May all your journeys be safe ones.
May all your journeys be safe ones.
Last time I talked about knowing when to release your book, which also meant knowing when NOT to release your book. Today I’m here to tell you I’m really glad I am not releasing anything at this time. Why? See the image below…
That’s me right now. Last week I had a major mid-term for Pre-Calculus, which is a class I’m still struggling with. I study more hours for that class and I’m still not fully getting the concepts, so I study even more to try and learn them with only so much success. I’ve also got two other classes I have to keep up with, along with doing hours of “Service Learning” which is basically volunteer work over at a local high school. I have to do write-ups about my experiences at my Service Learning Site as well. Finally, I’m also working on a major final paper for my third class, so in short I’m running on fumes most of the time.
This week I’m taking two county exams (one in Santa Cruz tomorrow, and then another on Friday for Monterey County). Plus I’ve got morning appointments on Tues and Thurs, and I’m doing more Service Learning on Wednesday. All this is happening around my classes.
So all of this leads very little… aw hell, I’m not going to lie. I haven’t had ANY time to write or promote anything lately. And it’s not going to get better any time soon. I may not be able to do any serious writing until shortly before/after Christmas.
There were a number of people who told me I was making the right decision in not releasing “The Vampyre Blogs – Coming Home” or trying to rush it to be ready. To you I say, a huge “Thank you!” You were absolutely right, and I’m glad I didn’t push things because I would’ve either had a nervous breakdown or delivered a very poor product.
It’s been so busy, I’ve hardly had any time to even think about stories or plot points. The only thing I’ve been able to give even the remotest attention to has been the collaboration I’m working on with my friend and fellow author Rich Caminiti.
We’re working on a tale together that involves vampires, the Civil War, and a being from Native American folklore. An unusual blend, you say? Well, you’re right. But it’s shaping up to be a well crafted tale, in spite of the strange elements we’re cobbling together. For the vampires we’re working with are not of western or European stock. That’s all I’ll say for now.
I’ll try to keep the posts coming here and focus on aspects of writing and the creative process, but I can’t guarantee how frequently they’ll show up. I created this post just to keep you all in the loop as to what’s going on with me and why I’ve been a bit quiet lately. There’s just a few more weeks to the semester, but then the holidays hit. So I’ll be a bit busy with that as well. But I’ll do my best not to neglect any of you or this blog.
So for now, I’m going to sit here and try to catch up with my thoughts.
As always, take care of yourselves, and keep writing.
Knowing when to release your book to the public
Every writer, dreams about this day. The moment your latest work is about to be unleashed. You’ve worked long and hard for it and the day has finally come. You’ve shed blood (preferably not someone esle’s), sweat (and boy didn’t you look hot at that moment), and more than a few tears (I’m not even going to try and make a joke on this one, I know damn well I’ve shed more than few in frustration, or because I wrote a section that moved me enough to shed them). So you’re all set and ready for your book’s release, but in the back of your mind you have to keep asking “Is my work truly ready to be released?”
In my case the answer was a resounding “NOT EVEN CLOSE!”
So, as a result of this fact, I’ve decided not to release my next work “The Vampyre Blogs – Coming Home” until further notice.
How and why did this happen? The answer is simple. In spite of my best efforts I could not give my project the full attention and care it needs to be ready. For those who don’t already know, I am currently attending university over in Monterey, California. I am currently studying Business Administration, with a focus on Marketing as my goal. However, there have been ever increasing and demands by my classes which makes giving any attention to my writing, almost impossible at this point and time. In fact, I’m only third of the way through the 2nd draft of the book.
Furthermore, I still have to have that draft edited and cleaned up before I can try to locate beta-readers to give me feedback. Originally, I had hoped to have the book already in their hands at this point, but it didn’t happen. And I’;m certainly not going to ask people to sign up at this point, not with the holidays coming hard and fast on us all. Most folks will have family gatherings to plan for, travel itineraries to arrange and a host of cooking and decorating jobs to do.
Furthermore, there’s still one final thing I like to do before declaring a book ready to be released and that is to read it aloud with someone who is a good listener and can hear where there might be an issue with the writing. This takes a long time to do in my case, because I do it via Skype with my editor. Even though she’s gone over the drafts I’ve sent and everything looks right, she and I like to read it out loud to each other to make sure everything it reads correctly if someone was doing an audio recording of the work.
