About My Book

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

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Printed Books Still Hold Value

Technology has changed the way we publish material. I know too well about how newspapers are, at the very least, transitioning to online publications. Schools are replacing textbooks with materials downloaded to reading tablets. And the world of book publishing has more writings in electronic format.

For some of the written world, it's not surprising electronic formats are more useful. Newspaper stories, for example, tend to be short. The majority of those stories I've written never exceeded 1,000 words. I haven't kept track of which stories were the longest, but I would imagine the longest ones never topped 2,000 words.

Those stories make sense to be switched to online publishing. They are short and don't take long for people to read. It makes sense that people would want to read those stories on the go. If one did that with a newspaper, the reader would have to either fold the paper or hold it up close to their eyes to read each story. An electronic device simplifies that. One can use a tablet or smartphone to click a link and scroll down.

But books aren't something most people will read in one sitting. Somebody reading a book while riding the bus or subway to work will have to put it down at some point, not because they want to. Everyone gets immersed in a book they love, but when you reach your destination, you have to mark your place and get up. And unlike a newspaper, a reader doesn't have to move a book around or fold the pages while reading.

While e-books and online publishing are a wonderful thing for authors who haven't been able to get works released through traditional methods, I find reading any lengthy piece online to not be the same as reading a paper copy. Short blog posts and stories don't require much scrolling, but longer stories do, unless they are broken up into multiple pages. Also, I find it hard on my eyes to stare at a screen for too long.

A few years ago, I did a story about a retired teacher who spent her summers tutoring children. She told me about the research she read about how the human brain functions. She said what helps exercise the brain is to engage in physical activity, even if it's simply turning the pages of a book.

I have noticed this whenver I read books. I can feel a surge in my brain, as if it wants more with each page I turn. My eyes are never strained. Flipping the pages makes it feel like a personal experience, whereas scrolling and clicking sometimes tires me out.

Perhaps it's just a side effect of what I do for a living. Most of my work involves staring back at a computer screen or looking at my smartphone. Do this for too long and I need a break.

But I think there is something to what the retired teacher said. Activity that stimulates the brain is a good thing. If we get more brain stimulus from turning the pages of a book than we do scrolling and clicking, it makes sense to read more paper-format books.

I know there are authors who prefer to release their books electronically. But I don't think they should entirely dismiss printed books. I know the major self-publishing companies sell print books to order alongside e-books. That's a good compromise for authors who either don't want to go the traditional route, or have tried it but couldn't find an agent or publisher who would give them a chance.

Meanwhile, I hope authors encourage younger readers to pick up a printed book every now and then. E-books do open new options to authors, but most of us grew up on printed material and have wonderful memories about their favorite titles.

That's something we shouldn't lose as we move further into this electronic era. I think if we turn more pages of paper books, the more our brains will thank us.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

How To Deal With Your Biases

Confession time: I am biased.

Bias is only human. It gets shaped by personal experiences, environments and surroundings, other people and personal interests. And there's no way to get bias entirely out of my system.

What I do -- and you can do as well -- is learn how to admit your biases and deal with them the best you can. This isn't an easy task, but with time, you can overcome at least some of your biases and keep others under control when you engage in discussion.

I'll stick with myself. I'm biased in favor of the Denver Broncos. I learned to deal with, and overcome it to a degree, by reading about what goes into making good personnel decisions, what character issues really impact a team, and what the real effect is of a pro sports team on a local economy. In doing so, I learned that the Broncos don't always make the right personnel decisions, which Bronco players could truly be forgiven for their mistakes and which ones needed to depart, and that it wasn't a wise decision to support any public funding for a pro sports stadium -- even the one that led to a new stadium for the Broncos about 15 years ago. These things remind me that the Broncos are not infallible.

