About My Book

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

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Sometimes It's About Addition, Not Subtraction

I've often read and heard advice from writers that one of the most important things to remember is "don't be afraid to kill your darlings."

That, of course, refers to a writer needing to cut anything that doesn't add to the story or doesn't advance the plot or narrative.

I may be running into a different situation, though, as I complete the first draft of my second novel.

The first draft of my planned first novel checked in at more than 71,000 words. I had a lot of ideas and multiple characters I wanted to cover. So my time writing was spent pouring all those ideas out onto the computer screen and I may have tried to do too much.

But as I entered my second novel, I had a better idea of where I wanted the plot to go and the arcs my characters would follow. I introduced new characters and concepts, but had a better idea about how they would fit in.

I've already written 17 of the 26 planned scenes for the second novel, but I'm at 24,000 words. That puts me on a pace to write less than 40,000 words -- far from the idea length for a novel.

Obviously, I'll need to finish the first draft before going to the next steps, but one I will have to keep in mind is where it's OK to add or expand the story.

In other words, there are times when it may be reasonable to add more to a book. Perhaps it's digging deeper into a character's mindset, more description for a setting or expanding upon a minor character. I think writers can do most of these things without bogging down the reader with too much information.

With that said, I don't know yet how long I'll go with the scenes I have yet to write. So it's possible I'll have a suitable length for a novel when the first draft.

But we should remember that deleting something from a draft may not always be the answer. Sometimes you need to add more to make the story better.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Smallville ComicCon And Other Notes

Last weekend I attended the Smallville ComicCon in Hutchinson, Kan. It was my first time attending a ComicCon and, because this was a smaller convention, I thought it was a good way to experience a ComicCon for the first time. Plus, it helped that it was just 40 miles away from where I live.

Among the guests at the ComicCon were Marv Wolfman, a longtime comic book writer who had two sessions: one about the characters he's created and stories he's written and another about his writing tips. Most of the information he presented is information you hear from the majority of writers, but it was still interesting to hear his thoughts, particularly when he used his own characters as examples. His explanations about relationships between characters was a good reminder about what makes writing work.

Another guest was actress Helen Slater, whose best-known role in the world of comics may be playing the title character of the 1980s film Supergirl. It was fun to hear Slater's thoughts about playing that role and how, at the same time the film was released, DC Comics issued a comic book in which Supergirl died (a story written by Wolfman, in fact). She also shared her own experiences when she was asked to write a Supergirl story when the character was brought back many years later.

I also joined a session in which two authors, James Young and Susanne Lambdin, shared their own advice about writing. They each had 10 tips and bounced their thoughts off one another about what makes for good writing. Young had good advice about not worrying about whether somebody has done your idea before, but each writer has an original spin about that idea. Lambdin had good advice about not being overly descriptive with characters and setting, because it can drown the reader in information. Of course, no one piece of advice may apply in every case, but it's good to listen to what other writers have experienced and learn from them when you go about your writing.

In the meantime, I have started writing the planned second book in my Six Pack series and am up to more than 16,000 words. My goal is to complete an individual scene each day. I'll admit I haven't quite accomplished that, but I'm still on track to finishing the first draft by the start of July. I have 26 scenes and 12 are finished. I've designated each scene as its own chapter, but that will change as the book evolves. I want to focus on getting those scenes out on the comptuer screen in the first draft, then get things organized with the second draft.

As for the first book, I've held off on queries for the time being because the next Pit2Pub Twitter pitch party will be July 13 and I'm planning to participate. I'm excited about Pit2Pub; all I need to do is figure out the best pitches to use to promote my book.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Dear America: Enough

I have had a couple of days to think more about what happened in Orlando this past weekend and where the conversation really needs to be going.

The past few days have been predictable. We have seen people on both sides of issues regarding Muslims, guns, LGBT rights, mental health treatment and other topics, and the overwhelming majority of them want to roll out one factor only, one size fits all, see how easy that is, and other narrow-minded approaches to what happened without understanding the big picture.

I have just one thing to say to everyone in America doing that: Enough.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

On Orlando And American Rhetoric

The mass shooting at The Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. -- an establishment which mainly caters to gay people -- left me numb. 50 people dead, many more injured. My initial reaction was that I was at a loss for words.

Then I read what Charles Pierce had to say about what we lose with every mass shooting. He put things into perspective and made me realize what I should really be upset about: that there is a kind of virulent hate out there that is reflected in what our politicians do.

Politicians send out their thoughts and prayers, yet how many of them want to trumpet legislation that only serves to fuel the flames that spread such hate? Their thoughts and prayers ring hollow when their primary concern remains getting re-elected to the offices they hold or, if they are leaving office, ensuring the person who represents their party gets elected. And all of this is done to cater to special interest groups who have personal agendas and don't want the larger issues discussed.

