About My Book

Learn more about my first book, Six Pack: Emergence.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Progress Continues

So I've written 6,385 words in three chapters of the fifth rewrite. It's been a good time to think about some changes from my original direction. Among them:

* Likely a new title, which I will unveil later. Again, the title is a work in progress, much like everything else with the book.
* New last names for the main characters (which are up on the book info page linked above).
* At least one character is being removed from the first book and pushed to the second. I'm debating on removing another entirely. Both are supporting characters I determined weren't as important to the story I wanted to tell.
* Trying to do more to get inside the heads of the characters, which means certain parts of the book that come later, will come earlier. I hope it builds more intrigue.
* Certain material I planned to push to the second book is likely getting pulled into the first instead.

In the meantime, I will try to find some time to jot down ideas for the second book, so that when it comes time to revisit that draft, I have an outline on where I really want things to go.

Tomorrow, I plan to go to Pratt to visit with another writers group. Figured it's a good idea to meet some more writers and see what other ideas I can get from them.

Oh, and I do plan to build my links list over time and see what other improvements I can make to the blog. As with the book, it's a work in progress and nothing was built in a day.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Right Environment For Writing

So after having spending most of the day covering events at the local fair Sunday, I didn't get a chance to write. The good news is that I got the time this evening, added a few more thousand words and now have 4,513 words in two chapters of the fifth rewrite.

Yesterday, I spent most of the day either in a hot indor arena or outdoors, when temperatures were nearing 100 and the humidity was high. At the arena was a dog show, and at one point, they had to close the door that allowed fresh air to come in, so it got stuffy. Follow that with standing outside taking photos at multiple events, and by the time I was finished, I was exhausted.

What I've found is that I don't write well after I am outside in hot weather for long periods of time. I need time to cool down and get my mind focused. And when you are busy most of the day, it's hard to get that focus back.

This brings me to a brief point: When you write, you need to make sure you are writing in conditions that are comfortable for you. For me, and I imagine some of you as well, you need air conditioning in the summer or heat in the winter. For others, though, I would not be surprised if they write better when they are out in the sun, or perhaps when it's cool outside but there's no breeze. Maybe putting pencil to paper or fingers to keyboard gets them energized enough that they aren't bothered by cold temperatures.

What environment allows one to write well depends on the person. Whatever it is that works for you, that's what you should do. Obviously, you don't want the environment to result in harm to your health or well being. But you do want to find the right room temperature or outdoor climate that allows you to focus and gather your thoughts.

OK, so I imagine for most writers, sitting out in the sun with temperatures near 100 isn't ideal conditions. But not all writers are alike, so I wouldn't be surprised if there are people out there who are like that.

It just doesn't work for me, that's all.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Just A Short Update

It's fair weekend here in Kingman County, so I won't have much to write about tonight, after taking photos at a sheep and goat show and doing an interview.

I will tell you that the next draft of the book has a little less than 2,000 words written and I hope to get more writing done on Saturday afternoon when I have a little free time. Otherwise, my weekend will be busy with fair activities.

It is a good time for me to observe people, though, and get ideas on how to describe what people do and how they react to situations. Something I've had to think about as I prepare the next draft.

After the weekend, I should hopefully have more insights about writing and books that I have either read or need to read.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Best Advice I Ever Read

I was glad that I bought the book "The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published" because one of the many bits of advice given was to get involved with a writer's club or association. I looked up a couple in the Wichita area and that's how I learned more about the Kansas Writer's Association.

From there, I learned about their informal meetings on Monday nights, at which I brought a few pages from my first novel. There, I got some good advice about the things I was doing well and the areas in which I needed improvement.

After talking with a few people there, I concluded that my first book is not yet ready to submit to agents, meaning I will have to do some rewrites again. And this round of rewrites may take a little longer.

I believe it will be worth it, though. It's all about ensuring that the book I submit to agents is one that they will generate at least some interest, rather than a pass after the first few pages.

In the meantime, one of the association members agreed to look over my first book draft to see what ideas work for her, where my strengths lie and what needs the most work.

