Tag Archives: amwriting

Advance Praise for 24 Minutes

My first novel, Living the Dream, was released in August, 2009 – since then I have released at least one novel each year along with a couple of novellas, a collection of short stories and a co-written collection of motorcycle memoirs, bringing my total number of releases to fourteen in eight-and-a-half years.

Some people find that impressive, I just look at it as doing what I do.

Regardless…the streak has been broken.

I didn’t release a book in 2017 – even though I fully intended to. And naturally the reason for my apparent slacking comes with a story. I’m not making excuses, mind you…I’m just keeping you in the loop.

After Blood in the Water was released in late 2016 I was ready to begin work on my next novel. It was going to be another story set in Flagler Beach, involving Ike and some poor, innocent guy or girl being victimized by a less-than-scrupulous ne’er-do-well.

I had barely begun writing it when, as part of my day job (do you believe I still have to work?) I had to take a class called “Active Shooter Training.”  It was four hours of training on what to do, and what not to do, in the event a gunman should come into the building with a grudge.

It’s a very sad commentary on our society that this class was necessary, but that’s a discussion for a different day.

So there I am…sitting in the class learning the best ways to increase my chances of surviving an unimaginable event when the instructor said something that caught the attention of the writer in me.

He said that the average duration of a mass shooting situation was about fifteen minutes – with many lasting seven minutes or less.

The first thought through my mind was Wow! Those have got to be the longest fifteen minutes imaginable.

Sometime before the class ended I decided that this would be the subject of my next book, and that it would take place entirely within that fifteen minute time span.

Shortly after I began writing I realized that it would be nearly impossible to fill an entire novel with fifteen minutes worth of story…so I increased the time span to twenty-four minutes. I also thought “24 Minutes” had a catchy ring to it as the title of the story.

Work began in December of 2016, but progress was very slow – partly due to the holidays and partly due to my own lack of confidence in the story. I was concerned that the whole idea was ill-conceived…that the subject matter was inappropriate, and that it was taking the art-imitates-life concept a bit too far.

Nevertheless I continued writing.

Then in April I had a major setback…I was involved in a motorcycle accident (read the two part story on that here and here if you’d like) and I was unable to write for two full months.

Once I was fully mended I got back to work on the story, but it took me a while to get back in the groove. Then, just when I was getting up to speed again my girlfriend and I bought a house – which, thanks to some needed cosmetic renovations, consumed every free minute of my time for a couple more months.

Finally, somewhere in the beginning of August I had a finished first draft.

From there it went to my beta readers and, after some revisions, was sent to my editor in the beginning of December.

I have gotten the first round of editor’s comments back and have been going through the story again. The way things are going I am very confident that release should be in the middle of February.

In the meantime I shared some advance copies to a few trusted colleagues for review.

It is with great pride – and lots of relief – that I share some of their comments. They have dispelled my concerns about releasing it.

Here are portions (without spoilers!) of what they had to say

Author Susan M. Toy had this to Say:

In a departure from his popular “Ike” novels, Tim Baker has proven himself to be a multi-faceted and talented writer by handily taking on the very important, serious, and timely topic of what happens when someone who believes himself to have been wronged takes his revenge. I found 24 Minutes to be riveting reading that I could not put down. Baker’s characters are individuals, each of them very human, and just like those people we know as neighbors, co-workers, friends, family—which makes this tragic story all too believable, and heart-wrenchingly personal. Excellent writing, an engaging story, and an all-too-real situation – a story that needed to be told, from an author who I know is getting better with every novel he writes!

Author Rebecca Heishman wrote:

The ‘Ike books’ are wonderful entertaining, fun, and great reads. This book has the potential of becoming important to people because of the honesty, the vulnerability, and by Tim’s putting it all out there for readers to see. It was a little bit breathtaking for me. It’s a chunk of blatant reality playing out. It’s powerful. The reader can feel the passion that went into writing it.

From Author Susan Nicholls:

The tension throughout the book was incredible.

The multi-layered stories of each character drew me in and made me care, yet I sensed a tragedy unfolding. All of the characters were interesting in their own right, and I became emotionally bound to them whether I liked them or not. The writing was superb.