Meanwhile, we voters go about our business of tossing around memes that sound good to us, while leaving posts on Facebook and Twitter and only concerning ourselves with how many people respond favorably to them. We keep clinging to easy answers because that's what we really want.

I have written previously that most issues are complex in nature and to boil any incident down to a single factor overlooks the bigger picture. What Pierce wrote about is the perfect example of what happens when everyone wants to look at every issue as "one or the other" rather than realize there's often more to it than that.

If we really want America to be better than what we think of it as, we need to stop with the endless rhetoric, the echo chambers and the short sightedness that plague the direction we often take America. We need to have open, honest discussion and not just toss memes around. And we need to recognize that we have a lot more to do than just toss up thoughts and prayers, as good as our intentions may be -- and to especially remind every politician that thoughts and prayers may be a nice gesture, but they don't ever lead to real solutions.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

My Presidential Election Thoughts

I have previously written about why Presidential candidates such as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have gained a following. We're nearing the end of the primary/caucus period of the Presidential election and the process of selecting Congressional members, governors and state officers will get underway.

As far as where I stand on these things, I'll summarize my thoughts on the Presidential election.

* While I understand the frustration that Donald Trump supporters feel, I am not going to vote for Trump for any reason. Trump is an orator who may say the right things at times, but they get drowned out in silly or vulgar rhetoric. While I am glad that Trump's candidacy has exposed the bulk of Republican candidates for being out of touch with voters, Trump's oratory methods aren't going to work once he gets into office. A good President understands not only how to win a Presidential election, but can hone political skills to get the United States population to back his or her ideas, even among some of those who did not for that person. Trump has certainly energized his supporters but he's not showing himself to be someone who will get the population in general unified behind his ideas... ideas which are all over the place and seem to be based on whatever strikes him at given moments.

* I remain lukewarm to Hillary Clinton and am highly unlikely to back her, either. My issues with Clinton is that her foreign policy is too hawkish and she seems uninterested in trying to advance new ideas. She's not doing an effective job communicating her vision and seems unwilling to challenge the status quo. I have my doubts she would be an effective President, not because I don't think she's qualified, but because she isn't a very good politician. If we look at past Presidents who were considered to be ineffective, those Presidents had experience in government and understood how processes worked, but they were unable to get the majority of people unified because those Presidents were ineffective communicators. And an ineffective communicator doesn't make for a good politician. The perfect example of this is Herbert Hoover. Hoover is inaccurately portrayed as a President who didn't attempt anything -- he did try some things, even though they didn't work as he may have expected. Also, he had experience in government. His problem was that he couldn't communicate his vision to voters well when he needed to the most. Compare that to Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was strong in communicating to voters and gained large support, even if the effectiveness of his policies is debatable.

* I have been more interested in the candidacies of Bernie Sanders and Gary Johnson. I don't agree with them on every point they make and I do find some of their ideas to be unworkable. However, I have found Sanders more effective in empathizing with the plight of the common voter and to point to areas that, at the very least, merit a lengthy discussion as to why those areas are the way they are and how they got to that point. Simply ignoring those areas and portraying them as "we have always done it this way" isn't going to help matters. As for Johnson, I think he understands enough about the issues that America is facing that he will steer discussion in the direction it needs to go. I think Johnson is the most effective politician among the candidates I've discussed, even if he's not drawing the most attention. And while I don't believe it's possible to eliminate the income tax and corporate tax, I believe Johnson would get to the heart of the matter regarding the tax code, which is far too complex and confuses many people. A simplified tax code would work better and I think Johnson would get things going in the right direction. At this point, I lean toward Johnson, although I would consider backing Sanders if he does win the Democrat nomination.

* One thing American voters need to remember is that no President is ever going to get every single thing he or she wants. That's how it should be. It may see like certain Presidents always got their way, but if you go back and look and their tenures, they didn't. This is why I'm not going to reject somebody because I don't agree with everything he or she says. What I'm looking for is somebody whose overall vision I can get behind, even if not everything is sound.

* With that said, I'm not going to drum up support for whoever I eventually back in the upcoming election by attacking the supporters of another candidate. Nor am I going to support somebody just to keep somebody else out of office. Both are losing strategies because they do nothing to sway voters who haven't decided who they want to back, while further energizing the voters who have made up their minds. By all means, attack the candidate you don't like, but if you focus too much on the candidate's supporters or simply back one person to keep another out of office, you are more likely to wind up with a bad taste in your mouth after the November election.