “great shit”).

A few years after high school, I began working on my comic series, Chance and I stumbled across a couple of songs that fit the theme of my series perfectly. Next thing I knew, I was digging through my collection of music, looking for the perfect songs to put together. My search soon spilled over into other’s music and, a few weeks later, I had completed my very first soundtrack.

Across the past 20 years I have assembled a soundtrack for every story I’ve written. From Nine Inch Nails and Sisters of Mercy to Enya and John Williams, each soundtrack has helped me find my voice and draw inspiration from. A good portion of my book, Jac And The City Of 1,000 Worlds, takes place in the fantastical and otherworldly city of Meridian. Looking through my collection, I found myself listening to a collection of Enigma, Loreena McKennitt, and Dead Can Dance, along with the score to Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone. Now that the story has moved to a setting in late 1800’s London, my musical choices are shifting more towards the latter Harry Potter films (darker, heavier) the steampunk group Abney Park and the ghost-trance Burial.

Music means a lot to me on many different levels. Not only can can music convey love and despair, but it can also invoke  the world in my mind and the cast of characters residing inside.

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Promotional Herding

Yes, I still have a ways to go before I complete my novel and really shouldn’t worry about the Big Promotional Machine, but marketing and promoting thoughts still permeate the tangle of noodles that I try to pass off as my brain. I find the post-writing world just as fascinating as the writing world itself. I’ve been reading a wide variety of a blogs and keeping up with independent publishing websites. While working on this blog post, I remembered a concept which I think would be a great help in the realm of marketing and promoting your literary work.

I am a semi-retired comic book nerd. While I no longer participate in the reading of current comics, I have a tight and dedicated library of comics, both dramatic and comedic. But, back in the heyday of the late 90s, I was firmly entrenched of the Wednesday release date of the weekly comic book. And during the summer of 1997, I came across a promotional comic that tied-in with three independent comic book creators during convention season.

The Trilogy Tour.

I’ve found links from one of the creators of the Trilogy Tour, Jeff Smith. He and two other creators, Charles Vess and Linda Medley, pooled their resources and went on the road together to promote their books. They were like three one-act bands going on tour.

Pretty awesome if you ask me.

And not only were they one-acts, but they also backed each other up. Three soloists have an enhanced and different sound when they work together as duets or trios. And that’s pretty cool.

As they’re able to pool their money, they could make promotional items such as a comic that included one original story from each of them. Not only was this a great way to get their work out to the public, there was a demand from fans of their work who wanted to add to their collection. And yes, I was (still sort of in a semi-retired way) one of those fans. And they did this for two years. Not only was the first one successful, but the following year they added three more artists, turning the tour into a collaborative road show of different talents. What a great idea.

I immediately began thinking of doing that with writers. If given the chance, I would love to work alongside other writers and, while being our own solo act, promote our works as a collective, helping each other out. And maybe even put together a short book of original stories, one from each of us. Not only would our work get out into more hands, but the price of manufacturing and such would go down as would all share the burden of costs.

While I’m not near the point of promoting works, especially in person, I think it’s a great concept and one I felt like sharing. Perhaps in the next summer or two, I’d love to go on the road with other writers (including comic creators) to show the world, and one another, our passion for The Word.

Cheers.

-SJn

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