An idea that sounded great in my head, or a turn of phrase that both of us thought was really cool, may not come across the same way as planned, which is why we do this. I know a lot of authors do loud readings of their works and believe me, this may take time but it is TOTALLY worth it.
Why am I so picky about this? Simple, I released my first novel “The Bridge” too quickly (and had to do subsequent re-releases after a number of errors were discovered). It was an amateur mistake to make, and even though I was forgiven for it (because, I WAS an amateur at the time) I felt I let myself and lot of others down. So I made it my policy to not release a book that has not been thoroughly vetted. I want people to get their monies worth and be able to enjoy a really nice finished product.
So when is a good time to release your work, some of you may be asking? Well, here’s my answer. Three to six months after you’ve got it FULLY finished. Your cover’s ready, it’s been looked over for editing issues with a fine-tooth comb, you have a ‘Proof-copy’ which you’ve gone through with as keen an eye as possible, etc.
“Well if I have it all set to go, why wait a couple of months? Shouldn’t I get it out right away?”
Well, that’s up to you. But in my opinion ask yourself some questions. Is it the right time of year for your story? Does your tale take place around a holiday? If so which one? Are we getting close to tax season? If so, you might want to hold off until after everyone’s finished stressing because they might need a good read to unwind after all that. They may not have the time to even give your book a passing glance, much less buy it.
Picking the right moment to release your work can sometimes make or break your sales of the book. So choose wisely.
I know we’re all eager to get our work out there, but sometimes hitting that “Pause” button is necessary for the sake of success. There might be other issues you forgot to take into account such as, marketing. What is your marketing plan? Have you been getting the word out about your project? Do you have a budget for marketing? How do you plan to get the most exposure for the book? Have you been building up a sense of anticipation among prospective readers? If not, then hit that button. You’re not ready.
I promise to discuss marketing in another entry in the near future. For now I want to close this entry out with the following.
My plans for having something published in December at this point is to possibly release a novelette that appeared on one of my other blogs called: “The Vampyre Blogs – Private Edition”. It appeared in six installments, but has never been released as a whole book. It’s a holiday piece that takes place fifteen years before the events in “The Bridge” and involves several characters from that novel, along with my vampyre Nathan. If I do release that novelette, I will make it available in ALL e-book formats: Kindle, Nook, Sony, Apple, etc. I might also do a printed version, but I’ll want to see what kind of demand there is for it first.
After that, I’m hoping to release “The Door” mid-2016, and finally finish Alex, Veronica, Julie and Cassie’s current story arc. I’m not done with those characters by any means. I have plenty of stories in mind that will involve them, so don’t worry. As for “The Vampyre Blogs – Coming Home”, that will be released around Halloween 2016. By then it will be in fighting shape, and the time of year will be perfect for a a vampyre story.
I hope today’s entry gave you all food for thought. Timing your release and making sure the product is as good as it can be is crucial to your book’s success. Don’t skimp or rush things. You put a lot of work into that story, so make sure it’s in the best shape it can be so it can earn the recognition and praise it deserves. Until next time, I’ll be planning and plotting my own course. So take care of yourselves and keep writing!
As you all know I talk a lot about writing and the different aspects of it. Recently I got to wondering about where it all begins. Where do most stories originate or come from in the first place? Naturally the answer is a person gets an idea and starts to explore different avenues with it. But that wasn’t good enough of an answer to me. I had to ask, where does the idea come from in the first place? Where does idea get its beginning? What if… I began to ask and then stopped. I’d just found my answer.
Two little words… that’s all it takes for a story idea to be born. But it doesn’t stop there. Oh no, my friends those two little words keep popping up throughout the writing process. Time and time again, I find myself asking or thinking those two words as I’m working on scene after scene. Or if I’m trying to decide which direction to take the story next.
Ask yourself, how many times do you find yourself wondering who’s going to be the love interest for your main character? What sex is the character going to be? Who or what is going to be the big obstacle for my protagonist to overcome in this story?