Throughout the book, (Tim’s) characteristic subtle, yet wicked, humor colored the pages. I was really glad to see that. It made for a great read. It’s the sort of thing that draws me in and keeps me reading because it gives me a light breathing moment to break the tension.

Author/book reviewer Kaye Lynne Booth:

Tim Baker addresses social issues which are prominent in our society today, offering an inside view illustrating the many sides of human nature which reveal themselves under pressure. A fast paced slowed to a readable tempo for maximum enjoyment. (Kaye’s entire review can be read here)

Author/book reviewer Carolann Padgett:  

How much could 24 Minutes mean in the course of our lives? Could events take place that change the trajectories of those who hold us dear? In the amount of time it takes to watch a network sitcom lives are lost, found, and forever changed. 

Through masterful characterization techniques, readers are introduced to highly unlikeable individuals including the bigot, the miser, the convict, and the shrew. Kind, thoughtful, and polite characters are presented, as well. 

As the tale unfolds the theme “perception is not necessarily reality” is repeatedly visited. Are the characters solely good or evil? In the midst of crisis do true natures rise to the top? In life or death gambles is survival of the fittest the status quo? Or are sacrifices made for the good of others? 

 

Now it’s time to get back to doing what I do…

I’ll be sending the book back to the editor this weekend for round two. I am hopeful that work should be complete in the next week or two so it can be released before the end of February – and who knows…maybe I’ll get another book out this year to make up for missing a year!

As always – thank you for reading

Advertisements

14 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

How Important is Your Word count?

The Word Count Conundrum

When this past weekend started the word count on my work in progress (WIP), tentatively called Blood in the Water, stood at 29,822.

Given the way this story has been progressing I was looking forward to a very productive weekend.

Saturday was a day of limited work. I had to meet with my tax preparation professional in the morning (yes, that’s right…I procrastinated as long as I could on that one!) and in the evening I was out for dinner and a comedy show with the family to celebrate my sister’s birthday.

Total word count for the day…less than 1,000.

No problem.

Sunday was a free day.

No plans, no chores, no interruptions – I could make up for Saturday’s dismal progress.

After an early morning bicycle ride I got down to business.

I would love to tell you that I hammered the keyboard relentlessly all day and finished the weekend with a word count that exceeded my expectations.

I really would love to tell you that.

Here’s the thing…

I am at a point in the story where something big needs to happen. I think the technical term is the “mid-point shift”. Whatever it’s called…that’s where I am.

It’s like being at a fork in the road and trying to decide which direction you should go.

yogi fork

Except in this case there are at least four different forks.

They’ll all get me where I need to go, but which one is best for the story?

On my bike ride I gave it lots of thought.

I could go this way…which would mean this has to happen, and I wouldn’t be able to do that, and some of the stuff I wrote earlier would have to change.

Or I could go that way…which would mean something else would have to follow and the stuff I’ve already written would be good, with some minor tweaking.

Then again, if I choose fork number three it would mean something else would follow and there would be some significant reworking of previous material needed.

What if I sort of combined options one and two? Or one and three?

intersection

You get the point…

I’m not a planner. I don’t draft outlines of my story or write key points on index cards to keep me on track. At best, I’ll scribble a thought on a scrap of paper and add it to the pile on my desk (many of these notes go unread and get thrown away).

plan

In the writing world I’m what is referred to as a pantser. Which means I write by the seat of my pants. I have a beginning of the story, I know what I want to happen (basically) and I know how it will end, but the rest of it I make it up as I go along. (Here is a more detailed explanation of my style (or lack thereof).

wingin it with Calvin

So when I sat down to write Sunday morning with all of these possible storylines in my mind I knew my first task was to decide which one I was going to use. Unfortunately, with my writing style of choice, there was only one way to do this:

Pick an option, start writing, and see where it goes.

painting the road

Long story short…

After six hours and three different options I found the one I wanted/needed.

When I sat down at the keyboard it was around noon. When I shut the computer off it was almost eight o’clock (Yeah, I know – that’s more than six hours…I never said I didn’t take a break…or five).

After all that typing, I ended up with a net increase in my story’s word count of about 2,800 words – for two days!

Write 3 or 4,000 words…analyze them…decide they aren’t what I want…delete…repeat.

All the planners out there are saying “You see…this is why being a pantser is stupid!”

Sorry – you might as well tell me to not be left-handed.