I am continuing to jot down ideas as they come to me, though. I've read in many places that the best thing you can do with any book idea is to keep writing or typing ideas, and then go back to look at them.

In the meantime, I may have to seek out Stephen King's memoir "On Writing" as that was a book that several KWA members recommended.

So a thanks to Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Steery for helpful advice in their book, which led to the advice from the KWA members. Now I have better ideas about what to do next.

(Side note: I did make slight revisions to the page about my planned book. It will be updated as changes and progress are made.)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

All About Me In 20 Questions

For those who are new to my blog, you probably want to know a little more about me, as much as you may want to know about my book.

So I decided to answer 20 questions about myself. I hope these are questions you thought you might want to ask, or that it at least gives you a better idea about who you are reading.

I will mention something before I begin: Yes, my first name is Bob, but I am going by B.W. in fiction writing to avoid confusion with another fiction writer who has the same first and last name as I do.

1. What do you do for a living?
I have written for small-town newspapers for more than 20 years. I first started in November 1993 at the Rocky Ford (Colo.) Daily Gazette. I spent five years there, before taking a job with The Raton (N.M.) Range as the sports editor in January 1999. I stayed there until July 2013, when the paper ceased publication. From there, I started work at The Duncan (Okla.) Banner as the sports editor in August 2013. I didn't find that job to be the right fit, so I took a job with the Kingman (Kan.) Leader-Courier in June 2014 as the sports editor. I just my finished my first year.

2.  So it sounds like you've been covering sports for a long time. You like it?
Yeah, I do. I've mostly covered high school sports. So I get some insight into how teenagers are like, the personalities you deal with, and how they sometimes interact with one another.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Kansas Writers Association and Creativity

I attended the monthly meeting of the Kansas Writers Association earlier today and enjoyed it. It was good to meet a few other people who were writing, I learned about a writer's group that meets in Pratt and the chance to go to informal meetings in Wichita, at which time people will critique each other's writing. Definitely made the right decision to go and hopefully I'll get some more insight regarding writing and how to get published.

The topic at the meeting was about creativity and imagination. One of the points discussed was that the usage of "creativity" with regards to the thought process, didn't become common until 1926. Among the topics discussed was how creativity seemed to be linked to mood disorders, which I can relate to a bit (I have an overactive imagination and a short temper) and that creative people tend to be persistent (evidence: when a writer sits down to write a short story or novel, the writer really wants to get it finished).

We also discussed how children these days get a lot of time to imagine and pretend, and how it wasn't always that way. It used to be the children would go and do the same work their parents were doing. Nowadays they are allowed to be kids and have some fun.

And that brings me to another topic discussed: How creativity is enhanced in part by work, by play and by rest -- and the three should be evenly divided. In other words, too much work leads to too much stress and stifles creativity.

It makes sense when you think about the 24-hour day, to have an eight-hour day for work, get eight hours of sleep and leave the rest of the day to yourself. It's definitely something our workaholic society who survives on not enough sleep should think carefully about. How many creative works are likely getting lost because we spend too much time working and not enough time sleeping and enjoying ourselves.

I look forward to more meetings with Kansas Writers Association members. It was a pleasure to get to know some people there and hopefully this helps me along the new path I'm following.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Book Update: Edits Done

As the title says, the fourth edit-and-revision process of my first book is completed.

Now come a few more steps. First, I'm going to the monthly meeting of the Kansas Writers Association in Wichita tomorrow, to get an idea about what they do and have to offer. Hoping to meet some people who enjoy writing and perhaps learn a few things. I intend to take the first chapter of my book with me to see if somebody is willing to give additional input.

Second comes putting together a query letter and figuring out agents to contact. I imagine the query letter will take as much time to perfect as my first book did.

And then there's the second book in my planned trilogy, which has 12 chapters written, and I really want to get at least the 13th chapter done by the end of the weekend.

I then will take a break from book writing because the Kingman County Fair is next week and I'll be busy covering events (us aspiring writers have to have a steady source of income, after all).