Basically we find ourselves at crossroads time and again wondering which direction to head in next. We can ponder these questions for minutes, hours, days or even longer. Every decision we make with our writing brings us back to asking the same question over and over again… “What if… I do such and such next…”
“What if…” they’re not big words really. Yet they have so much impact on our writing that it seems almost impossible to even create anything without them being involved at least once. For me they keep popping up over and over. They’re like old friends who help me move things along when I’m really stuck. Because those words are so powerful, they help me realize that I don’t always have to choose between one of two or three paths.
Instead, I can say to myself, “What if I take things in a totally different direction the reader never saw coming?”
Suddenly I’m off and running again because those two words reminded me that I make the path where the story heads. My options are not always limited. They empower me to take the reader to places they never saw coming and hopefully have them cheering as they continue reading. I don’t always like to be predictable in my stories. I like to make unexpected twists and turns that makes the reader gasp in delight. When people read my first novel “The Bridge” they thought they were merely reading horror/mystery story. They had no idea that I was going to suddenly throw in huge science fiction twist during the final conflict that suddenly changed the entire mood of the piece. They found themselves thrown into a whole new world of excitement and intrigue, and it was all thanks to the words “What if…”
What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Please leave your remarks in the comments section below.
Until next time, take care of yourselves and keep writing everyone.
I’ve currently been focusing most of my writing time on revising and editing the 2nd draft of “The Vampyre Blogs – Coming Home”. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog entries, this is the first time I’m working from the 1st Person Perspective. What makes this so different from third person, is the fact that the character is the narrator, instead of me just letting readers see inside the heads of the various characters.
This time I had to not only get inside the character’s head, but I had to do a lot more. Each character has something special beside their own thoughts and ideas. They may walk a certain way, have an outgoing personality, or be quiet and shy, which can all be shown by describing how they behave around the other characters. But there was one thing I really had to learn about them this time that I hadn’t really explored as deeply before. I had to find their voice.
I can safely say this was have been the most crucial and difficult part of writing the story for me. Because, even though I created the characters, each of them would be telling the story as seen through their eyes. In the past, I could tell the story in my own voice. I simply had to tell their tale, as they told it to me inside my own head. But this time, it was different. I was still creating the story, but now I had to do it from a different perspective. This time I had to get into the character’s head and see the world through their eyes.
I already knew their background, ages, likes, dislikes, personality, the way they dressed etc. After all, I was the writer and director of the piece. I knew how I wanted my actors and actresses to look and behave and where I wanted them to go and how to get them there. But this new perspective I had to take on was a bit daunting in some ways. Why? Simple. I wasn’t just getting inside the head of just one character…
I was dealing with a crowd of characters, who were each going to get their turn to help tell the story from their own perspective. An insane idea? Not really. It had been done before. After all, those who’ve read Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” got a taste of multiple first person perspectives in the form of letters, diary and journal entries. I simply decided to follow his lead and try writing my first vampyre story in a similar vein (no pun intended… well, maybe a little). This was a suggestion my wife made to me when I told her I wanted to do a multiple first-person point of view for the piece, but didn’t know how to pull it off. Luckily, she simply pointed out to me what Stoker had done, and recommended I updated the concept using Blogs, E-Journals/Diaries, and even written ones.
For every writer, it feels like you’re putting on a one-person show, playing multiple roles as you tell the story. Only this time, I had to come up with different styles of speech patterns for each character. This meant more than just giving them an accent or something. I had to really think hard about how the vocabulary of a man who has walked the Earth for the last 160 years, might differ from an everyday person. Or how two eighteen year old girls may differ in their way of talking and writing about their lives, based on their interests and backgrounds. Plus, I had to deal with a pastor who is torn about his sins as well as being haunted by years of child abuse. The list goes on and on.
As you can guess, it could get quite dizzying at times for me. But this was mostly because I wasn’t used to jumping heads so quickly and thoroughly. However, as I continued to write and really got to know the characters better, I found it easier and easier to write from their perspective. Like an actor/actress who is returning to an old role that performed so many times, slipping back into their persona and voice was easier each time.
