Basketball and Science Fiction

So, in between my mad rushes to finish the dozen or so books I’m currently in the middle of writing, I’ve decided to include some extra-curricular writing to the mix. Starting pretty soon I’ll be contributing to the science fiction website Save Sci Fi as an official contributor. I’m not sure when my first article will go up, but I’ll put a notice up here once it does.

In addition to that, I’ve already started adding some volunteer contributions to Mavs Moneyball, a basketball news site focused on the Dallas Mavericks. I’ve applied to be a contributor there as well, but I haven’t heard back on whether or not they accepted me.  Hopefully that happens soon, and I can add sports reporter to my resume.

I did write an article for the Moneyball site a couple weeks back, though, just to show off my writing chops. I’ll link that below, along with the next batch of articles I plan on writing, all so you guys can go check them out and add some comments, just to show that I do have at least a couple fans out there. 🙂

Durant’s Diminished Legacy

Author Interviews

Every once in a while I’ll do a book promotion through promo website, and included in that promotion is an author interview. I think I’ve done about a dozen or so of these by now, and they all tend to follow the same pattern. They’re a little bit impersonal and canned, with pre-listed questions that rarely get into any detail about your book. They’re more designed to ask general (and sometimes vague) questions about you, the author. Mostly fluff. Very little substance.

That being said, this one wasn’t terrible. Over 200 questions to pick from, and even though a number of them were the same question asked in different ways, some were pretty insightful, and new (to me at least). So I didn’t mind answering these questions, and the answers gave me a chance to impart some useful information.

The interview was for a promo with seriousreading.com, which you may have seen on Facebook. Normally, I don’t suggest spending a lot of money on book promo sites because the return is rarely worth the investment.

(One of these days I’d love to do some research on how well these sites actually work out for anyone but that requires a little more work than I want to do right now.)

But this one isn’t too expensive for what they offer ($49 I think???) so I’m going to give it a shot for Olympia. I’ll let you guys know if it works out. Of course, if it REALLY works out, you’ll see Olympia all over the amazon sales charts.

🙂

In the meantime, I’m posting my interview with the site here in the hopes that you learn something interesting about either me or my writing. Or, maybe this is just a ploy to not have to do any serious thinking for this week’s blog post, which is already a little bit late.

Enjoy!

1. Do all authors have to be grammar Nazis?

No, but it helps. I happen to be one, but even with my normally rigid expectations for other people’s writing, I sometimes let a few things go in my own. Writing a novel is a big, complicated, sometimes overwhelming job, and it’s rare that a single author can get his or her work through the gauntlet without letting something slip by.

But all that being said, I’ll spend all day yelling at people on the internet.

2. How important is research to you when writing a book?

It’s very important, and I enjoy it immensely. I actually got into writing through my love of history, which of course spawned thousands of dramatic stories of my own.

3. What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?

Computer. I do a lot of writing on notebooks, and I like to switch things up, but the vast majority of my writing is done on my laptop. You can’t beat copy/paste and undo/redo.

4. What inspires you to write?

Pretty much everything.

5. How often do you write?

Every day, usually. The amount of time I spend writing changes but I’m a creature of habit, and I believe consistency is key in being a good writer.

6. Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?

I used to, but that’s gone out the window. It’s dangerous to wait for inspiration to start writing, because you could end up staring at a wall for two months, so I try to stay consistent in my writing schedule. But the quantity of my writing varies a bit from day to day. I still try to keep up with word counts but that’s only when I’m doing first drafts. After that, I rewrite as needed until it’s ready.

7. Writers are often associated with loner tendencies; is there any truth to that?

There is for me, but I don’t think that applies to all writers. I know several who are extremely sociable. I would say that I know more extrovert writers than I do introvert, but that feels like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Introverts are at home, not meeting people.

8. Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?

I’m definitely a plotter, but I’ve been known to experiment with writing on the fly, usually with short stories. But at least one of those short stories turned into a full-blown novel (Sanctuary, in case you’re wondering), so there’s definitely value to it.

9. What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?

Coming up with language that paints a picture in people’s minds. I’m good at laying out the groundwork for a story, or writing dialogue, but flowery descriptions that build an image that springs forth from the recesses of my readers’ minds is hard to do.

10. Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long do they usually last?

I think a more appropriate term for Writer’s Block is “laziness” or “lack of motivation”. You cure writer’s block by writing. That’s it.

11. Have you ever left any of your books stew for months on end or even a year?

Yep. Olympia and Sanctuary are both books that stymied me for a long time. I had issues with the plot and no matter which way I went, or what I tried, I never felt comfortable, to the point that I had to walk away from both books and work on other things for a while.