And in reality – I’m not whining or complaining.

I understand that although my word count didn’t grow, my story did. Now that I know where the story is going I’ll be able to crank out the next 15,000 words (and maybe more) with minimal delays.

Which brings me to the point of this post…

I have a question (or two) for all you writers, authors and scribblers out there…

Do you keep track of your daily (or weekly, monthly, whatever) word count?

If so, how much importance do you put on it?

Personally, I keep track of how many words I write every time I sit down, but the number isn’t important to me. I use it as a gauge to see where I am in the story compared to where I should be.

My novels generally clock in at about 70,000 words – so if my word count is at 35,000, and I haven’t gotten into the story enough, I know I’ve got to get it in gear. It could also mean I’m being too verbose and need to go back and trim some of the fat.

Other than that, my word count means nothing.

As this weekend proved – progress is not always measured by the word count.

I would really like to hear your thoughts on this…

 

As always – thank you for reading

 

 

21 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

2015 Year in Review – Is One Out of Three Bad?

It’s that time of year again…time for my fourth annual Year-In-Review post.

In preparing for this post I glanced over the previous three Y.I.R. posts. At the end of my 2014 Y.I.R. I made a bit of a prediction, which I whole-heartedly intended to fulfill – but in retrospect I feel as though I’ve let you down.

At the end of 2014 my list of goals for 2015 looked something like this:

  • The completion of a second collection of short stories about Ike
  • The completion of my 8th novel, Full Circle
  • The beginning (and possible completion) of a second Steve Salem novel

So let’s take a look at how those predictions panned out…

solotaire

Which Do You Want First?

There is good news and bad news about Muzzle Velocity – the second collection of short stories featuring Ike.

muzzle velocity

The good news is I’ve got nine good stories so far.

The bad news is I didn’t write any of them.

The plan was simple…I would write a dozen short stories (give or take one or two) and I would solicit short stories from a hand-picked group of my writer friends. Fortunately, my writer friends all delivered…Unfortunately, although I have ideas for several Ike stories, I didn’t have time to write a single one.

I feel like such a slacker…

Round and Round

Moving on to item 2 on the list – the completion of Full Circle.

Full Circle front cover

On this item I am pleased to say – done and done!

Yes, my eighth novel (one which I began writing in 1988) was released in mid-December.

In the interest of full disclosure…it should have been released before Thanksgiving, but I ran into a bit of an administrative setback. For a while there I started to wonder if the book was cursed – but those fears were premature, and the book that was 27 years in the making was brought into the world, officially, on December 22.

So far it has been very well received. Within days of its release a loyal reader posted a five-star review which eased the pain of the SNAFUs leading up to release!

And Then There Was One

Finally, the last prediction of the year – a new Steve Salem novel.

Steve Salem, as you know from Backseat to Justice, is a Flagler Beach Private Investigator. I had hoped to at least begin a new story involving him and his assistant/partner Val Casey, but it just didn’t happen.

BTJ cover

I’m not going to make excuses, it doesn’t matter why I didn’t do it – it only matters that I didn’t, and believe me, nobody is more disappointed than me.

So let’s recap.

2015 was a tough year – production wise.

However, I am very happy (and pretty proud) to announce that it was by far my best year from a sales standpoint.

For this – I can’t thank you enough. I thank you for your support, for buying my books, and for telling others about me.

Without you, I’d just be a guy wasting a lot of time writing stuff.

Calvin writing

I still haven’t been able to quit my day job, but as I told somebody at a holiday gathering last week… “I may not have reached that particular goal yet, but considering in 2009 my goal was to sell one book – I’m happy with how far I’ve come and confident in where I’m going.”

So – do I dare make another prediction for 2016?

I think I should – it will give me something to shoot for, but I think I’m going to need a good supply of ammunition because it’s looking like a target-rich environment!

First up – my next Ike novel, tentatively titled Blood in the Water.

The story will involve a hunt for a mysterious lost treasure, an unsolved missing persons case, sharks (gotta have sharks!) and a guy who is over his head until Ike steps in.

shark

I can’t wait to see how it ends!

Second – the aforementioned collection of short stories, Muzzle Velocity

It WILL be released before the Fourth of July. Not only do I enjoy writing short stories, but I’ve got nine stories written by some really good writers I think you will enjoy, so I’m determined to get it done!