I do plan to share some other tales about myself and the book over time -- tales about myself for those who don't know me personally, and tales about the book for those who do know me (and those just getting to know me, too)

Also, I hope to make more improvements to the blog. Already added a couple of widgets and want to see what else is out there.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Writing Inspirations: Stan Lee

OK, so this writing influence I'm about to discuss would be a "well, of course" for almost any comic book geek.

But I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about Stan Lee.

I watched the PBS three-part documentary "Superheroes" and it gives a lot of good insight into how the comic book industry and superheroes evolved. Of course, Lee was one of the many interviewed, and his influence on comic books is impossible to ignore.

When Lee created The Fantastic Four, he did more than just create a team of superheroes, but superheroes with flaws and struggles. That made them characters people could relate to in many ways, rather than a larger-than-life archetype.

Then, of course, came Spiderman -- or should I say, Peter Parker. I think those who say that Parker really sold people on Spiderman are correct. Parker was a teenager who felt awkward and insecure, then is suddenly blessed with superpowers and is on top of the world.

And then the story unfolds: Parker becomes a television star, is shorted on a promised payment, and refuses to stop a thief. Later, his Uncle Ben is killed and Spiderman decides to pursue the killer, only to learn it's the same thief he earlier refused to stop.

And then comes perhaps the most memorable line in all of comics: "With great power comes great responsibility."

What made Spiderman unique was that he was a teenaged superhero who wasn't a sidekick, and he had to face many issues a teenager would confront on his own. Lee never made Spiderman a superhero who had a solution to every problem, and that's what allowed many people to relate to him.

What's interesting about the PBS documentary is that Lee admits he never intended to make a career in the comic book industry. At the time he wrote for comics, he envisioned himself writing anything but comic books. Yet the ideas he injected into the comics are arguably what made comics more than just a distraction for kids, and allowed them to explore complex issues.

As I didn't read a lot of comics as a kid, but spent more time watching animated shows, I probably didn't think much about Lee's influence. But as I got older and watched animated shows that expanded upon superheroes, I came to appreciate more about what Lee brought to the table. His influence is evident in so many writers who have ties to the comic industry.

And so, that brings me to his influence in my book: Teenaged superheroes who must deal not only with a significant problem in their own society, but individual problems they must face, ranging from how they handle the superpowers they acquire, to how they handle working with each other, to how they deal with own doubts and struggles.

It's hard to imagine how the comic industry would have evolved if Lee hadn't come along. I suppose somebody would have emerged who would inject new ideas, but I wonder how much longer it would have been. Needless to say, as the Superheroes documentary details, Lee's ideas came at the right time, giving new life to an industry that was losing steam.

And in the process, he influenced more people than I suspect he could have ever imagined.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Almost There, But Not Yet Ready For Pit2Pub

There's an event taking place on Twitter tomorrow called #Pit2Pub, or Pitch to Publishers, in which writers can condense a pitch for their book to tweet size (140-character limit) and participating publishers will favorite the books that interest them.

I gave it a little thought, but won't be participating. While I have nearly finished the fourth editing and revising process for my first book, I still have three more chapters to go and don't want to put out word that I'm looking for an agent or publisher until that's finished.

Just as importantly, I haven't put together a draft of a query letter that will contain the basic information about myself and how I'm going to present the book. I need to review some sample query letters out there to get some ideas for that. And, no, I'm not going to send the same query letter to every agent (I'm planning to start with an agent search first, before I start talking directly to publishers), but get a base letter to work with, that I can tailor to each specific agent I contact.

It is nice to know that there's an avenue that might be available should I be unable to find an agent, though. Perhaps another #Pit2Pub will take place in a few months.

More later this week about another person who inspired my writing.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

What Writers Can Learn From Serena Williams

A few weeks ago, I read this article about tennis player Serena Williams, who has a good case for being the best tennis player ever. After she won Wimbledon this weekend, I started thinking about that article, and how writers could learn something from her.

To sum up the article: While Williams wants to be the best she can be, she doesn't immerse herself into tennis all the time. She wants variety in her life. She doesn't concern herself much with what critics say. And she's the perfect example of why parents shouldn't constantly push their kid to devote every waking moment to a sport.