12. Do you believe a book cover plays an important role in the selling process?

Yes, and that can’t be undersold. Visual media plays a huge role in allowing us to connect with characters. When you can see someone on TV or in artwork you immediately start to associate certain emotions or ideas with that image, and that builds up your attachment to them. So a good cover helps you do that. Just make sure it’s not a cheap, stock art cover. That does you no favors. If you’re going to splurge on something, then either do it on the cover, or editing, or both.

13. How would you feel if no one showed up at your book signing?

It would feel like any other Tuesday.

14. Do you read and reply to the reviews and comments of your readers?

No. I have once or twice, but that’s a bad practice, I think. You don’t want to get argumentative with your own readers, whether they like you or not. Even bad reviews are from people who took the time to read your book.

15. Any advice you would like to give to your younger self?

Yes. Start writing about fifteen years earlier.

16. Do you recall the first ever book/novel you read?

Shogun by James Clavell. I remember it sitting on my dad’s shelf when I was young, the stark white cover with red lettering, and I always wondered what it could be about. I imagined a hundred different things, none of them even close to the actual story. When I was 12 I decided I couldn’t wait any longer so I reached up and grabbed it and started plowing through that beast of a book. It was eye-opening to say the least, and Clavell ended up as one of my favorite authors for some time. To this day, I still think King Rat is an awesome story that needs to be made into a movie.

17. Do you read any of your own work?

Not like I do other books. I don’t read my own work for the same reason I don’t typically re-read other books. If I already know where the story is going, then I’m not as interested in it.

18. Who is the most supportive of your writing in your family?

My mom. She was an early champion of my writing, reading everything I put out. She still does, to this day, and tells people all about it.

19. Does your day job ever get in the way of your writing?

Every single day.

20. Another misconception is that all writers are independently wealthy, how true is that?

That is a horrendously false lie.

21. Is it true that authors write word-perfect first drafts?

Ummmmmm, that would be a horrendously outrageous lie.

22. They say books die every time they are turned into a movie; what do you think?

I don’t believe that at all. If you look at sales numbers, it’s pretty obvious that book sales go up when a movie comes out. People are always interested in the original story, and that goes triple (or more) when the movie is good.

Writer’s Herpes (formerly the Blah Blah Blah Trick to Writing a Blockbuster Novel)

(Blah blah blah.)

I started this blog a few weeks back with good intentions and a promise that I would write something (almost) every week. I made that promise because it’s extremely important for people in this line of work to show some consistency and motivation and a desire to be good at this by working on it EVERY DAY. I may not blog every day, but that’s exactly how often I need to write to make sure I’m adding to my overall word count, making progress on my half-dozen or so in-progress books, and allowing myself to constantly learn and grow as a writer. It’s like any job. If you want to be good at it, you have to do it a lot.

(Blah blah blah blah blah.)

That’s why I write every day and I blog every week. Unfortunately for most authors, there are some days – and weeks – where you got nothing. Absolutely nothing. Twiddling your fingers, browsing on the internet, staring at a blank page (HEY!) nothing. And even worse, this happens A LOT. Sometimes it’s writer’s block. Sometimes it’s laziness. Sometimes it’s procrastination. Whatever you call it, it’s keeping you from being productive.

(Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.)

And even worse, when you accept this lack of writing, it turns into a disease that you just can’t shake. Like herpes. In fact, let’s call this Writer’s Herpes, just to make it sound appropriately ominous (NOTE: this is NOT the ‘sticking your quill in some dodgy ink’ kind of herpes*). One day of slacking off turns into DAYS of slacking off. You start to find any excuse you can for not writing, usually under the pretense that you don’t have the inspiration today to write fantastic prose, ignoring the fact that most writers spend 364ish days a year unable to write fantastic prose (hello, good editing!).

(Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.)

So what do you do when Writer’s Herpse threatens to strike?

Well, that’s when you use the Blah Blah Blah trick.

(Okay, enough blahs)

Step 1 – sit down in your writing area and take hold of your writing utensils.
Step 2 – write.
Step 3 – if you’re sitting in your writing area, wracking your brain for some insightful prose to ingrain into the human lexicon for all of history, and nothing’s coming…

DON’T GIVE UP!

No, you go to:
Step 4 – suck it up and write some words down on that paper/blank screen/papyrus/sheepskin. Even if those words are crap. Even if it’s a meaningless, stream-of-conscious jumble of gibberish (look for this in an upcoming post). Even if it’s just…

wait for it…

Blah blah blah.

The very act of typing, no matter what you type, sometimes starts your brain juices flowing, and gets you thinking about some aspect of the story you’re trying to write. And even better, writing down a procession of crap is INFINITELY BETTER than writing NOTHING AT ALL. It does something extremely important in the writing world. It gets you to actually WRITE!