Third – The next Steve Salem novel.

This project is something I really want to do, but I have to be realistic – in the midst of all my other projects I am not extremely optimistic about completing it – but we’ll see. At the very least I will begin.

Fourth – I am working on a fun little project with my friend Becky Pourchot.

Becky bought her first motorcycle this year and after about ten miles of riding she was hopelessly hooked. We started having conversations about the Zen of the motorcycle, and decided to gather some of our biker experiences and put them together in a book. Our plan is to have it ready for Bike Week here in Daytona Beach – which is in March, so the clock is ticking!

easy rider

And lastly…I’ve been invited to contribute short stories to a couple of anthologies being put together by other writers. As I said – I enjoy writing short stories so this will be fun!

So 2015 fades into the sunset and 2016 is coming at me with lots of stuff to do.

calendar

I should probably get to work!

See you on the first page of the new calendar

 

As always – thank you for reading

8 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Annoying Things Only #Writers Will Understand

It is said that writers are a different breed. Hopefully the word different isn’t used in place of a less ambiguous word…like warped.

I don’t know if writers can claim exclusive rights to such a label, but they definitely don’t fit neatly within most accepted classifications.

With that being said, I’d like to talk about some annoyances and problems only writers will understand, facepalm

because in many respects we are different—but not in a bad way. There are just some things that we deal with on an almost-daily basis that normal people would react to with a shrug and a “So?”

Here is a partial list of such things – but it’s NOT a Top Ten List

Temptations, Obligations and Favors:

If you’re like me, you have a full time job, and the majority of your writing is done on the weekends.

While your friends are firing up the grill, hitting the beach or taking the Harley out for a spin, you’re shuffling to your home office in your pajamas with a bagel and a cup of coffee thinking about your target word-count and hoping the muse hasn’t gone fishing.

We don’t complain about it – it’s the life we’ve chosen.

We voluntarily sacrifice our weekends to write because our day job prevents us from writing (much) during the week.

We intentionally avoid the extra cocktail on Friday night so we’ll have a (reasonably) clear head Saturday morning when we attack the keyboard.

Those two days of writing are precious to us and we’ll gladly become hermits in exchange for a few thousand words.

But…

Sometimes life happens.

It’s a struggle to resist the invitation from your (non-writer) best friend to go do that thing you love to do. I know, personally I’ve cursed myself many times for sitting on my Harley on a gorgeous Florida Sunday rather than sitting at my desk.

It doesn’t happen to me as often as it used to, but many of us, whether we like it or not, have families who don’t care how close you are to finishing the first draft of your Magnum Opus…you told them you’d do something and now it’s time to deliver on your promise.

Perhaps the most unfair trade of all…your best friend needs your help. moving

Maybe they’re moving, need a ride to the airport or they need a second set of hands while they shave the family ferret. Regardless of the magnitude of the request, you must weigh the potential production of your writing day against the chances you will need help painting the garage someday.

Phone calls, doorbells and other nuisance interruptions:

Here’s the way it usually happens…

You sit down at the computer to write. The dog has been walked, the cat is napping, the kids are in school (or maybe they’re napping with the cat), you have your beverage-of-choice, and your mind is primed for cranking out some serious words…

Soon the only sound in the house is the quietly hypnotizing click-click-click of your keyboard as the prose pours from the depths of your soul.

As you type, you subconsciously rehearse your acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize…it’s going that well.

That’s the moment it happens…

Without fail, as if the writing Gods are telling you “Not today, Shakespeare.”

The doorbell rings, your cell phone vibrates or a tornado hits.

phone call

The exact nature of the interruption doesn’t matter…it’s the fact that it happened during your groove, because by the time you go to the door to tell the intruder you aren’t interested in accepting Christ into your heart (although with the murderous thoughts stampeding through your head it might not be a bad idea to hedge your bets a little), then go to the bathroom (which you have been putting off for hours) and top off your beverage, then sit back down to continue with the magic…the magic has disappeared like a rabbit in a hat.

Try to tell a normal person about how something seemingly minor can be so disruptive and they look at you like you’re…different.

The Non-Sympathetic Spouse/Significant Other:

There is a fascinating metamorphosis which occurs in some (not all…some!) significant others.