I'm biased against Donald Trump and the way he runs his Presidential campaign. I won't ever get that bias out entirely, but I've learned to control it by recognizing a few things. First, by recognizing that Trump sometimes raises valid points, because every Presidential candidate has them. Second, by recognizing that his popularity has a lot to do with voter frustration over governments that seem uninterested in making tough decisions about policy and keep going back to methods that aren't working. Third, by recognizing we have weak candidates in both parties, ranging from a Democratic field that seems resigned to Hillary Clinton winning the nomination (Bernie Sanders being the exception) to a Republican field that seems only interested in repeating the talking points tossed around when George W. Bush was in office. Recognizing these things makes me understand why some voters are enthusiastic about Trump.

If you want to recognize and deal with your biases, the first step to take is to admit that you have them and don't add any qualifiers to that admission. In other words, stick with the statement "I am biased" and don't follow it with any other. Remember, your task is to admit to your biases, not that anyone else has them.

From there, these are the things you can do to help you confront your biases, get past a few of them and keep others under control.

1. Remember that you are not the only with personal experiences or interests. Everyone has experienced different situations in life and interests vary among people. Relating your own experiences and interests is fine, but make sure you listen to those of other people and don't disregard them because they don't line up with yours.

2. Don't get your information from just sources that tell you what you want to hear. It's easy to pass around Facebook memes and articles that start a paragraph with "this will shock you" or other similar phrases. If you are a liberal, you need to read some conservative writings, and not just so you can make fun of them. The same applies if you are conservative, libertarian, or any other political label you identify with. Your job is to get informed as much as you can, not to sit in an echo chamber.

3. Seek out those who write thought-provoking pieces or engage in thought-provoking conversations. It's easy to flock to the orator who goes on endless rants about how enraged you need to get or the bloggers who ramble in their writings about "see, this proves this doesn't work!" But the ones that are easy to flock to are the ones that will prevent you from seeing your own biases.

4. Don't go complaining about how somebody else is biased, no matter how true it may be. The instant you do that is the instant you will be unable to confront your biases. Remember, this is about YOU, not about somebody else.

5. Remember that dealing with bias is not the same thing as changing your mind or opinion. You don't have to change every opinion you have. All you need to do is be open to dialogue and additional information, so you can re-evaluate your opinions and determine if you still have a valid point or if you may want to reconsider. If you aren't open to more information, you're not willing to confront your biases.

None of these things are easy to do, but remember that recognizing and confronting your biases are not supposed to be easy, but difficult. They are like most things in life -- there are no easy answers, and even for the things we know to be right or wrong, there are no easy solutions to ensure right and wrong are addressed. Don't pretend otherwise.

I won't ever get rid of every bias I have and some will surface in my writings. However, I strive to keep an open mind and that helps me deal with those biases. If you want to deal with yours, remember that an open mind is a good place to start.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Character Alignments For Your Consideration

I've mentioned in All About Me In 20 Questions that I participate in e-wrestling, a hobby that involves a lot of writing. In wrestling, the tendency is to think of characters as either a face (good guy), a heel (villian) or a tweener (antihero).

But there was one e-fed that requested character alignments based on Palladium role playing games. I thought it was worth visiting because these alignments could describe many characters in the books we write and read. The alignments might be a good way to give characters more depth than simply whether the character would be called a hero, villian or antihero.

I've tweaked the alignments a bit from how the e-fed presented them, and because the alignments were based on Palladium, I figure these descriptions will be similar to the RPG. But here they are for consideration.

Principled: A principled character lives by a strict code of ethics. There is a definite right and wrong in the world for this character and they attempt to right those wrongs. There are certain lines they will not cross, though, and they will do all they can within that strict code to bring wrongdoers to justice.

Scrupulous: These characters know right and wrong and believe that those in the wrong should be brought to justice. But if the rules prevent this, they will bend the rules so that justice can be served. "Fight fire with fire" fits the mentality of these characters, although they may weigh the benefit versus the cost of bending a rule when making decisions.