This is true for writing in the third-person as well. But keeping that ‘voice’ is very important to me, especially when you have a tale being told from multiple points of view via blog and e-diary entries. Everyone has a ‘voice’ when they write that’s all their own. Creating those ‘voices’ can be a challenge at first, but in time you’ll find it easier and easier to slip back into it.
Until, next time. Take care and keep writing.
Recently I was on one of the buses that I regularly take to get to my university. As I was riding I was taking in the scenery and smiling to myself. A girl who had taken the seat next to me noticed and said I must be having a good day. I responded by telling her I was observing the scenery and thinking about some of the trees. In particular I drew her attention to the Spanish Moss growing on several of the trees.
“Is that what’s growing on them? I’ve heard of Spanish Moss but I never saw it before,” she told me.
I nodded and replied, “Now picture that stuff moving on its own, maybe reaching down and grabbing a someone as they’re walking by.”
That freaked her out a bit as she looked at me with wide eyes and said, “That’s creepy! You must be into horror movies and such.”
At that point I explained that I was an author who had two books out already and a third coming in December. From there she relaxed and I told her about my Para-Earth Series. By the time we arrived at the university she said, “I always wondered how writers come up with so many ideas. You must be thinking about stuff all the time.”
Smiling I said, “That’s true. Even when I’m not physically writing, I’m always writing.” As soon as I said this I started really thinking about what I’d just said and realized how true it was.
While I can’t speak for other writers, I can safely say that no matter what I’m doing at any given time my mind is always pondering story plots, new characters, places, what if situations, you name it. I could be bowling….
And find myself thinking about what goes on behind the scene where the machinery is gathering up the pins and resetting them. (Note: I have actually been behind that area thanks to my older brother Ernest who worked on the machines. He took me back there with him a few times to show me what he did) After thinking about it, I pictured various scenarios like when the pins are brought down by the machine, what if a human arm was set upright among them? Or what if the machine where your ball comes back instead you get around bomb with a fuse lit. What would you do? How did it get there? What’s going on?
Other times I could be wandering among the trees and just listening to the sounds of the leaves rustling under my feet. I also try to make a mental note of what the air smells like at that moment and how peaceful the area is around me. In moments like that, I’m trying to take a mental photo of everything I’m seeing and feeling, so I can try and rebuild it with words for a scene in a story. And then I find myself asking what might happen in such a scene? Will a unicorn show up among the trees? Or will a strange little figure appear from inside a tree and start talking to one of the woodland animals or a child who happens to be in the neighborhood.
Ideas sometimes come when you least expect it. Even when you’re just kicking back and maybe shooting a game of pool to pass the time, a thought or an image may come that sets your mind on fire. Sometimes it might even be the atmosphere of your surroundings that may be the spark that sets you mind alight with ideas and possibilities.
As writers, our minds are always working on ideas or stories, even when we’re not aware of it. And i find this idea to be a great comfort to me. There are times when the old “Writer’s Block” comes to visit and I find myself staring at my computer screen for hours or even days. I want to write something but nothing comes. On days like that I’ll try working through the block, or exercising, or bouncing ideas off other people… all to no avail.
But then I’ll decide to get out and about for a while. Sometimes I’ll go to a mall, or do some shopping, or wander down by the beach. I don’t always find the answers I’m seeking and after a while may even stop trying. However, I do so knowing that sooner or later, something is going to fire my imagination up and I’ll be ready to get back on my computer and finish the story I’d been working on. Why? Because I’m always writing… even when I don’t realize it. I hope the same is true for all of you.
Until next time, take care and keep writing everyone!
With the coming of Halloween, I’ve been in a mood for scary books. So today I decided to pull out one of my favorites and do a review on it. This was the first novel I read by Mr. Straub, but it got me hooked. I’ve read a number of his other works and he has yet to keep me entertained and enthralled….
“From A Buick 8” was one of the first books I read by Mr. King after many years of taking a pass on his work. His novel “Misery” had gone to places I found too intense and terrifying because the only monster in that piece had been human. There were no safety-barriers of the supernatural involved, just madness, obsession and torture.
Yet something about this novel beckoned and I plunged into his world once more and I’m glad it did. The story covers a 25 year period in the lives of a group of state troopers who act as ‘guardians’ over a strange Buick Roadster abandoned at a gas station back in 1979 by a mysterious ‘man in black’ who wandered off and was never seen again.