When they meet you, the fact that you are a writer (seemingly) impresses the hell out of them. When they introduce you to their friends and family they always qualify it…“This is so-and-so…he/she is a writer.”

They are fascinated with the process. They ask all sorts of questions, offer assistance with critiquing, etc. and gush at the prospect of having a character named for them in your book.

The first time you have to cancel a date, or turn down an invitation to a couples’ night out because you’re writing they are understanding and sympathetic. The second and third time they are disappointed, but still respectful of your situation. Anything after the fifth time and you get the look.

If it becomes a regular occurrence your status in their social circle changes…

Where it used to be “my S.O. is a writer” (spoken with respect and adoration) it is now “they blew me off again because they’re still working on a stupid book which they’ll never finish but they think it’s this work of art, but they won’t let anybody read it until it’s finished…which will be the day after never!”

spouse

It’s amazing how quickly your writing can go from being a source of pride to a bone of contention.

No Seriously…How Much Do You Make?:

Probably the question that annoys independent authors more than any other is the dreaded…“So are you making any money selling your books?”

Using myself as an example…Many of my friends and family were aware of my first novel’s (Living the Dream) pending release, and within a week of the big day began badgering me about any new income I might be enjoying. It was more than a little demoralizing telling people that my first royalty check was for a whopping $2.01. It was more demoralizing when a few of them snickered at my attempt to hit the big time.

Many times I had to restrain myself from asking them “How many books have you sold?”

Now that I have ten books under my belt, and I have a semi-regular (if not huge) income, it’s a little easier to hear the question…but just as my success has changed over the years, so too has the question.

money

It starts off the same, but upon hearing that I am actually making, what I call, gas money – the questioner then proceeds to the dreaded follow up“Really? After all those books, that’s it?”

These people have no idea how narrowly they escape hospitalization.

My concern is the day somebody hits me with follow up #2 –“Don’t you think it’s time to quit?”

If and when that happens I may need bail money…just sayin’.

Fish or Cut Bait:

There is a tenet in the writing world that says “…in order to be a good writer you first have to read – a lot.”

Back in the day, before I started writing I read everything I could get my hands on (with some shameful exceptions). I would read during my lunch break, I would read after work, before bed, and it wasn’t unusual to see me reading in line at the DMV or the Post Office.

My favorite bookstore (The New England Mobile Book Fair – Newton Mass) probably closed early on the days I visited. Okay – that’s a slight exaggeration, but I don’t remember ever leaving there without spending several hours and at least a couple of hundred dollars. Going there was like a pilgrimage for me – for which I would save up the way most people save for vacations or new cars.

Once I started writing, my reading time gradually diminished as the amount of time I devoted to writing, and other writing related tasks (which we’ll discuss in a minute), took control of my spare time.

Trying to split time between writing and reading is like a fisherman who must decide between fishing and cutting bait.

cut bait

In order to catch fish you have to throw your hook in the water, but a hook without bait is just a hook, no self-respecting fish would be fooled! So that means you need to bait the hook. Many fishermen where I’m from use frozen bait—shrimp, squid, or some other bait-fish—which needs to be cut before being put on the hook, so cutting bait is a necessary chore, like reading.

I don’t know if this problem plagues other writers as badly as it does me, but one thing I do know…I miss cutting bait!

The (necessary) Evil that Writers Do:

Writing has become my drug of choice in the past six years.

It started as a way to pass time, but quickly evolved into the thing I don’t have enough time for (see above).

Ironically, the reason I don’t have enough time for writing is all of the peripheral duties which are part and parcel to the job, but do not contribute to the precious word count.

There are many such tasks, but they can all be placed into one category…Marketing.

That’s right…the M-word.

I’ve always said (well, not always – but for several years now) that writing the book is the easy part. Selling it is where the real work starts.

If you are independently wealthy marketing is simply something you pay others to do, but, as I stated somewhere above, my income from writing is donated to Big Oil every month. This means I am not only the head of the marketing department for Blindogg Books, I am also the graphic artist, the copy writer, the secretary and the gopher (I go for this and I go for that).