Unprincipled: These characters understand that there are right and wrongs, but as long as they can stretch a few of the rules and don't get caught, they are fine with their actions. Their main concern is that the damage their actions cause isn't serious and that the repercussions don't have a long-term negative effect. Such characters will usually stay within a code but will bend it from time to time, more often than a scrupulous character.

Taoist: Whatever is fun or enjoyable is what is right. These characters seek out what they like and strive for that above everything else. They are not worried where something came from or how they got it, as long as they can have fun using it. If somebody doesn't understand the situation, they're missing out on something. Though they are likely to make fun of others and not understand why they would be upset, they do not seek to cause physical injury.

Anarchist: These characters see social norms as roadblocks toward achieving their goals. They may or may not be in it for themselves, and they don't necessarily care about their own interest above all others. But they constantly push the boundaries of what is considered acceptable to achieve the desired result.

Selfish: These characters will work within a system, but only if it benefits them personally. Rules only apply when they gain something from them; if they don't, they will be discarded. They are aware that their actions cause harm but they aren't bothered by them. The only thing that matters is how things can best serve themselves, not others around them.

Aberrant: One might call this "honor among thieves." Characters of this type have a code of ethics that governs their lives and they will abide by it. However, they will break laws society has in place because they realize that it's human nature to try to "get ahead." They also see that the nature of society is to sometimes ignore rule-breaking, so they see no harm in doing it.

Miscreant: These characters cause grief for kicks. They are the type that seems to enjoy making life miserable for other people. They may not cross certain lines, but those situations are few.

Diabolic: These characters are, simply put, evil. There is nothing they won't do to achieve their goals, whether it's backstabbing, trickery or injury. They do these things without guilt and they may not even have a natural goal in mind. They simply see the opportunity is there and they take it.

So what alignments do your characters fall under? Do these descriptions fit them? Or are there certain words you would use to describe them that don't appear on this list?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Critiquing Others Work Can Help Your Writing, Too

Attending the writer's group in Pratt, Kan., has proven useful as I get to critique other's writing, and in the process, get ideas about how I can improve my own.

Critiquing other's writing is a useful practice, because you learn what does and doesn't work for you as a reader. And while there will be times in which you may not be interested in a subject, you can still spot areas in which writers need to improve, then apply that to your own writing.

In the first draft of the book I wrote, I tossed out a whole bunch of ideas for plot points I wanted to cover and characters I wanted to introduce. I went through four drafts in which I revamped from telling to showing, breaking up long passages of inner dialogue and moving material from the first part of my trilogy to the second. A few things got cut, but much of it remained intact.

But as I talked to other writers and got their ideas, I reconsidered a few things and excluded some of them as I started my fifth draft. That's because I discovered that certain characters didn't really have much of a role, and a couple of plot points didn't really lead anywhere.

And some of my decisions came because I read another person's draft. I thought this person had an interesting concept and did a good job illustrating the main character's inner conflict, but he had certain plot points that didn't lead to anything and certain characters who carried little importance. I saw that he could cut down or eliminate certain things to improve the story's flow and pull readers deeper into the themes and what the main character faces.

I then asked myself, if I see things another writer can eliminate to improve a story, why couldn't I do the same with my story?

I'll admit when I first started writing my novel, I wasn't sure how many people I wanted to read my work. I imagine it's tempting for many writers to keep everything a secret, in hopes of surprising readers with a storyline and the twists the plot takes.

But had I not started sharing my writing, I wouldn't have learned what I could really do to draw a reader's attention. Nor would I have been given the chance to look at what other people have written and suggest what might work better. And that demonstrated that my critiques of other people's writing carries as much importance as having others critique mine.

Always remember that, when you talk about what you see in another writer's draft, that what you suggest can be just as useful to help you improve. The more we share critiques with one another, the better we all become as writers.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Participation Trophies Aren't The Problem Here

Albert Burneko of Deadspin wrote a column in response to former NFL linebacker James Harrison making his kids give up participation trophies because he believed they didn't deserve trophies just for showing up. Burneko goes on to remind people how innocent kids are to begin with and concludes that the real problem is the trophy they give to the kids who win.