The vehicle seems to be like any other car… or so you would think at first glance. Then you’d notice little things like how the overall look of the vehicle seems normal, but then you notice little touches that don’t quite add up. For one thing there’s no keys to start it up. The dashboard is a bit off too, like someone created a prop for a movie. But the car is not a Hollywood prop, it’s something much more sinister.
People die around this vehicle, and sometimes ‘things’ come out of it when you least expect it. Things that are not of this world and don’t belong among us.
Mr. King weaves this tale from the different points of view by letting the various troopers in the story share an experience they’ve had or witnessed over the last 25 years as they’ve stood watched over the sinister vehicle, in an attempt to contain the Buick’s sinister powers. This a is a true classic, with many unexpected turns and moments of sheer terror Mr. King is so well-known for.
A great read, especially at this time of year when Halloween is only a month or so away.
For those who don’t know, Richard Matheson is one of my many favorite authors. His work on the original Twilight Zone, caught both my attention and imagination. To this day, I consider his novel “Hell House” one of the greatest haunted house stories ever written.
But he also wrote about vampires in his classic “I Am Legend” (aka “The Omega Man”). I was given a copy of this novel last Christmas and had finally gotten a chance to reading it. Having seen several movie versions of the story (including the one with Charles Heston), I was already familiar with the overall concept of the tale about the last normal human being on the planet. However, knowing how Hollywood likes to put extra spins and its own touches on a story, I was eager to actually read Mr. Matheson’s original vision and I was not disappointed.
We are quickly introduced to Robert Neville, who (as far as he and the audience knows) may be the last normal human being on the planet. We get to see the strange monotony of his day as he makes stakes, rounds up food and supplies and goes about fortifying his home which is also a kind of tomb for him. He is surrounded by the memories of his life, when he had a wife and child who were both taken from him, along with all those he knew, by a mysterious plague that killed everyone around him. But at night, he is terrorized by a more frightening enemy. Those he lost come out from the places they hide in the daytime, hell-bent on sucking his blood.
Former friends and neighbors try to breach his security measures night after night. Some of the women try to woo him with the promise of sex and love, while one neighbor constantly calls his name, saying “Come out Neville!” We witness his plight to hold onto his humanity and sanity amidst these nightly raids, and then follow him during the daytime as he tries to eliminate as many of these vampires.
Mr. Matheson shares Robert’s memories of losing his wife to the plague and burying her, only to have her rise as one of the vampires and his being forced to put her down a second time. Over a three year period we watch Robert become harder as well as a survivor. He goes from being just the hunted to seeking answers. I found this part interesting since, unlike in the most of the movies, he is not an expert in blood or disease. We watch him educate himself through books and failed experiments as he tries to find the answers to the problem that surrounds him. Yet all the while, he continues his daytime raids to exterminate those who hunt him.
Finally, after three years of loneliness he meets a woman who can walk in the daylight. Out of desperation he tries to make friends while inadvertently frightening her. Robert brings her to his home, against her will but slowly wins her over. It is an interesting scene watching him trying to remember how to act like a civilized person after three years of no contact with someone who wasn’t trying to kill him.
In the end we learn the truth, that the woman he met, named Ruth is infected. But the germ has mutated in her and others, so that they can control the bloodlust and can walk in daylight for short amounts of time. And like Robert, they seek to put down the more violent feral creatures that hunt him. But they also seek his destruction as well. For he has unwittingly killed a number of them during his daylight raids, including the husband of Ruth. But she has come to know him and understands his mistake and forgives him. She even warns him of what is to come down the road, and urges him to move away and go into hiding.
But Robert refuses and a year later, the members of the new society, come and rid him of those who seek to destroy him. They also take him into custody and prepare for his execution. Due to his resisting capture, Robert has become fatally injured but is being kept alive for his public demise. For now he has become to the boogeyman. The thing who stalks these people in the day, when they have to avoid the sunlight. He is the monster to them and he knows it. He is now the creature of legend, in this new society and accepts the fate that awaits him.
