10 Things to Avoid Saying to Writers

Just last week while on the internet I saw a meme titled “10 Things You Should Never Say to Writers” posted by Jessica McHugh. It was really funny, and it got me thinking of a few things to add to that list.  So here is my list of Ten Things to Avoid Saying to Writers.

1. I wish I had such an easy job.

AuthorEASY! If it is so easy where are your novels? I’d love to read one. The problem is people assume that all you need is an idea and you’re off to writing a novel. They further assume that proofreading and editing are the same thing.  Furthermore, they have absolutely no idea what it takes to make a readable story.  Saying being a writer is easy is just like my saying being an accountant must be easy.  I really have no clue.

2. Why do you even need to work?

book_moneyOh man, I get this question every time a coworker finds out I am a writer. The way they often say it is as if I have stolen a job from someone who really needs it just so I can pad my pockets. Never mind that I drove to work in a 18 year old van with one working windshield wiper (when I hit the dash just right), with no air conditioning, and leaks fluids that even a mechanic can’t identify.  I really just enjoy working odd hours and tons of overtime just to add to my Swiss bank account.  This ties into the assumption that the arts pay a lot of money. And in most cases they do not.  Just like every actor doesn’t make millions, every author is not selling record amounts of books.  I need a day job just to live on until people start buying all my books, or maybe forever.

3.  Can I get a free copy of your book?

frustrated_writer_200See above, Jack Ass. Do these people go to restaurants and ask the owner, can I have a free meal? Do they go to a dress maker, and ask for a free dress?  Do they ask the dry-cleaner to clean their suits for free?  No, they don’t. Yet they feel compelled to ask me to give away my hard work to them for free, just because they casually know me. And then they get offended when I tell them about my website’s promotions page where they can enter to win free books when I do giveaways. As if they should somehow just get one.  Come on.

4. I’d buy your book but…

handle_criticismThe list of excuses are amazing. And most of them are kind of bull shit if you ask me. The only one I accept is: “I’d buy your book but I am broke.” Because I understand that. I am also broke.  But telling me you would buy my book but you don’t read science fiction, or you don’t read at all, or you’d rather spend your money on movies (really??), or some other excuse is really just slapping me in the face.  Especially if you’re my friend or family member.

5. I’d write a review for your book but I don’t know what to say.

SurveyOh this one really pisses me off. Listen, I don’t care what authors say about not reading reviews and all that other bull. We need reviews on our books to be successful. And when you have read one and you won’t review it, I suppose that is your choice. But don’t come tell me that you won’t write one because you don’t know what to say.  We are not asking for a New York Times evaluation. We just want you to rate the book and write your thoughts about the book down. Do this once and then copy and paste it on Amazon, Goodreads, and where ever else you see the book. It isn’t hard and it means more to us than you can possible imagine.

6. It must be your dream to see them make your book into a movie.

swearing_3421243It is my dream that people READ MY BOOKS, not watch them. The only reason why I would want my book turned to a movie is because it would hopefully mean more people would READ them.  As any avid book reader knows, they always fuck up the movie.

7. I have a cousin’s friend’s uncle who is a writer.

angry-man-clipartOkay.  I never understood this.  There is only one other career I’ve ever heard this done with; and that is police. Ever notice if you mention a cop someone always has to speak up with how they somehow know a police officer. For some reason people need to tell me how they know a writer. And they always say it as if that acquaintance some how makes them an expert. The best follow up question to this statement is: “Oh, what do they write?”  Because they have no damn clue and secretly I like watching hem squirm.

8. I have a lot of great ideas for books, I just don’t have the time to write.

008968716-clock-and-gears-looping-animat-713-57Some variation of this is always on every author’s most hated thing to be told. Sometimes people want you to write their idea and give them credit. But the worst for me is when someone tells me they don’t have time. I work 40-60 hours a week at a day job, publish a magazine, have a family, and still make time to write. It isn’t that you don’t have time.  You don’t have the passion to write.

9. I am not going to wind up in one of your books, am I?

missing-sign-300x225They always say this with some little hint at it being a joke. You’re not funny.  And there is a good chance that background character I just killed off was you.  I killed him because he made bad jokes too.

10. Someday you’ll be famous and I’ll say I know that guy.

And I will tell security I’ve never seen you before in my life.

shrug

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Why I NaNoWriMo Failed

frustrated_writer_200They say excuses are like assholes; everybody has one and they usually stink.  But not everybody has a blog where they can wallow in their own stench.  So for my first blog is a little while, let me ask you all to sniff my… no wait…  Let me ask you all to listed to my excuses for not succeeding at NaNoWriMo.

‘Excuse’ is not necessarily the right word though.  That implies that what happened will make it okay that I didn’t complete NaNoWriMo.  But it doesn’t make it okay.  Or maybe it does.  ‘Reasons’ is a better word to use.  So these are the reasons I didn’t complete a novel during National Novel Writing Month.

I not only didn’t complete a novel, I didn’t even come close.  I completed 15643 words on Dereliction of Duty, which is not even close to giving it the old college try.  In fact, I stopped writing after the 11th.  And the days before that were not consistent.  All in all, I flat out failed to even try to do this.