My job description includes, but is not limited to, the following;

  • Maintaining a presence on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and Pinterest
  • Promoting myself locally by attending social gatherings, networking events, open mic events and book signings
  • Designing marketing materials – e.g. bookmarks, posters for events, banners, tee shirts, etc
  • Attending book signings of other authors, whenever possible (quid pro quo)
  • Monitoring sales and adjusting marketing efforts accordingly
  • Researching new marketing techniques and how to make the best use of my time (yeah, right!)
  • Promoting other authors as much as possible (again – quid pro quo)
  • Maintaining a blog as well as monitoring the blogs of other authors for useful information on writing and (yeah, you guessed it) marketing

hats

These tasks are hardly things I would complain to my union rep about, but they are time consuming. I conservatively estimate that for every hour I spend writing I devote at least three to the above responsibilities. I would rather be writing, but if I didn’t do the leg work writing would be nothing more than a hobby—and I am not ashamed to admit (as I describe here) that, while I definitely enjoy writing, it surpassed hobby status during the third re-write of Living the Dream.

 

Why Didn’t I Write that Down?:

I’ve heard it said that the faintest ink is stronger than the best memory.

I don’t remember where I heard it, because I didn’t write it down, which brings me to my next annoyance…

As writers we never know where or when inspiration will strike.

I’ve had ideas come to me at the weirdest times – the idea for Eyewitness Blues came to me while I was playing softball.

Luckily there was a pen and some paper in the dugout so I was able to write down the thought, lest it be lost forever…like some of the other ideas I failed to document.

If you spend any time on Facebook you’ve seen the meme which says “The biggest lie I tell myself…I don’t need to write it down, I’ll remember it.”

Believe it.

I suspect it has happened to every writer at one time or another.

You’re driving along digging a song on the radio and an idea for a novel pops into your head. You tell yourself you’ll remember to write it down when you get to your destination, but by the time you get there the only thing you remember is the moron who cut you off in traffic, or some other such nonsense.

Sadly, there have probably been thousands of great novels lost this way, because no matter how good your memory is, you still forget stuff. I have a better than average memory and I know I’ve lost a few best sellers.

You would think that, as writers, we would write things down reflexively…but you’d be wrong.

remember

Each of us carries a device in our pocket that has the capability to record random thoughts with the push of a button (provided you have the app), but do we use it?…nah. Too much of a hassle, and if we do remember to record our inspiration, we forget to play the recording back…our cellular service contract expires, we get a new phone and *poof* – your idea for the next Great American Novel is Gone with the Wind…so to speak.

 

I’m sure there are many more annoyances that plague writers, but unfortunately, I don’t have time to research and document them…I need to get busy writing.

I’m on the first re-write of Full Circle and I’ve surpassed my allotted blogging time for the week.

time to write2

 

As always – thank you for reading

79 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

A First Draft 27 Years in the Making #amwriting

Stop me if you’ve heard this before…

I finished the first draft of my latest novel.

Full Circle has, if you’ll pardon my turn-of-phrase, quite a storied history.

Cue the flashback music…

flashback

It all began in the summer of 1988.

Being a single parent with an eight-year-old son, I had very little in the way of a social life.

I also had very little in the way of money…so, I was on a constant quest to find new and creative ways to kill time.

One night, I don’t remember the exact moment, or what spurred the thought in me, I decided to write a book. It would be about Karma, more specifically, the old adage what goes around comes around. I actually had the title picked before I put pen to paper.

I’ve always been interested in the unexplained forces of the universe, probably as a result of watching The Twilight Zone during my formative years, so it seemed like a good theme for a book.

Twilight Zone

I dug out a spiral-bound five-subject notebook and a ball-point pen and started writing.

I had, what I thought, was a good concept, so I wrote about five chapters and gave them to my best friend’s wife ( an avid reader) and asked her to read it and tell me if I should keep going. She told me to continue, so I did.

Along around the fifteenth chapter I switched jobs and had to move, so the notebook went into a box and didn’t see the light of day for many, many months.

When I finally dug it out and decided to get back to it, my life was as hectic as a beehive in a tornado, so, needless to say, the notebook went back into the box.

You know how “life happens”?

Well, it kept happening to me for about eighteen years, at which time I found myself moving again…this time from Rhode Island to Florida…and the notebook was all but forgotten.

Six months after landing in the Sunshine State I had a dream which turned into my first novel, Living the Dream. Shortly after it was released, while writing Water Hazard, I remembered the book I had begun all those years ago and decided to make it my next project.