He has a point, actually. It's true you don't get a bonus in your paycheck just for showing up to work, but that's because you've reached an age at which point you shouldn't expect that. In Harrison's case, we are talking about kids who were eight and six years old, who are at an age in which the overwhelming majority of them may not like to lose, but get more pleasure in just running around with the ball, smiling and giggling, as adults try to encourage them while reminding them about the rules of the game.

As they get older, those trinkets just don't come for them any longer -- or at least in theory, they do. But if you think about, rewards for just showing up are still a part of life. In high school, they call them participation certificates and year-end banquets. Oh, but wait, they aren't trophies, so they don't count? Actually, they do, because anything presented you just for participating is the same: You stuck it out for the year, so here's your reward!

More to the point, though, is that for every parent who coddles their child too much and tries to protect them from every little thing that might get the child upset, there is a parent who drills the idea of "look out for number one" into a child's mind at such an early age that the child wants nothing to do with anything the parent wants because the child is scared to death of being shamed for not winning.

Whether or not Harrison is one of the latter parents is not for me to judge, but his argument is misdirected. It's not giving out participation awards to six-year-old kids that contributes to our "entitlement" society, but the combination of people who go overboard in protecting a child's self-esteem and the people who pound into a child's head the idea that if you don't win, you're a failure. Both instances lead to kids who don't know how to handle a situation that doesn't go their way.

Nobody likes to lose and nobody likes to be rejected, but it's part of life. But giving participation trophies is not something that causes a child to not learn how to handle the downside of life. People who can't stand to lose, whether because they are too competitive for their own good or too worried about failure, are the problem.

Meanwhile, we need to remember that six-year-olds and eight-year-olds are still learning a lot about life and, while they love to win and don't like to lose just like any other person, they're more concerned about whether or not they had fun. If a parent is more concerned with winning or a child's feelings, the child sure isn't going to have fun.

That's really the "entitlement" Harrison should be concerned about -- the "entitlement" for parents to insist everything go their way.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

How Learning Really Happens

As I continue exploring the writing world and proceed with my first attempt at a novel, I find myself learning a lot of things I need to do. I'm also reminded about what education is really all about.

We worry about education so much in the United States, but we go about it the wrong way. I'm not talking about what we expect our kids to learn; I'm talking about how we go about it. Most of the time, we focus our education concerns on how well kids test. We spend time comparing test results to other nations, we worry that we aren't number one and we decide the best option is to test more frequently to make sure nobody is falling behind.

Meanwhile, we are losing sight on what learning is supposed to be all about: Allowing a person to explore something on his or her own, experiment with what he or she has researched, then have somebody who understands the subject examine what that person has done and critique it, pointing out what was done correctly, what is incorrect, what the person did well and where the person needs improvement.

As I have started novel writing, I've had to learn plenty of things, even though I write for a living. Newspaper writing and novel writing are not the same, so I have plenty to learn. And the only way I'm going to learn is to sit down and experiment, then get feedback.

Sure, we could figure out which authors and writers are the best based on how well they remember all the writing advice they got and test them on their grammatical skills. But that does not mean the authors and writers who get the best test scores are going to be the best at the craft. In fact, I suspect most authors and writers would strongly object to the idea that test scores should be the standard by which authors and writers are judged.

So if we believe it's a bad idea to judge authors and writers based on how much they remember to pass a test, then why do we insist that's the best way to educate our kids? I realize that not every child starts kindergarten knowing how to read or do simple math problems, but why must we test the child so many times to see what they are doing? Wouldn't a better method be to let the child sit down, demonstrate what reading or math skills they have, then let the teacher examine them, explain to the child what he or she got right or wrong, and what the child did well or needs improvement?

There are ways to do this without it sounding like you are putting a child down. Even at a young age, if you start out by telling them what they did well, then follow it with what they didn't do well, and explain what they can do to get it right, that's more likely to encourage a child than to slap a test down in front of them and judge them based on whether they pass it or not.