Some of that sounds like good advice for writers.

While writers must prepare for times in which they are alone, focusing on whatever idea comes to mind, the worst thing writers can do is immerse themselves in their craft every waking moment. Sure, you might crank out a masterpiece that sells millions, but you're probably going to burn yourself out.

What I think makes for a good writer is somebody who goes out to experience what the world has to offer. That's Williams' approach, even if she's known for tennis and not writing. I don't know a lot of writers personally, but I'd be surprised to find one who hasn't enhanced their experiences through more than just putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

I don't know any parents who push their kids to immerse themselves in nothing but writing, but could you imagine if that happened? Parents see J.K. Rowling and her success with Harry Potter, then see their child is a talented writer, so let's get that child to focus on nothing but writing, because there's the author of the next Harry Potter!

In other words, what we writers can learn from Williams is, while we want to be the best we can be at our craft, we shouldn't immerse ourselves too much into our craft. Sometimes the best thing we can do is step away from our writing for a while, take in what life has to offer, then come back energized.

It's certainly worked for Williams to not allow her life to revolve around tennis. I'm pretty sure it works for writing as well.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Writing Inspirations: George Orwell

When I was in the eighth grade, our language arts class read George Orwell's book Animal Farm. I didn't think much about the greater implications of the book at the time, as I didn't take literature that seriously. Sure, I liked to read a good book, but I was more interested in reading for pleasure than for talking about what the book meant.

I do remember how the plot worked. The animals on a farm are taught by Old Major, the old boar, that humans are holding them down and suggests revolution. After Old Major, two pigs named Napoleon and Snowball lead the rest of the animals against the farmer, Mr. Jones, driving him out, then establish the Seven Commandments of Animalism. While Snowball preached the idea that all animals were equal, Napoleon has his own ideas, having his dogs chase Snowball away, revamped the commandments to suit his needs, and eventually celebrate a new alliance with the humans.

We didn't discuss it language arts class then, but Animal Farm was a satirical version of Joseph Stalin rising to power in the Soviet Union. Napoleon was George Orwell's shot at Stalin -- in other words, the guy who claims to be part of a revolution promising change, but in reality has his own agenda to advance.

It was several years that I bought the book Orwell might be most well known for, 1984. For those who are familiar with the work, the phrase "Big Brother is watching you" should spring to mind. It followed a man named Winston Smith, who works for the Ministry of Truth, an agency responsible for historical revisionism. He deals with his dislike for the ruling Party of Oceania, all while forming relationships with Julia and O'Brien, which eventually lead to him being captured by the Thought Police and brainwashed into accepting Big Brother.

In the book, Orwell critiqued nationalism, censorship and surveillance -- all methods used to control the populace in the dystopian world. Those themes, along with his satirical world of Animal Farm, still hold relevancy today.

For example, I can't imagine Orwell being a fan of the Patriot Act. I could imagine he would be skeptical of every movement embraced by a politician, because he would suspect either the politician had bigger plans in mind or that those close to the politician would be a bad influence. Orwell would certainly support some of the grassroots movements that have happened in the United States, but he'd warn against putting too much trust in most leaders to embrace those grassroots movements.

I haven't modeled my book entirely on Orwell's writing, but I like to think there is some influence there. I touch a lot upon the right of people to speak out when they disagree with a government policy. In 1984, such disagreement is not tolerated. My book also briefly touches upon history, and I plan to go more in depth in a later installment. In 1984, revisionist history is very much at play.

And I do believe some thought needs to be given to the themes Orwell touches upon in 1984, even if we haven't reached the point that the nations of the world have merged into three superstates. The same can be said for Animal Farm, which may be an allegory of Stalin rising to power in the Soviet Union, but could be said of any leader who claims to support one thing, but his actions are anything but what he claims to support.

I'm not a conspiracy theorist by any means. I will say, though, that any time you hear a leader talk about something -- even if the leader say something you agree with -- it helps to have that grain of salt handy.

BOOK UPDATE: I have edited 14 chapters as of this writing. Again, a few more rewrites I didn't consider earlier, but have done upon further consideration.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Just A Quick Update

I've edited 11 chapters in my "last revision before sending out queries" phase with the first book.

I applied a couple of things I read up about how to approach paragraph structure and how to write for young adults. The former was about watching the lengths of paragraphs, the latter was about not lecturing too much. That meant taking some long paragraphs, breaking them up a bit, and adjusting them so they sounded more like a discussion and less like a lecture.

Tomorrow, I'll have the afternoon off, so I'm hoping to get several chapters edited, and possibly write another chapter for the second book.

Also, I'll talk about another writer who inspired my book.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Six Pack: Emergence

The story: Just weeks before Tyler Ward is to graduate from secondary school, he learns the truth about Novusordo and how a drink controls the population. After sharing this information with his five friends, they visit a professor’s house, take another drink and gain strange powers. It leads to them learning more about how the government controls people and the discovery of a movement against the government. Calling themselves the Six Pack, Tyler and his friends must learn how their powers can change society. But they first must learn to trust this movement… and even each other.

Genre: Young Adult/Science Fiction/Dystopia

Word count: About 74,000 words.

Status: 25 chapters, released March 28 by Clean Reads.

Where to buy: Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Smashwords and iTunes.

Main character: Tyler Ward, an 18-year-old who has leadership qualities but is hesitant to take charge. He is intelligent and curious about the world around him.

Major supporting characters:
Stacy Sanders, longtime childhood friend of Tyler.
Jessica Harrison, a highly-ranked student at Monroe Secondary School who is friends with Tyler.
Brad Lawson, a friend of Tyler and Jessica.
Linda Russell, a friend of Stacy.
David Spencer, another friend of Stacy.

Notes: This is the first book in a planned trilogy. Book two in the trilogy will be released May 22, 2018.

Post updated 12/15/2017.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Book Update

I have finished editing the third draft of my first book and will go through it one more time before moving forward. Tomorrow, I promise I'll reveal exactly what my book is about.

While the book does fall into science fiction, it's aimed more at the young adult market. I will say, though, that many young adult books have appeal to older audiences, too. Ask how many older adults enjoyed books such as The Hunger Games, for example.

I'll start slowly with what I reveal about the book, as I don't want to give too much away before I start trying to find an agent. I'll give you enough to stir your interest, though.

As for the second book in this planned trilogy, I finished 12 chapters and, once final edits on the first draft are finished, I should be able to crank out more for the second book.

I still have more to write about those who influenced my writing in the coming weeks, of course. And as I prepare to shop the book around, I plan to attend a writer's association workshop in Wichita in a couple of weeks, so I can meet some other writers and find out what they have learned.

I'll admit I'm a bit nervous about taking these next steps, but it's time to find out if what I have to offer is something others want to read.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Now, About All These Word Crimes

I attended "Weird Al" Yankovic's concert in Wichita earlier this week and had a good time. What was interesting was that one of his songs may actually speak to writers.

Yankovic shares a similarity to writers in that he dislikes improper grammar. He created a parody of Robin Thicke's song "Blurred Lines" called "Word Crimes," in which Yankovic gets into his criticisms of those who don't use proper grammar; specifically, website commenters who use words incorrectly, don't follow punctuation rules and use shorthand for a word, rather than a phrase.

It's funny that the song has been described by The A.V. Club as a modern-day "Conjunction Junction." I can remember the days of Schoolhouse Rock and how it influenced me. I sometimes wonder if our addiction to technology has diminished our writing skills. Going back to how people use shorthand for phrases (ICYMI, YMMV, IMO, etc.), I wonder if that's part of what's affected writing these days. We'd never get away with shorthand in most books, of course (exception: if we are writing a scene in which somebody is swapping text messages). But what if younger people become so used to shorthand, they start carrying it over to more than texting and commenting?

There are, of course, grammar complaints Yankovic has which have nothing to do with technology. The misusage of "it's" and "its" seems to have been a problem since the day I was born. Yes, "fewer" and "less" are often used incorrectly, but I suspect a lot of people aren't aware of the differnce between those words. And, yes, those who use "literally" before a phrase that nobody would consider figurative drives me nuts.

I wonder, though, if Yankovic understood what many writers debate about the usage of the Oxford comma, given his reference to it in the song.

I'll leave you with the music video for "Word Crimes." Enjoy your Fourth of July, everyone.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Writing Inspirations: Conor Friedersdorf

I'm someone who identifies as a centrist who leans fiscally conservative, but is socially progressive, enjoys learning more about history, has grown more skeptical about national security talk, and particularly rejects the narrative often advanced by 24-7 news media. I sometimes found it difficult to find information sources that presented material designed to make you think, rather than react.

My philosophy is that those who make you think aren't interested in writing just to keep an audience going. Instead, they are the ones that will follow their own mind and allow the audience to come to them. That's why I came to appreciate The Atlantic, a publication that has been around since 1857, and has published works from people ranging from Mark Twain to Martin Luther King Jr., and was first to publish The Battle Hymn of the Republic (written by an abolitionist named Julia Ward Howe — now there's your history lesson for the day).

As I spent more time reading The Atlantic for views on current affairs, I came across several writers who really made me rethink what I thought I knew about certain subjects. Among them was Conor Friedersdorf, who identifies himself as a conservative, but is a far cry from what one normally associates with what passes for conservatism these days.

Ask your typical Republican about national security, and you are more likely to hear about how important it is to this nation, than you are to hear about concerns about those who are tasked with such duties about overreaching. Yet this is a frequent criticism of Friedersdorf, who in recent years has raised criticisms ranging from the militarization of local police departments and officer abuses, to how the federal government uses drone strikes frequently in the War on Terrorism.

These are criticisms that are not unique to Friedersdorf -- and not unique to certain conservative thinkers. (The perfect example is one of the GOPers who has announced he will seek the Presidential nomination in 2016: Rand Paul.) Yet they are criticisms that don't get embraced by mainstream conservatism.

Case in point, Friedersdorf's question to "law-and-order conservatives" about what they propose to do about police officers who truly engage in abusive behavior, even suggesting that federal intervention may be necessary.

There is a “Ferguson effect,” but rather than describing a spike in violence after undue criticism of police, the term should denote an erosion of respect for police authority caused by years and years of abhorrent behavior by cops and enabling political officials who incentivize and then all but ignore blue-on-black crime. It is no accident that the cities to experience the most intense unrest after police killings of unarmed black men, Ferguson and Baltimore, were ones where even cursory scrutiny reveals severe law enforcement abuses. Circa 1992, one could have as easily called it an LAPD effect, when decades of egregious abuses supplied the gasoline and the Rodney King verdict the spark. The federal consent decree that significantly improved policing here may not have directly caused the subsequent decline in crime, but certainly did not appear to impede it. Perhaps aggressive federal intervention is needed to reduce abuses in Baltimore.

What I like about Friedersdorf is that he can argue that changes need to take place in how we think about security, while still keeping them in line with what one important thing to remember about the heart of conservatism: any concentration of power in the hands of a few can cause a lot of problems. Mainstream conservatism may think of the federal government first, and follow that with programs and ideas typically associated with liberals. Friedersdorf doesn't think in those terms; he sees any type of concentration of power as something to be concerned with. Most of all, Friedersdorf is a strong believer in civil liberties, and believes giving too much of them up simply to make people safer, is a price he's not willing to pay.

Why, you ask, would I talk about a political writer when it comes to my planned work of fiction? Because part of my book will ask this question: just how high of a price are you willing to pay to ensure your security? Are you willing to give up every liberty you consider important? Most of all, are you willing to give up your right to question whether or not people have gone too far in ensuring your safety? (Also, are you expecting me to drop the Benjamin Franklin quote any minute?)

This is how Friedersdorf has influenced my writing. He's made me question just how far is too far when it comes to promoting national security. People may believe there's no price that is too high, but that's usually because it doesn't affect them personally, or they don't notice it. Yet in our quest to try to make the world safe, we have to ask ourselves if we have really made the right decisions, and think critically, rather than emotionally, about the consequences of such decisions.

Friedersorf's writings are at The Atlantic website and can be found here.