Even though I call it the blah blah blah trick, I typically don’t write those actual words. I have done it a few times, but what I usually end up doing instead is writing some other scene or some background details, or just general notes on the characters or the location or the event happening in the book. Maybe I’ll spend some time thinking about the sequel (there’s usually one coming with my books). It’s all ‘Writing’ in one fashion or another, and even if it isn’t actively getting me closer to finishing my book, it’s at least keeping me somewhat productive during my ‘writing time’.

And it does something else that’s REALLY SUPER IMPORTANT. It keeps me from relying on the old excuses of “writer’s block” or “I’ll do it after I finish this” or “I just don’t have it today. I’ll write tomorrow, instead.” Once you start letting excuses like that take hold, they don’t let go. They spread, and itch, and probably seriously affect your love life.

Writer’s Herpes.

So don’t get herpes. Write some crap instead.

(Blah.)

*thanks to Alistair McIntyre for his always-opportune jokes about venereal diseases. Keep ’em coming, buddy!

What is Pulp Fantasy?

I’ve spent a lot of time lately working on book 6 of Tales of the Lore Valley, (along with plotting out books 7, 8, and 9 and starting up a brand new storyline… details to come) so I’ve had this idea rattling around in my head for a little while now.

I’ve always had trouble marketing the Lore Valley series. It has a distinctive style and pace, which I’ve kept for each of the first three books, and which I intend to keep for however more books I end up doing. Each book is short, falling more into the novella size, and highly episodic. I consider each set of three books to be something like a TV season, telling a ‘chapter’ within a much larger overarching story. Ostensibly, it’s about a world being invaded by a mysterious enemy, but the individual stories touch on much more than that. Air pirates, destiny and fate, friendship and loyalty, the power (and tyranny) of magic.

In the past, at shows or just talking to people, I’d call it sword and sorcery. That always seemed to fit, but I found that description lacking and unsatisfying. It didn’t quite capture the style and tone of the books, especially when they’re fast-paced, character-driven stories that usually end with plot-derived cliffhangers. They have a serial, pulpy style to them, like the old pulp fiction serials of the past. Well, that gave me an idea.

Pulp fantasy!

Now, this term is already out there in some limited usage, mostly as a description of certain types of fantasy books, a lot of them already included in the – you guessed it – sword and sorcery genre. Here’s a post from Grognardia that lays this out in detail. What I intend to do, however, is usurp that term the same way my buddy Demethius Jackson has cornered the market on self-help fantasy. Go ahead, Google “self help fantasy” and see who comes up first!

So, long story short, what you’re about to see is an author embarking on a new marketing campaign. I’m not totally sure how I’ll make this happen, but feel free to watch the magic as I fumble through this extraordinary (and tedious) adventure! I’ll start with the book descriptions and keywords, and then work my up to blog posts (like this one!) and conversations all over the web. When you ask me at a show or signing what the books are about, I’ll absolutely include the phrase in my discussion of it with you, possibly more than once. Over time you’ll get so sick of it that you’ll buy my books just to burn them in a pagan ritual condemning me to some unnamed pit of pagan hell.

That’s when I’ll know I’ve done my job.

P.S. For what it’s worth, feel free to buy as many of my books as needed for pagan rituals. If said rituals involve dancing naked in the woods, I might even do a book signing beforehand!

Setting a Goal

Writers are some of the best procrastinators I know. For some, it’s writer’s block. For others, it’s XBox. For me, it’s mostly the latter. But regardless your vice, there are definitely times when it’s hard to sit down and crank out a few thousand garbled words and turn it into something coherent and above a fourth-grade reading level.

Writers are certainly motivated enough to WANT to write, but making it happen is hard.

The key is consistency.

That’s the end goal of this blog. I’m setting a goal this year to write a thousand words (1,000!!!) a day. That’s not hard for me. I’m usually pretty good about cranking out the word count. Just take a look at the number of books I’ve published over the last few years. (Seriously, go look!) But after cranking out three books in the fall, I’ve been lazying-it-up these last couple months since then and I need to get back on track. Thanks to my wife’s obviously-working fertility organs, I’ve got about five books to get finished by this summer before a new baby short-circuits my progress, and none of these books are going to magically write themselves… I think. So I’m resuming my daily word count quota AND I’m including some word-smithing gymnastics by doing some weekly blogging. Writers need to write, so a fully formed (well, mostly) blog each week (again… mostly) will only help my writing skills.

I’ve avoided this exercise for a while. I’m not a huge fan of blogging, and I’m not good at it, either. I have trouble writing meaningful, thoughtful essays on stuff that’s happening in the world, mostly because I struggle to find a point to my ramblings. But I recognize the need for it, and I don’t mind imparting some hard-earned words of wisdom on my fans (I’m looking at BOTH of you!) and my fellow writers. So I implore anyone who reads this blog to help me stay on target. Don’t let me slack on writing or blogging and I’ll pay you back by making sure you get some quality content at some undetermined point in the future.

(Oh, and this blog counts as a meaningful post.)

Write on!