That doesn't mean testing should be scrapped entirely. What it means is we need to focus more on how a child really learns, and that's by experimenting, figuring out how to get better or how to get the correct answer, and then sharing it with others to find out what worked and what didn't. It's no different from how authors and writers get better at their craft: Experiment, figure out what works and what doesn't, and get feedback.

We can debate about what teaching methods are the best and whether or not there needs to be national standards in place. But every time I hear a teacher complain about teaching kids these days, the words I hear most often are "we test too much."

That should tell us something about how we are going the wrong way with learning -- and that we authors and writers should look back at our own writing experiences and know what was the real way we learned.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Newspapers Still A Promotional Avenue If You Understand Local Ties

I've written for newspapers for more than 20 years. Mostly small-town publications, but still, they are part of an industry that some would say is dying, and others would say is still trying to figure out how adapt to today's environment, where technology rules.

Regardless of what you think, it's true what has been said for aspiring authors that it's tougher to get exposure through printed publications. When it comes to newspapers, most of them are no longer doing book reviews. True, there are thousands of websites and blogs that will review books and do author profiles, but a more detailed story about an author and his or her book is still something that can make a writer feel good, particularly when the writer of the article can give it a personal touch that the book writer wants to give to his or her own work!

As someone who has written for small-town newspapers for so long, I can tell you that what really drives newspapers these days, and draws the attention of their writers, is local news. That's particularly true about the smaller communities where I have lived, in which few people from larger outlets will regularly cover what's important to them.

So such publications sound like a good opportunity for writers to promote their work. But keep in mind that, because these newspapers focus on local information, you need to remember how to tie your book in with the local community.

I'll go back to my days when I worked in Raton, N.M. I cannot tell you how many times I got press releases e-mailed about events taking place in Albuquerque or Santa Fe, or telling me about people with local ties, when those people lived in those cities. The problem was, neither city qualified as local, because Raton was 200 miles away! Then there were people who saw that I was a sports editor and sent queries, asking if I would want to review a book or talk to an author. The only problem: Most of these authors had no ties to Raton. They may have written about topics that I had explored in an occasional column, but if I was going to do stories about books or interviews with authors for the paper, I wanted a local tie.

That brings me to the time when an author brought by a copy of his book called Ghost Town Basketball. It was about basketball programs at schools that no longer existed, because the towns had dried up. Many of those teams had been near Raton and other communities the newspaper covered. The author had visited the Raton Museum and talked to several people in the area to do his research.

Now we are getting somewhere! We have a topic that will interest some local readers, the topic covers communities that local readers would be familiar with, and the people who the author interviewed were known to those readers. That's a book a local newspaper will want to write about, and that's exactly what I did.

So now that you understand a little more about the importance of local ties to most newspapers, here are those ties that will tell you whether or not you want to promote a book to a newspaper.

1. Does the author have strong ties in the city, town or county the newspaper in located? There are three strong ties that matter: The author lives there, the author was born and grew up there, or the author lived in that area for a long period of time (at least 10 years). People know who the author is and will be interested to learn about a book the author has written. Keep in mind, though, that "local" doesn't mean "same state."

2. Does the author's book prominently talk about the city, town or county, or about a major attraction there? Going back to Raton, a work of fiction set in Raton will hold interest, because people will be interested to know why the author chose Raton for the setting. If it's a nonfiction work about, for example, the Philmont Scout Ranch, a popular Boy Scout camp located near Raton, that's a book the local media will likely want to feature because people know the importance of the camp to the local area.

3. Does the book feature a topic that holds strong interest to the local residents? This is where you really need to do your research to know how much interest the book will hold to readers. Sticking with Raton, I can tell you the local baseball team draws much interest. But that doesn't mean your book about high school baseball will necessarily draw attention, especially if you wrote about a team hundreds of miles away. On the other hand, Raton once had a horse racing track called La Mesa Park and the residents still hope for horse racing to return. So there might be interest in a book about the history of horse racing, particularly if La Mesa Park is mentioned frequently. Remember, the stronger the local tie, the better.

Newspapers can still be an avenue for an author, agent or publisher to promote material. Just make sure you understand the importance of local ties before you start contacting those outlets.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Fantastic Four Problem: It's The Writing

Any comic book geek out there is likely aware of all the negative reviews surrounding the newest Fantastic Four film, and I've read plenty of remarks about how Fox needs to quit trying to reboot the film and let Marvel Studios get more control so that studio can figure out how to make it work.

While it's true that Fox doesn't want to give up the distribution rights to Fantastic Four films, that really isn't the problem with poor films about the superhero team. Switching full control to Marvel and Disney isn't going to solve the problem by itself. All one has to do is look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has it shares of weak films. Incredible Hulk is forgettable, Iron Man 2 was a mess and Thor 2 was not good at all -- and in each case, you had a different company who held distribution rights at the time the film was released. Fact is, any studio can distribute a bad film.

And while it may be true that Sony's unwillingness to cede distribution rights for Spider-Man led to a reboot coming too soon, there's no guarantee Sony turning everything back to Marvel and Disney would have solved anything (and nothing is guaranteed now that Spidey will be part of the MCU). Besides, the second Amazing Spider-Man film suffered from the same problem the three weak MCU films had, and the Fantastic Four films have: Subpar writing.

Let's stick with Fantastic Four. The problem with the first film released to theaters was that it had the right idea of being a lighthearted film with a dark undertone, but it had the wrong execution with lightheartedness. Rather than letting the characters drop one-liners here and there and drop a humorous note when the time was right, it went for too many visual gags and put the characters in embarrassing situations. I never saw the second film, but the latest reboot decided to make everything with a dark tone, and that makes movie goers weary when every single superhero flick has that tone.

Furthermore, the first film did a poor job executing the relationship between Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm. The former is supposed to be enamored with his superpowers and be reckless and impulsive, in contrast to Grimm, who is not happy with his superpowers but mostly does things by the book. In the first film, Storm is turned into a jerk who picks on Grimm just because he can. Additionally, the first film didn't effectively portray the relationship between Reed Richards and Sue Storm, in that the two really like each other, but Richards wraps himself up too much in his research that Sue wonders if he really pays attention to her. They instead did a love triangle with Victor Von Doom and it didn't hit the same notes.

Speaking of which, Doctor Doom is the other issue with the Fantastic Four films. It's understandable that you aren't going to make Doom's origin what it was in the comics (a mysterious dictator of an Eastern European nation, which dates back to the Cold War), but in the first film, they made him a greedy, egotistical businessman who was a bigger jerk than Johnny, but failed to make him sympathetic to a degree. The first Iron Man did a better job of taking an egotistical businessman (Obadiah Stane) and making him a little sympathetic, because you can sense he wanted to run Stark Industries after Tony Stark's father Howard passed away, only for Tony to take over. It's a trait that people can relate to (I'm better qualified than the person who got the promotion or who runs the show) as opposed to a general stereotype that the common person can't really identify with (businessmen are greedy because they are).

If Fantastic Four is ever going to succeed as a film franchise, it simply needs writers who understand how to write a lighthearted film with dark undertones and how to make the personalities play off each other, while keeping the superheroes likeable. Trying to reinvent Dr. Doom is a tougher challenge, though, and that may be the biggest hurdle to getting Fantastic Four to work in film.

But while I've wondered whether or not Fox will come to a deal to get Fantastic Four tied into the MCU, that has more to do with what Sony's thinking may be (tying Spidey into MCU will get people interested again) and less to do with it improving the quality of the film. And if Fox decides to tie it to the X-Men, it does need to keep in mind that the Fantastic Four should be a contrast to the X-Men (many of them are supposed to be brooding, although some to a lesser degree than others), not just another group who finds nothing but despair.

To the point, though: Fantastic Four needs to be done in the vein of Guardians of the Galaxy if it's going to work. GotG got it right with doing a lighthearted film with dark undertones. Fantastic Four needs that, and it starts with the writing, not with the studio distributing it.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Book Review: Rain of the Ghosts

I previously wrote about how Greg Weisman influenced my writing and ideas, and as a fan of his work, I was intrigued by his first novel Rain of the Ghosts.

A brief background before I get to the novel: Rain of the Ghosts was originally envisioned as a TV show but the project fell through. Weisman later rewrote the show as a novel but couldn't find anyone interested. After he had finished work on the series Young Justice, he went back to the novel, did a rewrite and found an interested publisher. (See, other writers can relate to Weisman with the tale of writing a novel, not finding interest and having to revisit and rewrite it later.)

As for the novel itself, it focuses on the adventures of Rain Cacique, who lives with her family in the Prospero Keys, a chain of islands on the edge of the Bermuda Triangle. Her grandfather Sebastian passes away while she is out with her best friend Charlie Dauphin and a girl the two met the day before, Miranda. Prior to his death, Sebastian gave Rain a gold band with two intertwined gold snakes. After his death, Rain realizes she can see ghosts and the band allows her to communicate with them, notably her own grandfather. From there, it leads to an adventure in which Rain must solve a mystery dating back to World War II.

The novel's biggest strength is Weisman understanding how teenagers think, particularly at a young age, and he does a good job bringing Rain and Charlie to life. I empathized with Rain and her relationship with her grandfather, and you understand Charlie enough to know he's conflicted between how long he's known Rain and what he thinks about Miranda upon first meeting her.

Another strength is how Weisman takes the concept of magical characters but keeps it grounded in the real world. He does a good job describing the Prospero Keys environment and I can tell he thoroughly researched what the area was like.

The novel is written from the omniscient viewpoint, which may not appeal to some readers. I've had discussions with others about the danger of "head hopping" before, but the counterpoint is many novels do a good job with that viewpoint. In Weisman's case, I think his portrayal of younger characters and his world building make up for the challenge with omniscient narration.

Rain of the Ghosts is the first in a series of nine planned novels. The second novel, Spirits of Ash and Foam, has also been released, and a third novel is on the way. After reading the first two (and yes, a review of the second novel is forthcoming), I am intrigued to see what twists and turns Weisman will take next.

You can order Rain of the Ghosts on Amazon or check your local bookstore.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Don't Be Afraid To Take A Day Off

As we authors plug away at our manuscripts and set goals for how many words we want to write in a day, we sometimes forget it's OK to take a break in the middle of a manuscript.

My job sometimes forces me to take a day off from writing my book, but it's more than just ensuring your commitments outside of writing. Sometimes, it can be beneficial to step away from your writing and get some focus back.

When I first thought of ideas for my book, it usually took place when I was taking a walk, mowing the lawn or shopping for groceries. Taking time to do those things, and not just sitting in front of your notepad or laptop, can be a good way to generate some ideas.

It's good to set goals for how much writing you want to get in a day, especially as you are getting further into your rewrites and edits. But get too caught up in your writing and you might lose sight on certain ideas that can make your story flow better.

Briefly touching upon my book, I have a chapter that will include some scenes that will be written differently from what I originally had in mind. Tonight, when I go out to mow the lawn, I'll have the chance to think about what I want to write, and continue to think about those things when I go out to run errands in the morning. Then, I hope to sit down and write out some of that material.

And, yes, I found it does help to step away from your completed draft for a while, to see if things are really coming together as you want them. But it can help just as much to do it when a draft is underway.

So don't be afraid to take a day off from writing. It might mean one day lost toward how soon you complete your draft, but it could result in greater gain for how strong your draft turns out.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Sometimes You Have To Cut Something Out

So the fifth draft of my book is at more than 15,000 words, six-and-a-half chapters and about 43 pages. As I've gone through edits and revisions, I've made the hard choice that other writers often make: cutting some stuff out.

As the first book is part of a planned trilogy, I had a lot of characters I wanted to introduce along the way. However, I had one character I planned to introduce in the first book, but have decided to push back that character to the second book. He's not entirely out of the picture, but he is out of the first book. The reason I eliminated him was because I decided that some of his involvement wasn't going anywhere, but he becomes more important as the trilogy continues.

There is another character I had wanted to involve a lot in the first book, but now his role will be significantly reduced. This is because I decided that his involvement was repeating material that was covered by another character. So it was better to use him as a fairly insignificant character who only plays importance to a scene or two. This allowed me to put the focus on other characters who carry greater importance in the trilogy.

Finally, there were certain plot points I wanted to address, but I determined they dragged down the story too much. So a lot of them will be pushed back in the later installments of the trilogy.

As I have read what others have wrote, and talked to other people, I now understand why sometimes you have to get rid of certain characters, elements and concepts in order to sharpen the focus of your story.

With this said, it's fine when you are completing initial drafts of a story to throw out whatever you want. That's because it's the only way you will figure out what works and what doesn't work. You might find a character who you thought would be insignificant, instead be a compelling character who demands greater involvement in the story.

Even if you don't, you'll learn what can be removed to allow you to focus on more important details. And if you plan sequels, you can always introduce certain elements you eliminated, if you believe they can still build the world or plots you want to develop.

Cutting is never an easy task, but I've learned why it's essential to writing a good novel.

(Note: Yes, I'm being cryptic about the details, because I'm not ready to reveal them yet. Once I have a draft I'm ready to submit to agents, I may share more details, perhaps even a preview of the first chapter. In the meantime, I hope to have a book review up for you by the weekend.)

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Avoiding Repetition

So I've finished four chapters in my fifth rewrite/revision, up to 8,853 words. With any luck, I'll get the fifth chapter completed tomorrow.

In the meantime, during the Pratt writer's group I attended, I was asked by somebody there to read his latest manuscript. As I read through some of this afternoon, I started thinking about some of the writing tips I've learned in my meetings with other writers, following writers on Twitter and advice I've read in books and blogs.

One of the things that's stood out is to avoid repetition. In other words, you don't have to keep reminding readers about something all the time. Always find a way to describe what your character is doing without writing the same thing.

As an example: Let's say you have a character who is heading to the grocery store. Say you write this in your draft.

Joe needed to get some groceries. He walked out the door as he said to his wife, "I'm going to the grocery store."

There may be a need to say this in the quote, but you don't say it in the interior monologue. Let's try a different approach.

Joe opened the refrigertaor. No milk. Why didn't somebody keep track of these things? He shut the door, walked to the table and picked up his car keys.
"I'm going to the grocery store," he said to his wife.

Not only have we avoided repetition, we get into the reasons why the character is going to the store, and we've got an idea about what he thinks about the situation.

So a better way to remind your readers about the setting or situation your character is facing is to get your character's thoughts out there. If the setting is a crowded room, you may want to write about whether or not your character likes being in a crowd. If the situation is tense, write about your character's heart pounding. If it's hot, have your character wipe sweat from the forehead.

Remember, though, that repetition means you don't want to hammer the point home. Go back to the crowded room example. Mention the room is crowded, get into either your character's thoughts or actions, then get to your next development. From there, you only need to remind your readers about the crowded room if it leads to something else. How you do that depends on how important it is to the story.

If your character starts a conversation with somebody, and they try to leave the room, you can mention that they have to push past people to get out, but leave it at that. On the other hand, if somebody shouts "Fire!" and everyone panics, now the crowded room becomes an important element, and you can describe what your character is thinking and doing as everyone tries to get out.

With practice, you'll learn how many times it's OK to remind your readers about a setting or situation, and the ways you can do it without writing the same words. And your story will flow better.