It was a good plan, but you know what they say about the best laid plans.

plans

After Water Hazard came Pump It Up, then No Good Deed, then Backseat to Justice and so on…

Last August, when Eyewitness Blues was released I decided it was time to finish what I had started.

I was in the process of getting Path of a Bullet ready for December release, so January 1, 2015 seemed like a good day to start the project.

I say start rather than finish for a few reasons:

  • My writing skills left a lot – A LOT – to be desired in 1988
  • The story was more than 20 years old, so it needed to be modernized
  • After reviewing what I had written I realized I had tried a little too hard to write an epic novel
  • While writing the original I had been afraid to think outside the box

So, as the new year began, so did my new incarnation of Full Circle (the title is the only thing that has remained from the original, aside from the central theme). By the end of January I had written a paltry 3,000 words and when Febrauary ended I had only doubled my output. March was a particularly bad month for me so when April began my word count hadn’t moved.

I began to wonder if somebody up there was trying to tell me something…

It would have been ironic, don’t you think, if some unknown force was trying to stop me from writing a novel about some unknown force that causes things to happen?

Perhaps, but I wasn’t going to accept that, so I imposed a moratorium on non-essential extra-curricular activities and spent every spare minute I had at the keyboard with the goal of finishing the first draft by June 1.

If I could do that, I could get it to my beta readers and hopefully get it back from them before July, which would allow me to get it to the editor before August so it could be released (hopefully) before November.

I’ll be honest…there were times when I thought I was asking a bit too much of myself.

Would I be able to, essentially, write an entire novel in two months?

Well…I missed my target date by one day.

writer's clock

I finished the first draft of Full Circle on June 2.

By the end of the day on June 3 it will be in the hands of my beta readers and the book I began writing in 1988 will be that much closer to completion.

I guess there are two ways to look at it…

You could say that, for all intents and purposes, I wrote Full Circle in two months—or—you could say it took me twenty-seven years.

finish

Either way – I’m extremely happy with the finished product and I hope you will be too!

Look for Full Circle in the late fall of 2015!

 

As always – thank you for reading

21 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

How Many Tools are in Your Writing Toolbox?

In the world of professional baseball, teams send scouts to colleges (sometimes even high schools) to evaluate young talent.

There are five aspects of the game that these scouts look for, and naturally, the more areas a player excels at, the higher he is rated—they are hitting for power, hitting for average, fielding, throwing and speed.

scouts

A player who demonstrates proficiency in all five of these areas is rare, and is referred to as a five-tool-player.

Bo Jackson, Mike Schmidt and Kirby Puckett are a few examples of such elite players.

Naturally, it isn’t necessary to be a five-tool player to be successful in Major League Baseball, but obviously it is to a player’s advantage to possess strength in as many of the five as possible.

So it is, too, with writing.

Bo

You don’t have to be a five-tool-writer to be successful, but you should work to excel at as many of them as possible. In the ever-changing world of independent publishing they will all serve you well.

What are these tools, you ask…

Well, there is no official scouting report naming them that I am aware of, but I have compiled a list that I think are key skills all writers should strive to possess.

They are:

 

  • Coming up with a good concept

I call this the What if idea…every good book starts with a great what if. For example – What if a giant shark staked a claim off the shores of a small New England town and terrorized the residents?

In my opinion…the what if is the foundation of the story – and like any building, a story is only as good as the foundation upon which it is built.

  • Knowing how to turn a good concept into a good story

Once you’ve got your concept, the next trick is turning it into a good story. You’ll need to develop good characters, give them obstacles to overcome and a journey to complete – all without losing sight of your awesome what if.

snoopy writing

  • Writing a first draft that contains all the proper elements of a good book

I don’t believe in formulas when it comes to anything creative, least of all writing…However – there are certain guidelines you should follow when writing your book. There are dozens of websites and blogs offering in-depth analysis to help you. They’ll tell you all about tent poles, conflict, dialogue, plot points, pinch points, and everything else you should know about. Again – I don’t consider these things to be rules, but they are, at the very least, worthwhile suggestions.