Although it is a sad ending, the book is a powerful study in struggling with loss, loneliness, depression, survival and finally, realization. Written in 1954, this is one of those timeless novels that I thoroughly recommend to all lovers of science fiction, horror, and fantasy. It is a thought provoking work that will make you think for years to come.
There’s an old trope that applies to theater and to writing. It is credited to Anton Chekhov, author/playwright. In a letter to a friend in 1889 he said, “One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it.” Since then, the phrase “Chekhov’s Gun” has become associated with the idea of not introducing something ‘interesting’ or ‘irrelevant’ into a piece, whether it be a stage play or a story, that is not actually poignant to the story. If you put a gun into a scene, make sure someone uses it before the story is finished. Don’t just leave it lying there gathering dust. Why? If you were doing a story involving a killer like Jason Voorhees/Michael Myers, before anyone knew they were unkillable, and they were closing in on the hero/heroine in the room where the gun is in plain sight you’d have the person use it, right? You wouldn’t have them grab a curtain to try and keep the killer at bay with Chintz fabric… unless you were doing a very strange comedy perhaps.
In any case, the idea of not introducing elements or ideas into your story and then not going anywhere with them is a big “No-no”. It’s all right to leave a few dangling threads unfinished in a story, provided you make it clear to the reader that there will be sequels involving the characters or villain. The easiest way this can be achieved is by letting the ending be ambiguous or open-ended. Or one can make it quite clear that the villain or one of their allies decide that things are not over and that they are clearly planning to come after the heroes at a later date.
But what if the ‘gun’ on the table is an idea or a character you’ve introduced early on in the story and then do very little or nothing with later in the tale? This is not to say that background characters are not needed. Those folks are always useful as a plot device, even if it’s just to let one of the characters confide or share some internal turmoil to them, so the audience knows about it. Suddenly, that background character has played a key point in the story. But what if there was no scene like that? What purpose did that background character serve? Why were they there in the first place? Now that person is “Chekhov’s Gun”. Do you keep him/her or…
I bring this up, because recently while working on “The Door” I was winding up with a couple of characters who where turning into Chekhov’s Gun. I had plans for them, big ones. In fact they were to play major roles in the final confrontation, but in the meantime I was doing very little with them. I’d given them impressive introductions, but then wound up leaving them on the table. When it occurred to me how much further I’d gotten into the story with little or no further appearances by them I was shocked. How could this have happened? I needed these people for the final confrontation, so I couldn’t just drop them from the story. Or could I? Were they truly necessary? Couldn’t I still create a dramatic final battle without them and go in a different direction?
Once again I’d come to that infamous crossroads.
I could take the story in several different directions at this point. It had evolved and new dimensions had been added to it that had not occurred to me before. The number of possibilities was almost too much to take in. I could lose those characters completely and continue or I could go back and add new scenes with them adding elements of menace and suspicion. I could also just make a few references to them and then bring them in towards the end, but that idea did not appeal to me. I am one of those who hates having a cavalry appear out of nowhere at the last second without a good explanation as to how they wound up showing up on the first place. Or I could go ahead and drop them from the story thus simplifying my life.
That idea sounded tempting. All I would have to do was place my hands on the keyboard and eliminate them with a few strokes of my fingers.
But I didn’t. They were my ‘gun on the table’ and I’d introduced them for a reason. Future stories relied on their being in this story and fulfilling the original purpose I’d intended for them. So I kept them, but I didn’t just leave them on that table. Oh no, my friends. I decided to make them more interesting and sinister. A gun on a table could be loaded or empty. I chose to slowly make it clear that this gun had a purpose. So I added some new elements to that table setting.
Now my purpose was more clear to the reader. These people were more than background props. They had a purpose, one that could be for good or evil. Which is the answer? You’ll have to wait until the book is finished. But know, I recognized a shortcoming in my story and weighed the options for how to deal with it. Keep your readers in mind when you write. Think of how the story is playing out from their point of view. Play fair with them, give them the clues or hints of where this might be going, but not too much. Keep a few surprises and twists up your sleeve, but remember that some of those elements can be introduced early on. You just don’t necessarily reveal everything about them until the right moment.
As for me, work on the “The Door” continues. I know what I’m doing with my ‘gun’ and now I’m running with it. So until next time, take care and keep writing.