I stated off with a commitment to do it.  I was eager by the middle of October.  I had the drive to do it and expected that I could.  This was going to be my NaNo year.  Then on October 28th my job calls me very late in the day and tells me not to come to work the next day.  No explanation given, just simply that they’d be in touch.  So I spent that whole night, and the remainder of the week, wondering what I had done wrong.  I had done nothing wrong and could think of nothing I had done wrong.  I still maintain that I’ve done nothing wrong.

It wasn’t until the 1st of November that they finally contacted me.  They needed me to come out and interview with them.  I did.  Their entire case against me was flimsy, falsified, and inadequate.  But they knew if they didn’t blame me for something they’d have to pay me for all my time off.  That wasn’t going to happen.  And since I anticipated I was going to be fired, I began looking for work.

When I am out of work, I can’t sit back and collect unemployment checks (which I still haven’t received any of those).  I have to spend those hours when I would have been working, out looking for work.  When I am doing anything other than looking for work I feel like I am not doing my best to find work.  So every time I started writing my novel, I felt I needed to be looking for work.  My mind just wasn’t in it.  Not to mention my mind running though the what ifs of the on going investigation.  I thought these coworkers were my friends, or at least that we got along, and a number of them back-stabbed me hard.  Finally on November 19th, over three weeks later, the company fired me.  By that point I knew it was coming.  That doesn’t mean it was any easier.  I absolutely loved that job, my recent promotion made it even better, and to lose it was a heart breaking moment.  I had expected to work there for a long time to come.  But, this is one reason I couldn’t focus on NaNoWriMo.

Rewind to the start of October.  There was a discussion of a coworker who wanted to move to Asheville, North Carolina.  He is very talented with music, and he said the music scene was strong there.  He also told me the writing scene is strong there.  But, North Carolina is too far from my family and though I once wanted to move out of state, as I mentioned above, I just got this promotion and I loved my job.

My wife and I have contemplated moving out of California for a number of years.  I’d say five or more now.  My personal choice has always been Washington State.  I have been up there several times and I absolutely love it.  But every time we started to plan a move up there, we backed out for one reason or another.  The most recent time being because I got the promotion at work.  But anytime someone talked about moving to another state, I’d always get to thinking about Washington.  I finally said to myself, or God, or whomever was listening to my thoughts at that time, that I needed some sign that I had made the right choice to stay in California and work for the company I was with.  A week later I was suspended out of nowhere (did I mention I’d never been in trouble there before).

Well as far as signs from a higher power, I think this was the slap in the face I needed.  So I began to discuss the idea with my wife again.  The family and I drove up to Spokane (which I had never been to) on the 5th.  Then we drove across the state to Seattle on the 6th.  Then we drove down to Vancouver (Washington) on the 7th.  And home on the 8th.  From my house that is a lengthy car ride, and a lot of miles covered.  But I wanted my wife to see the state that I wanted to go to.  Plus, I had a friend to visit, family to visit, and a job to test for. So you can see, there wasn’t much time for writing those four days.

At that point we decided we would make this change.  We would try to make this move up there in June or July when the kids finished this school year.  Then we’d move to either Spokane or Seattle depending on where I could get work and my wife could transfer her job.

Fast forward to the 15th of November (my Birthday).  My landlord shows up at my house with a 30 day notice to move out.  Now keep in mind, I’m paying the rent.  But there was a little mix up where someone stole his mail and the rent check got cashed by someone else.  But my bank cleared it up and he got paid.  I guess that was enough for him, because he wanted us out by the 15th of December.

So, my wife and I had numerous long talks.  And the decision was made to accelerate our plans to move.  We didn’t see the point in moving, just to do it again in six or so months.  So, I had to go back up to Seattle for a job interview on the 20th, 21st, and 22nd.  I also looked at several places to live.  And, we did find a place that would take us in on my wife’s income.

So now, I’ve been packing and planning a long distance move (something close to 900 miles) up to Washington State.  And trying to pack this house up.  And downsize it a bit so I don’t have to haul as much.

All this while still working to get Issue 9 of Plasma Frequency out on the deadline of December 5th.

Losing a job, and now moving plans, meant I just simply haven’t had my mind on the story I need to write.

But there is some good news too.  My next novel to be released, Broken Trust, is in the hands of beta readers.  Also, the great artist Mallory Rock designed the cover art of it.  I’ll do a formal reveal very soon (though you can already see it if you follow me on Facebook).  And, I’m told the second edition of Dissolution of Peace is very close to being ready.

Anyway, those are my assholes, er.. I mean excuses, for why I didn’t win at NaNoWriMo.

Ten Reasons Why This is my NaNoWriMo Year

book signingLast year I wrote a humorous blog post on the ten reasons I would not be doing NaNoWriMo.  For those that don’t know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month.  And I am fully ready for November to start so that I can begin, and finish a novel in one month.  So I thought that I would do a 180 on last year’s post and tell you the reasons why I chose this year to start.

1. You can only say NaNoWriMo so many times.

It is a lot of fun to say.  And you can only say it so many times before you wonder why you aren’t doing it.  I’ve been saying NaNoWriMo for about three years now, and I’ve yet to do it.  So the way I see it, I’ve used up my free chances to say it, and now I either have to participate or stop saying it.  I’d rather participate.

2. This is the year I am accomplishing writing goals I put off.

For two years I kept stalling on going to a WorldCon.  I missed Reno, I missed Chicago, and I almost passed on San Antonio.  But, something made me say I needed to do it this year, and I finally attended my first WorldCon.  I had such a blast that I can’t wait to get to more conventions.  It really kick started my writing in a way I had never imagined.

So, if I had such a blast with that.  Why not keep up the good work?  I’ve been putting off NaNoWriMo with so many excuses, and well this is the year.  So I am going to try it.  And I may very well like it.  And it is just the kick in the pants I need to work on some other projects.

3. The timing is right this year.

I just finished the second draft on Broken Trust and it is off to Beta Readers.  That means I currently have no writing projects that are going on for the month of November.  So it is the perfect time for me to start a new project and work on something fun.

4. Dissolution of Peace needs the sequel.

Reader feedback tells me that if I don’t get a sequel to Dissolution of Peace out soon, I’ll be strung up by my toes.  So the sequel in my NaNoWriMo project, and that could mean an early 2014 release.  Maybe…

5. I have too much stress going on right now.

On the face value, that may seem like a reason not to participate.  But, for me writing started as a stress reliever.  That was how the original manuscript for Dissolution of Peace was written.  So taking a break from some of the stress factors in my life may be exactly what I need to relax for the holiday season.

6. I have to justify the purchase of my Tablet.

I recently purchased the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3.  I got it for a variety of reasons, the main being use for the business and my writing.  Right now I write in my office, which eliminates a lot of writing time.  Now that I can write virtually anywhere, I can finally accomplish a lot of writing.  So I am excited about using it.  Plus, I have to justify the expense to my wife.

7. I have more staff to help me with Plasma Frequency.

November is still a production month.  Issue 9 will be released on December 5th.  But I know have much large staff to assist me, and I am recruiting more staff members.  So that means that I can better divide my attention between my writing and my magazine.

8. It is time I connect with more Writers

I need to connect with more writers, I enjoy their company and I really want to connect with more.  I missed out on a lot of chances to network when I was in San Antonio.  But, NaNoWriMo is a chance to network with all kinds of writers from all different genres and locations.  They even have regional connections so I can find a few writers in my area.  You can find my profile too and I can connect with you.

9. I plan to be a writer by career.

In order to make money as a fiction writer, you have to publish fiction.  I write novels now, though I may tackle a few shorts later, so that means writing novels.  If I can tackle a novel in one month, like I plan to do with NaNoWriMo, than maybe I can do it again in say February.  And maybe again in May, July, September, and then I am back at NaNoWriMo again.  That may seem a bit ambitious.  But if I write the first draft in one month, I figure that once editing and beta reading is done, I can publish three novels a year.  And if I can do that, then I hope that someday I can get enough books out there to be recognized.  And with that comes  a little bit of money.  And who knows in five more years, I can just focus on being what I always wanted to be… a writer!

10. I have the perfect outfit.

Last year I just simply could not figure out what I would wear to NaNoWriMo.  I didn’t know the dress code.  But this year I learned that I can come dressed whatever way I want.  They even have a store if I want to wear NaNoWriMo gear.  I’ve also lost a few pounds so maybe it won’t be so bad if I attended naked… on second thought I’ll bring pants.

 

Ten Ways Writing and Photography are the Same

camera and writersI thought this would be a fun little post for a Monday.  As many of you know, I have a number of friends in the photography business.  They are at various levels of the business, and I always marvel at how similar their posts are to those of writers.  This morning I saw a post on Facebook from Gustavo Alfaro Photography.  I can’t for the time of me figure out how to embed this post, so I will just quote it: “Photographers are the most insecure people I know. Don’t believe me? Look at one and tell them their work sucks. Part of being an artist I guess… #‎needtostepitup‬ ‪#‎changingmyvision‬”

This post reminded me a lot of myself, I have a few insecurities. And well, it got me back to thinking on how similar the lives of the writer and photographer are.  So her are 10 reasons writing and photography are the same:

1. We both never have time to work on our craft.

It is true.  I’ve never seen a group of people complain about a lack of time more than writers.  That was until I met photographers. We are remarkably similar in this. Our crafts take time, and there isn’t enough time to work on it.  Sure, we have to feed the dog, water the lawn, clean the house, care for the kids, but that isn’t the reason we have no time. The real reason…

2. We both spend far too long on the internet.

And we call this time on the internet, research. Writers are getting character ideas, researching possible locations, getting ideas on character names, learning the difference between than and then.  Photographers call it “getting shoot ideas.” or “buying props”. The truth is simple.  Just look at our Facebook pages. We are too busy sharing cat photos, complaining we don’t have time to work, and writing blog posts about the similarities between… well you get the point.

3. Our friends and family don’t take our craft seriously.

Oh, you write books.  How cute.  It isn’t hard.  HA! Sure.  You take pictures all day.  When will you get a real job.  Hell, my phone takes pictures. See, to them it is a cute hobby.  Your mom might love you, but your best friend is too busy to worry about this little hobby of yours.  Secretly they all hope you will get a real job so that you’ll stop posting links to your work and go back to sending the Candy Crush tickets.  Some even make fun little remarks like: “When will I see a movie about your book?” or “Was that your photo I saw on TIME?” or “So you still play make believe.” or “I bet it is hard to take pictures of beautiful women/men all day.”

No one promotes us. We are left to beg people to click like, or write a review, or vote in the photo contest.  Only about one percent of your friends ever share anything you do.  Not really realizing that that shared photo, or the nice review on a book you write, could be the referral you need. We all just want the acceptance of our communities, but it always seems out of reach.

4. There are tons of people in our craft with real talent who never see the light of day.

We both think our work is not good enough. As Gustavo said, we are insecure.  It takes huge amounts of courage for us to show you what we wrote.  For us to share it, and then for us to hear you say you don’t like it.  There are some excellent talented people in our crafts, but they are just too scared to put their work out there.

5. It is easy to do what we do.

Just ask anyone who doesn’t do it.  People who have never written a word come to me and tell me how easy it must be to be a writer.  You just sit down and your computer and type. It sure looks that way from the outside, but when you try it you see it isn’t that simple.  Photography is the same way.  We all have a camera, all you have to do is point the camera and take the picture.  It is easy.  Being a writer or photographer is easy in the same way that being a brain surgeon is easy.  I am sure I could cut scalps with no medical training, why the hell not.

6. We both spend more time editing than creating.

It is very much the case.  Photographers go out for a three hour shoot and spend the next week editing the photos. Writers may type out a manuscript in one or two months, but then spend then next year promising the release date is around the corner.  Editing takes the most time, and…

7. People have unrealistic expectations from the editing process.

Sorry folks, no amount of touch ups will make my fat ass look like Channing Tatum.  I can spend a year editing a book, I guarantee that it will still be released with an error.  Even the big publishers do it. Instead of focusing on what doesn’t matter, lets be realistic here.  Perhaps I can look like George Clooney instead.

8. People assume we’ll work for free.

Why does your book cost so much? Can you just send me one?  I’d love to buy your book, but I am broke.  I have a great idea for a book.  If you write it for me, I’ll split the earnings with you.

Hey, come to our wedding just bring your camera.  Can you remove the watermark on this photo so I can print it at Walmart?  Would you mind taking our family portrait, you know, for free?

9. We can’t wait to get discovered, just to show you we could.

We fantasize about how we will be discovered and start really bringing in the big bucks. How you will then wish you were nice to us when we were small time.  We imagine you coming to us asking for our time or money, but we are just far too busy.  We couldn’t possible sign anything right now, perhaps you could talk to our PR person.

10. We are both practicing an under appreciated form of art.

The number of active readers are decreasing. People don’t read anymore, that is why they want to see every popular book made into a movie or a TV series. And our print market is dying fast.  Everyone one wants digital. Books no longer line home libraries, but rather stored “in the cloud” or on eReaders making the true value of a book seem somewhat trivial.

In photography, the digital camera has ruined film.  And now that everyone has a camera on their smart phone, few see the point of hiring a photographer for anything anymore.  Homes seem to rarely display photos anymore, instead they sit on the hard drives of computers, never really being appreciated for the art form they really are.

Ten Reasons Why I Won’t be Doing NaNoWriMo

Every one in my writing communities is asking me if I will be doing NaNoWriMo this year.  For those that don’t know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month.  The idea is that you start, and complete a novel in November.  It is actually a great idea.  Especially if you need a quick kick in the ass to get writing that novel you’ve been telling yourself you’d write for years.

I won’t be participating this year.  When I tell my fellow authors that, they all want to know: Why?  I can even hear some of them looking down upon me for my choice to exclude myself.  So I put together my ten reasons why I won’t be doing NaNoWriMo.  You may call them “excuses” but the word “reasons” makes me feel better about myself.  Besides, every now and then I like to put something together that is a little tongue in cheek.

1. November is a production month for Plasma Frequency:

Yep, that is right.  I run this magazine and Issue 3 has to be ready December 5th.  That means that I will be spending much of my non-day job hours working on getting Plasma Frequency laid out and ready for print.  Not to mention designing ads for the issue (you should get an ad to advertise the novel you finish during NaNoWriMo).  And since I likely will be paying for most or all of Plasma Frequency‘s stories and artwork out of my own pocket, I’ll also need to pick up some extra hours at my day job.

2. I have to work my day job.

Believe it or not my writing doesn’t pay all my bills.  I have to work a day job to try to pay my bills.  A day job that doesn’t even pay enough to pay my monthly rent.  So that also means I will be needing to pick up any extra hours I can.  Since I have to pay my rent, phone, internet, power, water, and Plasma Frequency‘s running costs.  In all, I have to put up a lot of hours at work to try to make ends meet.  Those extra hours are all hours I normally reserve for writing, editing, and family time.

3. My family needs me too.

Yep, I am throwing them under the bus here.  But it is true.  And there are a lot of family events happening in November.  My birthday and Thanksgiving being two of them.  These are often all day events in my family so that means two more lost days in the tight schedule.

And since my birthday is in November, I don’t have to do NaNoWriMo.  I think it is in the rules.  If it isn’t in the rules, than I am adding it to my own personal NaNoWriMo rules.

4. I have volunteer commitments

I volunteer on the Board of Directors for my local soccer league.  And, I coach in that league.  And, two of my three boys play in that league.  The season ends in November.  So there are two year end parties to attend.  And there is one weekend ate up to the end of season tournament.  So there are four more days that NaNoWriMo can’t have.

5. I already started a Novel.

I have already started a novel.  My second novel is already in the works.  And in NaNoWriMo you are supposed to start and finish in November.  So if I participated, I would be cheating.  And no one likes cheaters.  I could start the sequel for Dissolution of Peace, but I am not a person that can write two novels at once.  I can edit one and write another.  I can even write a short story while doing a novel.  But I just can’t do two novels at once.  It is my writing style.

6. I didn’t participate last year.

I didn’t do NaNoWriMo last year, in fact I have never done it.  I don’t need to explain myself for past years, those are past years.  But, I am far to busy to start something new in November.

7. I don’t want to sacrifice quality for speed.

I get that you don’t have to have a print ready manuscript by the end of November.  The point is to have the first draft done.  But the first draft is the foundation for that final manuscript.  You have to have something to work with or the story is lost.  At least that is my opinion.  And as you can see I already have a lot of things taking up my time.  I bet I probably could still throw 50,000 words down in the time I have left, but I don’t think they would be worth the paper, or disk space, they are written on.  I would feel like I am sacrificing quality just to get it done on time because of my crowded schedule.

8. I don’t want to be another blogger spending all of November blogging about NaNoWriMo.

Every year the writing blogs fill up with constant talk about NaNoWriMo.  Or even worse, they virtually shut down for a month.  Both, I don’t wish to do.  Sometimes my schedule is so crowded that these posts are the only writing I get done for weeks or months.  And I don’t want to take a break for writing my novel, to tell you about how NaNoWriMo is going.  I’d prefer to be the destination my followers can come to read a post or two that is away from the topic of NaNoWriMo.  Don’t get me wrong, if you participate in NaNoWriMo, you may want to read about the progress of others.  I just don’t feel like blogging about it, and/or not blogging for a month.

“But Richard,” you say. “You are blogging about NaNo right now.”  To those people I say, this doesn’t count.  It is still October.

9.  I have a current novel to promote

We have established that my schedule is tight.  Well, Dissolution of Peace needs to sell.  And it won’t sell with out someone marketing it.  That someone is me.  My October sales have slowed drastically, and I hope to kick it into high gear for November and December.  That means more free time used to find reviewers, advertising, and self marketing.  Maybe even trying to set up a book signing or two.  That all takes time.  So rather then starting a third novel (just yet), I need to market the first one.

10. I have nothing to wear.

You heard me correctly.  No one wants to see me sitting around naked in my office writing a novel.  What does one wear to a virtual writing gathering anyway?  Is it a virtual black tie?  Or is virtual business casual okay?  Perhaps a virtual suit is sufficient.  That’s the thing, I simply don’t know.  And to save myself the embarrassment, I simply won’t attend.  Besides, I heard it was a Sadie Hawkins event and no one has asked me.

NaNoWriMo is a good thing

Sure, I am not attending.  But NaNoWriMo is a great event.  And perhaps one year I will be able to do it.  But that year is not 2012.  If you have time and want to do it, I suggest you check out the website.  There is no better way to stimulate your writing glands and put together something great.  If you are stalling to start writing, but just haven’t done it, NaNoWriMo is a great way to jump in.  At the very least, check it out.  Every year I do.  And as I said before, one year I will do it.

Perhaps I will have my own personal NaNoWriMo.  Who says November has to be the only month you write a novel in?  If you are like me, perhaps you make January your month, or even July.  And even though I joked about the NaNoWriMo related blogs, I tend to learn a lot more about writing when NaNo is going on than I do other times of year.  Authors are always willing to help each other out.  So even if you don’t participate, you are bound to learn something this November.

Missing in March

I need to start with an apology to my subscribers and regular blog readers.  You may have noticed I have broken my own rule on successful blogging.  Blog on regular schedule.  While I am sure none of you have been waiting to make life altering choices because of my lack of posts, I feel as though I have some how neglected my responsibilities here.  It’s not just here, I have not been very active on Twitter or Facebook either.

Frankly I hate this month.  I have seen a lot of commercials for Buffalo Wild Wings about “What month would you give up for more March?”  It makes me cringe just thinking about have to do March twice a year.  It seams I have terrible luck in this month.  Last year, I lost my job in March.  Years before that have been even worse.  Well, this year my own personal March madness continued (see even my puns are bad in March).

It started off well enough.  As some of you know from my previous posts, I started a new job.  It doesn’t make much but it gets me off unemployment.  Of course I started this job in February along with a move back to my hometown in Vacaville.  All great ways to end February and start off March.  Of course, they all led to me neglecting my blog.

In the middle of March, my wife’s employer decided to make a sudden drastic schedule change.  This caused me to have to beg and plead with my boss for a schedule change.  My employer was very understanding, unlike my wife’s, and they made the change.  Only three hours later, my wife tells me they changed the schedule again.  My wife asked to remain at the same schedule, but she’s the forth most senior dispatcher there and they wanted a senior person on each shift (four shifts).  Never mind the fact that the person she was switched with, didn’t want to switch (and is more senior than my wife).  Well we got through that.  My employer was understanding and made some more changes.

Things got better, because immediately following that I got to attend the wedding of a friend of mine.  They will be a great couple and the wedding was outstanding.  It was a lot of fun and I was very happy to share this event in their lives.  I extend my congratulations to Logan and Tessa Bryce.  I hope you enjoy life together.  There is no greater journey in life then marriage.

Right after that I attended my first San Jose Sharks regular season game.  I am a huge hockey fan, and an even bigger SanJose Sharks fan.  After so many years of wishing I could go, it was great to finally be able to go.  The arena is great and while we had great seats, there probably are not many bad seats at HP Pavilion.  I got to meet Randy Hahn and Brodie Brazil from Comcast Sportsnet.  I have been listening to Randy Hahn call Sharks games for as long as I can remember and to meet him was great.  Brodie Brazil is new to the CSN team, but he provides great rink side commentary and he is very interactive on Twitter.  So meeting them both was a great start to the game.  Everything about attending the game was great, accept the final score.

Left to Right: Brodie Brazil, Me, My wife, Randy Hahn

Two days later my wife started her new schedule after her days off.  The unnamed local ambulance company she works for did not schedule enough ambulances to adequately cover the area.  As a result an ambulance was late to a call.  And my wife was fired the next day.  She has not had an issue there for over nine months, but they were quick to terminate.  I can’t believe a company that puts “Family Values” on their letter head, would fire the main provider of a family of five on an issue that is ultimately their own fault.  This company has little regard for their employees and has created a hostile environment, in which most all mistakes result in suspension and/or termination.

In any case, her income was three quarters of our family income.  I don’t even make enough to pay the rent.  Fortunately quick thinking will likely help me keep a roof over our heads for the next few months.  But, we pray that either her union comes through for her (though that is not likely) or that unemployment kicks in quickly.  God willing, she will find work before this really matters.

As a result I have been trying to pick up extra hours at work.  I’ve also been burying myself in my office so that I can try to get this novel out for all of you.  And, hopefully if you folks like it, I can sell a few copies.  I also had a great idea for another story, with potential for novel length.  So with any luck you may see a few novels from me this year.  Of course, I prefer quality over quantity so we will see what other tricks life has in store for my timelines.

So, March is my least favorite month.  And despite my wife and my Irish heritage, we can can’t see to find the luck of the Irish.  They say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  But I am so sick of drinking lemonade (This cliche brought to you by Country Time Lemonade, which I am drinking as I write this).

But, while March is typically a rough month.  I have many blessings in my life.  I have a lovely wife, who loves me for richer or poorer.  I have three great boys, who could care less about bills and just want to play with their Daddy.  I have great family and friends who have put my family in their thoughts and prayers.  I have a job, the start up of a successful writing career, and I volunteer free time to my community.  So while March has got me down, I have 11 other great months to enjoy.

So, you can take my face off the milk cartons of the blogging world.  Though I was missing in March, April is just around the corner.

Distractions

I recently finished reading The Black Prism by Brent Weeks.  A great novel that is full of characters you can relate to and a plot that is imaginative and engaging to the reader.  It has a well thought out world that has depth and dynamic. The magic is believable and based a bit on real life.  In other words, you should go by this novel if you have any love for Fantasy novels.  You can wait until you finish reading my post, but as soon as you are done, go buy it.

Like every great story I finish, I find myself sad it is over.  But, I also find myself inspired to write a great novel of my own.  I also find myself looking at my latest novel and wondering why I have not done much to advance it.  When I undertook writing with a serious intention of being published this past March, I told myself I would complete one short story a month and a novel by the end of the year.

That means I should have written nine short stories and one novel.  Currently I have completed four short stories and about 2,500 words into the second draft of my novel (the first draft was written years ago, so really this is a rewrite first draft).  I also completed a Children’s picture book my son and I wrote together.  A far cry from being where I wanted to be.

There are some pluses.  First, two of those four stories were published this year.  The other two are currently out to markets.  The children’s book is currently waiting on the illustrator to complete the drawings.  It has a scheduled release for the early part of 2012.  Both of which I think are good accomplishments for a writer in his first serious year of writing.

But, why I have fallen so short of my goals?  When I finished The Black Prism, I really began to quiz myself of the true cause of my short comings.  The answer was simple: Distractions.

I have a long list of distractions.  Many of those distractions are worth it and they have to to come first.  Those include: My kids, my wife, my health, my chores, my job (when I had one), and searching for a job.  But there are some I could trim out.  Such as: Television, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Battlefield 3, and the internet.

Of course, the real trouble is actually making those cuts.  Every time I power up this laptop the first sight I go to is Facebook.  I can’t help it.  Then I have to check Twitter now (a site I used to hate and now for some reason I can’t avoid it).  Then I go look for work, then I go check out all the sites related to Battlefield 3, then I check my writers forum, then check the site stats for this blog, then I go back to Facebook, and then I check Google+.  By then I am tired of the internet, so I shut off my lap top and turn on the TV.  Through all of this my children need my attention.  I cook dinner, put the kids to bed, my wife comes home from work, we watch TV, and then off to bed.  And I always say, “Tomorrow I will have to get some writing done.”

Perhaps I am not taking writing serious enough.  I don’t think so.  I like doing it and I enjoy seeing the positive reviews of the things people have read of mine.  The truth is, and I have mentioned this before, I just have to make the time.  Most of the time there is nothing on TV, but I watch it anyway.  Most of the time there is nothing new on Facebook, but I check it anyway.  I am finding Google+ useless but I still check it.  And I don’t know why I am so addicted to Twitter now.

Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are great for me to get in touch with my fans and fellow writers.  I won’t cut them out completely.  I certainly won’t be able to cut out Battlefield 3 for a while.  I enjoy the game.  But, I can limit them.  I intend to limit them and focus on my novel.

One thousand words a day would reach novel length in just forty days.  Of course my novel may be longer and I almost never just write 1000 words in a writing session, but that certainly seems like a reasonable goal.  However goals are not worth much if you don’t try.  I will try to hold to that goal, and you can always follow me on Facebook and Twitter to see how I do.

So I know have two 2012 resolutions: 1) Exercise and lose weight, 2) Write more.

Of course I have more, but I will save that for another post.

Want-A-Be Writers Vs True Writers

Just because you write, doesn’t make you a writer.

I have recently discovered that writing has this in common with Photography.  Everyone who picks up a camera, takes pictures of their family reunion, and posts them on a Facebook Page they made; calls themselves a photographer.  That is a steamy load of crap.

Photography is an art form and requires a lot more then point and shoot.  Over the years, photography has been watered down by many factors:  Easy exposure, easier to use equipment, easy digital printing, and friends/family who won’t tell them they suck.  The result has been an over abundance of people calling themselves photographers and they have watered down the craft.  Add this to the fact that photography is a misunderstood art form (that is to say most people don’t know what makes a photo art), and the true photographers are ripping their hair out.

Writing is clearly not much different anymore.  First, most people won’t know good writing if it bit them in the ass.  I am not talking about styles, genres, or your own reading preference.  I am talking about a well written story.  There are plenty of books I don’t like, but they were written very well.  It was just not something I enjoyed reading.  Writing, like photography, is a craft.  It takes time to perfect each piece (though a true writer never reaches perfection).  But most people accept anything written on the page that is must be good to get published.

Writing is getting watered down now, just like writing.   Easy exposure, digital printing, easier to use equipment, and  friends/family who won’t tell them they suck.

Easy Exposure:

Anyone can create a Facebook Page.  I have four of them.  Anyone can create a blog.  Twitter, Google+, good reads, and much more.  Don’t get me wrong these are great tools for the Author to use, I use all of them.  However, anyone can slap “Writer of…” on their page.  It makes it harder to establish the true writer’s from the hacks.

Digital Printing:

Lulu, Create Space, and a ton of other print on demand publishers have made it so anyone with an email address can publish something.  Don’t get me wrong.  This, and the e-publishing for e-readers, is revolutionizing the publishing industry.  For years publishers have excluded excellent writers based on editors opinions, agents, and other such problems.  But it has also removed the filter.  This means we are getting all kinds of utter crap out their too.  It makes it harder to know who to buy from and who to avoid.  It has also put an undeserved negative stigma on self published authors.

Easier to Use Equipment:

Word Processors, writer’s programs, easy to use publishing software, and a slew of other programs to help writers.  They are great tools, but again they enable many people to fool themselves into thinking they can write because some program keeps track of grammar errors, or characters, or chapters.  However, most want-a-be writers don’t know anything about plot threads, prose, or even when to use bad grammar.  Have you ever read a book where every character speaks perfect English?  That’s horrible, because I have never met anyone who always speaks perfect English.

Friends/Family won’t tell them they suck:

This is where you can help out.  If you have a friend or family member who writes, and they are no good at it.  Please tell them to stop.  Thank you.

Truth be told, that is hard to do.  At the very least though, please don’t tell them they are good at it.  As the saying goes, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  You don’t have to tell them how good they are.  Just don’t say anything.

The true problem here is that most want-a-be writers never show their works to other writers or join writers groups.  They assume they either don’t have to share, or they are delusional to their own abilities.

How can readers find good, real writers.

You used to have some level of trust, that if they made it to bookshelves they were at least somewhat skilled in the craft.  That is simply no longer the case.   Anyone can make their way on to Amazon.com.  How do we decipher the good from the bad?  It really is harder then you think.  Many great writers are self published.  They have great blogs, Facebook Pages, Twitter accounts, and more.  So how do we really tell?

Well in many cases, it is simply trial and error.  You buy a book from them, they are clearly a hack so you never buy from them again.  Or you buy their book, love it, and can’t wait to get something from them again.  But there is something you can do to help with this.

Read the reviews.  The reviews will tell you what other readers thought.  Read them carefully.  Look for items that are simple opinion versus objective facts.  For example:  “I didn’t like that the entire book takes place in space.” (opinion) versus “There was an entire section of text that was formatted in red ink for no reason, punctuation is missing, and the Point of View changes mid-paragraph.” (objective facts).  Ignore the comments that simply say “it sucks” or “the best book ever”, neither of those gives you any insight to the book.  Lastly, remember rating systems (stars or number scales) are almost always opinion based.

But you, as the reader, need to go one step further.  Write a review.  Most people don’t write reviews on their purchases, despite the fact that nearly every online retailer has the ability to review.  Write a detailed review about why you liked, or did not like, the book.  If it was because the writing was bad, point out examples.  Share both your opinions and facts.  Say you liked it because of this reason and then point out the writing is strong with believable dialogue.  A good well written review helps the Author sell more books, but it also helps other readers know if they should stay away.  Bad reviews are just as important as good ones.  So write both.

I am trying to make it a habit of writing a review on everything I read.  I write reviews on Good Reads, and on the site in which I purchased the book.  You should do the same.  It really doesn’t take much time, especially in comparison to what you spent on reading the book, and it helps everyone involved.

There are a ton of good writers out there.  It is great that it is so easy to find and buy great writing from all over the world.  The downside is that some garbage is getting in too.  Hopefully more people will help the true writers filter out the hacks.  The hacks are what have given self-publishing a bad name.

Lastly, if any of you hacks are reading this.  Study the craft, work hard at it, and chances are you can be just as good as many writers.  Like any art form, writing needs to be studied.  The true writer will study his craft constantly, the hack doesn’t take it serious enough to bother.

Writer’s Block

I can hear all of you yelling at you screens:  “Where have you gone Richard?  Why did you leave us?”

I know I have been quiet on here. I haven’t posted in 10 days.  I think in blog time that is something like 3 years.  I have been stricken with a terrible case of writer’s block.  The only natural enemy of the writer.  Well, there may be others, but writer’s block is certainly the worse .

Writer’s block is that horrible condition where a writer has no idea what to write.  In can be minor; like not know what to write on Twitter.  Or it can be severe; like not knowing what to write anywhere.  Writer’s block affects all writers of all ages, there is no vaccine against it, and it often requires lengthy treatments that are not guaranteed to work.  Worst of all it’s not covered by most insurance carriers.

My case was moderate.  I managed to put together a few tweets, I think I got on Google+ with a post, and Facebook got a few posts.  But, I could not think of anything to write, both here or for a new short story.  I haven’t got anymore written on my novel.

I tried all the treatments.  They don’t work.  I brainstormed, I read, I wrote nonsense, I opened the documents to type, and still nothing got down to the page.  I tried hard to get something down on paper some where.  Nothing.  Not even a sticky note on the fridge reminding me to buy my son Ice Cream toppings for his school party.

I had an awesome dream.  I woke up and thought, This will make the most awesome story known to man.  Sure enough, my writer’s block was so severe that I didn’t write the idea down and fell back a sleep.  That is a cardinal sin in the writing community, and I did it.  And now, I still can’t remember even the smallest detail of what that dream was about.  All I can remember now is, You fool.  You could have been the next Heinlein, and you didn’t write it down.  Your note pad was arms length from your bed and you were too lazy to write it down.

Then yesterday I got a rejection letter from a publication for my latest short story.  Its okay, it was only the first market I have sent it too so I was not really surprised.  However, when you have writer’s block it is a bit more discouraging.  I sent it off to another publication as I promised myself  I would always do.

And then I had a great idea for a blog post.  I will write about Editors.

Then I realized that might be career suicide if I wrote down what I was thinking of editors after getting a rejection.  So I decided that post should probably wait.

Well then my Van broke down… yes I drive a mini-van.  Stop looking at me like that.  Men drive mini-vans too.  Well, as you have read in other threads, writing provides stress relief for me.  Well, I needed it and I still couldn’t think of a damn thing to put on paper.

Then today, I went through my routine.  Checked Facebook, Checked the Facebook Author Page, Checked Twitter, Checked Google+, and then I got to this site.  And I thought to myself, I need to blog.  My adoring fans need to hear from me.  It has been three blog years since I posted.

It didn’t work.  I couldn’t think of anything.  Then after going back to Facebook and then back to this site.  It dawned on me.  I should write about the tragedy of Writer’s Block.  And so, I give you this post.  I managed over 700 words here.

I AM CURED!

So what is my point is all this?  I am not sure I really have one.  Give me a minute, let me see if I can make one up…

Okay I got it.

Writer’s Block is a debilitating disease to a writer.  And really only time can cure it.  The more you force yourself to writer something the more resistant the disease becomes.  Sometimes you have to just take a break and let the disease run its course.  And when you are ready you will have something great to write.  Or at least something to write.*

If you have suggestions on how to cure Writer’s Block, please feel free to comment.

Now if you will excuse me, I have things to write.

*Note:  The statements made in this blog have not been evaluated by the FDA, your 
results may vary.