  • The ability to work well with your editor

Probably the biggest problem area for authors – of all levels. Let’s be honest…we spend months, maybe years, writing a masterpiece, and some glorified English teacher who has never written anything more detailed than a resume is going to tell us to butcher it?

The short answer…YES!

edit

It’s like doing a jigsaw puzzle. You sit there for an hour looking for a certain piece and somebody walks up and, after two minutes, picks up the piece and drops it in. Fresh eyes…they make a huge difference and the as the writer, sometimes we are just too close to the work to see the flaws – and believe me, there are flaws.

  • Marketing skills

This is probably the most difficult concept for writers to warm to. Not in the same sense as writers disliking editors – but in the sense that too many writers have the attitude that their masterpiece will sell itself. The reality is the exact opposite. Your book might be the next Gone With the Wind or Harry Potter, but unless you hand it to Steven Spielberg personally, and he reads it, and loves it. Nobody will ever hear about it. The number of books published every day is mind boggling, so if you don’t get out there and push it, your sales numbers will be less than spectacular.

I’m not trying to discourage you.

On the contrary I’m trying to help you. I want every independent author out there, myself included, to be wildly successful.

I’m also not saying that the five tools I’ve outlined above are all you need to be successful, but they’ll help.

It should be noted that I am, by no means, an expert.

What you have just read is merely my opinion – and I welcome any additions, alterations or suggestions to make this blog more useful.

Let’s help each other.

help each other

 

As always – thank you for reading

11 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Writing and Marketing – Which is More Important?

Living the Dream Back in the days when I only had two novels to my credit, and I wasn’t even sure if I would ever write a third, things were easy. If I felt like writing, I wrote. It wasn’t a problem because there was little else competing for my time. Water Hazard

How quickly things change.

Here we are only five years later and oh, what I wouldn’t give for those good old times.

Somewhere along the way I became a juggler.

juggling time

It was easy at first…like juggling two tennis balls. Keeping both of them in the air was a piece of cake, and if one of them happened to slip away it would usually bounce right back to me.

Somewhere along the way the two tennis balls turned into three or four or five…and they aren’t tennis balls anymore, they’ve become eggs, so now it’s a little more important to keep them off the floor.

I’m speaking metaphorically of course, to illustrate what it feels like to be me sometimes.

When I only had two books, I also had an abundance of spare time because I wasn’t really concerned with marketing.

After my third novel was released I began to realize that these wonderfully, magnificent works of literary magic were not going to sell themselves. So I began hitting the social media marketing scene – heavily. I began promoting myself on facebook, twitter, this blog, pinterest, LinkedIn, Google + and Goodreads (links provided for your convenience). There are probably others, but I can’t remember at the moment.

My social media presence grew slowly…at first it was just posting a few cool pictures, sharing a blog post and tweeting a couple of promos over the course of a week.

Easy-peasy, right?

Yeah…it was.

Nowadays keeping up with my social media marketing has become a monster that must be fed constantly. Things get really interesting when you start adding book signings and networking events – forget about the full-time job, the part-time gig at the radio station, and the social life.

What can a poor boy do? (I certainly can’t sing in a rock-and-roll band)

I’ve learned that being a writer is more than just mastering the craft…it’s also about mastering time-management.

Like the old fishing conundrum – fish or cut bait.

bait

You’re out there on your boat, trying to catch dinner and you drift into a big school of potentially delicious filets…but you’re running out of bait.

Your head swivels back and forth between the chunk of frozen bait on the deck and the boiling ocean as dinner swims by.

You need to get your hook in the water if you want to catch a fish, but a bare hook is useless.

Writing and marketing…either one, without the other, is a waste of time (unless you’re one of the delusional few who claim that you write for the love of it). You need to write a book in order to have something to market, but if you waste too much time marketing you don’t get the book written.

Isn’t that a Catch-22? (One of the classic novels I’ve never read)

I don’t know how I ended up with such a lopsided ratio, but in recent weeks I’ve been forced to readjust my priorities to something a bit more manageable if I expect to release a new book this year.

Usually by this time of year I’m getting ready to pass off a manuscript to my beta readers…right now my current MS, Full Circle, is hovering around 13,000 words. A far sight short of its anticipated 90,000. So you know what that means…it means it’s time to cut bait…or fish…whichever is the metaphorical equivalent of get busy writing.

 

As always – thank you for reading

10 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized