Validation

valid-stampDeep down I think we all seek some type of validation.  It could be with a loved one, in our careers, and in our friendship.  It can also be with parking. We all need it.  I have a confession though, I self doubt a lot.  That is to say that I am constantly needing validation that my choices are the right ones.  This is true of my writing career as well.

But I think writers are a group that need a special type of validation.  There are a lot of people out there that want to be writers.  There are even a lot of people out there who say they are writers and really don’t know what they mean when they say that.  But deep down we writers want to be validated as authors. Unfortunately validation doesn’t always come.

So at what point are you valid in claiming you are an author.  Well, that is a bar that we set for ourselves.  Some set the bar really high, claiming they can only be an author when they get that first professional sale.  Some claim that they can be called an author simply because they say they are.

But what really validates the claim to that title of author?  Well for me it is the recognition of my peers, my readers, and friends.

Last year I felt really good when I took 2nd place in the science fiction and fantasy short story category of the  2011 Preditors and Editors readers poll for “Death Watch”.  I felt even better at all the nice comments I received. I even felt validated as a short story author.  The sale of my first two short stories in a matter of months helped a lot, but being recognized in that poll was special to me.

But what I really wanted to do was sell novels.  So in 2012, I didn’t work on many short story projects.  I put my work towards publishing my first novel, and I did it.  My goal was to get a lot of new readers, and I did that.  My goal was to get a lot of reviews and praise, but that has not really happened.  I’ve had 8 reviews on Amazon US and 2 on UK.  Don’t get me wrong, I am very pleased with those reviews.  But one of my roll models, the person that inspired me to get Dissolution of Peace out, seemed to get a lot of reviews very quickly.  Even a lot of editorial reviews (of which I’ve only had two).  It is my opinion that he made a big splash in the Horror scene, while I seem to have made only a slight ripple (like a pebble dropped into the ocean) in the Sci-Fi scene.

So, I started to question the validity of my claim to be a novelist.  Some of my role models in the independent scene, including the person above, have not even shared (to my knowledge) the work I have done. I think perhaps I expected too much from those I thought would return the favor.  But the point is that I began to question if I was any good at what I was setting out to do.  This is that self doubt I was talking about.

The problem not feeling validated, is that you tend to slump.  And I did a significant slump.  But then the readers poll came around again.  I was nominated for best Science Fiction and Fantasy novel.  There were also 85 other novels nominated.  In the end I took another top ten finish, coming in 5th for the 2012 poll.

There were some great comments in there too. I take great pride in how much people love my work and my characters.  I was ecstatic to see some of these things, they mean a lot to me.

I think the important thing that this post should point out.  If you are a reader, like I am, you need to set out to review ALL the books you read but especially the ones you enjoyed.  You need to make sure to share that with everyone.  Because if you want to see writers continue to write, they need to feel validated.  And for many of us, your reviews, purchases, and kind comments validates our purpose.  I think this is more important than a professional sale, and or even a large book deal, though those all help.  After all, it isn’t about who publishes what we write, but about who enjoys what we write.

So to those who continue to buy my books, vote for my books, comment on my books, review my books, and share my stories: I thank you.  You fuel my my writing career and make it that much more likely that I will someday reach all my writing goals.

As for the parking, I think I will just pay for it.  That is a validation that can be impossible to get.

Advertisements

Cyber Monday! – Free eBooks!

Today is Cyber Monday.  That means that you are likely out looking for good deals on various gifts for others, and maybe even yourself.

What is a better deal then free?

For today only Dissolution of Peace will be free on your Kindle!  You can pick up your free copy here: LINK

Distinguishing Yourself from the “Steaming Piles of Crap”

On of the members of the writer’s group I belong to, and a person I follow on Google+, recently released her first eBook.  I offered my congratulations and she mentioned that anyone can put up an eBook, “…from Stephen King to steaming pile of crap.”

And truthfully she is right.  Anyone can do it.  They can go on Smashwords, KDP, or even PubIt and throw together an eBook and sell it in about ten minutes.  I just got done setting up Dissolution of Peace for eBook sales on KDP and was surprised just how quick it was.  I was set up and done in about an hour.  And I spent some time debating the price and royalties options.  On the other hand, the print version has taken almost a week now to get set up and it still isn’t done.  But even that is only because they review the file for “print-ability” but not for content.

So one might wonder how they separate themselves from the crap.  The simple answer is not to be crap.

If you wrote a book in a week, and published it the next week.  Chances are your story is going to be garbage.  You simply miss way to much when you spend so little time on a project.  I’ve talked a lot about the steps you have to take to get your work ready for publication.  If you start cutting corners, it will show.  All told, I will have spent nine years (or more) working on Dissolution of Peace.  From the original manuscript written in 2003-2004 to the final product you will all see October 16th.

Do I recommend taking nine years?  No, not necessarily.  From the time I made up my mind to finish, and see published, Dissolution of Peace  it took almost exactly one year.  In that year, I spent most of that time editing.

The rewrite of the manuscript cut out 30,000 words of pure crap.  Words I might have missed if I didn’t reread the original manuscript.  Next, I read it again.  I corrected the mistakes I found, and read it again.  Then I sent it off to a few beta readers.  They made their comments.  I fixed some things, and read it again.  Then it went to a professional editor.  He sent me back a boat load of suggestions.  I fixed those, rewrote some passages, corrected the plot holes and confusing information.  Then, you guessed it, I read it again.  I fixed a few things and put it in format for publication.  Then I ordered a proof.

ALWAYS ORDER A PROOF.  I know many people who skip this step.  They figure they have caught everything by this point.  They look at the digital proof for format errors and then approve it.  They never hold a proof copy in their hands.  Well I ordered a proof.  And I read it cover to cover.  There were exactly ZERO formatting error.  However, there were twenty-two other errors.  Missing words, typo words, and other things.  Things four beta readers, an editor, and five of my own readings missed.  All of which were just things your eyes miss.  When you see a word in its context you might not notice that “closest friend” was typed “closet friend” in the book.  The fact remains that as I read it in book format, these things came out because it was the first time I had read it as an actual book.  In print.  Not on a computer screen.  I saw my novel in a new way.

And now, as I get ready to approve the final draft I am confident it is ready to be read.  Will I miss something?  I will almost bet money I did.  But even the professionals miss something.  It is one of the ways book experts can detect what edition many books are.  They know of certain misprints, typos, ect in each edition.  The point to this is not to spend forever making the novel absolutely perfect.  The point is to spend enough time with it to make it the best you can possible put out.

I read my story six times in this last year.  If you are not reading your book multiple times to prepare it for publishing, how can you expect buyers to read it once?  If you wrote it and you find it boring to read more than once, it may not belong in the steaming pile, but you should figure out what needs to be fixed to make it readable.

I will also say this.  Grammar and punctuation do not make a book readable but they can may a book unreadable.  If your book is overly riddled with grammar mistakes, they can distract a reader.  However, you can have a grammatical masterpiece, not one grammatical error in the entire manuscript, and still have a steaming pile on your hands.

You need a plot.  A story that starts where the real story starts.  You need a conflict of some type.  You need a resolution to the conflict.  And you need a satisfying ending.  You have to be able to tell a story.  A story readers want to read.  A story with characters people love (or hate for the right reasons).  You need a world for this to all take place in.  Once you master that, you can go back and fix the grammar.

The point is you need to take time with you works.  He who publishes the most books, does not win.

You need to put together a quality novel before you submit it for publication.  If you do that, your work will stand out for the steaming piles of crap that come out.  But also remember that some people will simply not like your novel for their own reasons.  While others may love it.  You can’t please everyone.  We’ve all bought a book we thought would be good only to be disappointed.  But if you take your time to put your best work forward, you will find a following of readers who will love your story.

Should Authors Write Book Reviews?

Yesterday I asked my Facebook and Twitter followers what they would like me to blog about.  I got only a few responses.  This one, on twitter, caught my eye:

Peter Snede (@Petersnede) wrote: “@Richard_Flores4 I’m interested in a post on authors writing book reviews. Are neg reviews advisable? Do they help them connect w/others?”

I had never really given it much thought.  I’ve written a number of reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.  I’ve even written a couple of them on here.  But, I never gave much thought  if I was doing a good thing or a bad thing.  I just did it to help out fellow Authors and to help out readers.  So I spent yesterday at work thinking things over on this topic.

We all know that when you get your book ready to sell, you hope to get some reviews.  Whether that be on Amazon, Goodreads, or a blog post.  Generating buzz around your book (positive buzz) will only help you sell more books.  But, what is the benefit in reviewing other author’s books?  Here are some of them:

  • You can hope that the favor is returned.  Perhaps you review their book and they will do the same for you.  If not them directly, then you can hope that your generosity will be rewarded through Karma, fate, good vibes, or whatever you want to call it.
  • Since almost every way you can do a review, you can create a profile that has a link to your site.  You might generate traffic to your website.  If you are reviewing the books on your website or blog, they will find your website when they search for that book.
  • Perhaps your Blog audience enjoys your reviews.  That will certainly help you get more visitors, and get your name out there when you are selling your books.  Chances are if your reviews entertained them, they might take chance on your book.
  • The Author may publicly recognize your review and post it to Twitter, Facebook, or to their own site.  Hopefully that helps you.
  • If you review enough books, name recognition is certainly possible.

The reason I do it is simple:  I enjoyed the book enough that I thought my blog audience would enjoy it as well.  After all a review is my opinion, and for the most part I think my blog audience enjoys my opinion.  I write all these blog posts for my blog audience, not so much for myself.  So, I never gave much thought to all the above benefits as well.  The reason I write reviews on Goodreads and Amazon is to help out fellow authors by increasing their reviews and for the benefit of the buyer who is trying to decide if this book is right for them.

But, Peter asks an important question:  Are negative reviews a good idea?  Well, that was a very tough one for me the first time I had to face a book I didn’t much care for.  When it comes to my blog I only share books I enjoyed.  The reason for that is simple, I want to help my blog audience find the next book they will enjoy.  For me, writing a negative review on my blog serves no purpose to my blog audience, and since my blog is not book review blog anyway, I just don’t do it.

But, when it comes to Amazon or Goodreads, I review books that I don’t like too.  Simply because those are public resources that people come to looking for their next purchase.

But back to the topic:  My moral tough spot.  I had read a book, or rather a collection, that started off horribly.  I even debated putting it down and not reading it anymore.  The problem was, I was given this book for the sole reason of writing an Amazon review.  The even bigger problem was I know the author.  He is a good Author and person.  I talked to my friend and fellow writer about my issue.  He made a good suggestion:  Write the Author and tell them you don’t like it.  Tell them that if you wrote an honest review it would be a bad one.  And explain to them why you don’t like it.  If he insists you still review it, then do so.  If he says well thank you, then you don’t have to review it.

I reviewed it, because it also got a lot better.  I gave it an honest rating and an honest review.  But what if it hadn’t gotten better.  Well, the way I see it that is up to you.  If you are only writing reviews for the benefit of you audience finding books that they will like, then only review books you think are good.  If you run a book review website, you are in a tough spot.  If you are given, and agree to, review a book for your blog.  Then you have to review it.  You could contact the Author and warn them.  Or you could just write the review.

If you are just doing reviews on Goodreads or Amazon you have another option.  If I don’t enjoy a book, I simply rate it.  I don’t write a full review.  I just give it a star rating at leave it at that.

Frankly, unless you are a critic, I don’t think writing a full on bad review does anyone any good.  You won’t change the book, it is already published.  And if you are trying to aspire to be a good Author, then you want to build a positive network of authors.  So, I suggest you follow the “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” rule.  Remember a review is way different then the test reading process.  This book has already been published.

Will writing bad reviews end your career?  I don’t think so.  But it won’t boost it either.  However, if you plan to start a blog that reviews books, plan to be an honest book critic (the Siskel & Ebert of books) then you need to take a different approach.  And, I’m not really qualified to give you some guidance on that.

You will notice that I have never once said you should give a false review to a book.  Friend or not, the moment you start writing false reviews you destroy your credibility as an Author and a Reviewer.  Boosting egos won’t work.  If it is a friend, tell them the book is not your style.  If you are not comfortable writing a bad review, don’t do it.  Once of the best things about reviewing is you get to choose what you review.

In summary:  I do recommend that Authors review books.  I don’t think you need to write bad reviews.  And, writing reviews will help you connect with other authors, and with a audience all your own.

Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover… Wait

We all know that saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”  We hear it all the time.  But, we rarely hear it applied to actual books.  That is because we all judge our books by the cover.

In a Disney’s Phineas and Ferb episode, “The Chronicles of Meap”, there comes a very funny scene (at least to me the author).  In which Candace is with her Mom (Linda):

Phineas: Yeah, it looked way outside, but then it was right in the zone. There’s a lesson, baseball fans: never judge a book by its cover.

(scene flips to Candace, looking at a row of books)
Candace: Boring, dull, stupid, lame— heavy-handed and derivative.
Linda: Oh, thank you for those insightful reviews of books you haven’t read.
Candace: Mom, that’s why books have covers: to judge them. I mean, why did you choose these books from the library?
Linda: They looked interesting.
Candace: So…

Linda: Point taken.

Every time I see that scene (and I watch a lot of Phineas and Ferb) it makes me smile.  Because it is so true.  Books have covers to entice us to buy them.  When I am in the book store (yes they still have those,) I browse the rows of books until I see a cover that jumps out at me.  I pick it up, look it over (including the back) and I decide if I am going to buy it based solely on the cover.

This is why cover art is so important.  Once you get them to pick up the book, you need to get them to turn it over and read that all important “sales pitch” printed on the back.  Only after you get past that will you be able to get them to buy the book.  Even if the person thumbs through the first few pages, they have to pick it up off the shelf first.

That is why covers are important in the store, but what about online.  Do people still browse the virtual aisles of Amazon.com?  I think they might.  Even if they know exactly what they are looking for, they may browse more.  For example, go to Amazon.com and search Richard Flores IV… no wait that sounds vain, search Robert S. Wilson instead.  If you were specifically looking for his book Shining in Crimson because you saw my post about it (vanity again).  How would you recognize it instantly in the scrolling list of results.  THE COVER.

Now, if you click on the link to his novel.  You will see Amazon puts that “People who viewed this also viewed:” on the bottom.  Now all you see there is the cover, the title, and the author.  Now, you may not ever use that (I have), but people do that.  Otherwise, Amazon wouldn’t use it.  Again, they will make the choice to click on the novel, based on the cover.

So the cover is important in store or online.  If you go with a big publisher, chances are they will have someone take care of the cover art for you.  But, if you decide to self publish you will need to deal with cover art on your own.  Perhaps you hire somebody, or you can do it yourself if you choose.  But be prepared to spend some time on it.

A good cover needs:

  1. To have the title on it.  That seems obvious enough, but the title should be the dominate text on the cover.  I have seen books where you could easily mistake the Authors name as the Title.  Or even a tag line.  You don’t need to place the Title on top, but you do need to make it the most eye catching thing on there.  Use easy to read, but stand out fonts.  Make sure the title contrasts with the rest of the cover art, you don’t want it getting lost in the artwork.
  2. To have the Author’s name on it.  Believe it or not, I have seen covers with no Author’s name on it.  If I want to find a book by Robert S. Wilson, Lee Gimenez, or even a blockbuster like Orson Scott Card; you need to have the name on it.  I am not going to spend time looking to see who the book is written by.  You may not think you are worth looking for, but if you are marketing your book, someone is looking.  Even me, the twice published author of two short stories, gets a hit to this site based on a search for my name, an average of once a week. Again, stand out font that contrasts with the artwork.
  3. The artwork itself.  Many would argue this should have been number 1 on this list.  Sure the art may be what catches the eye first, but title is what always hooks me in to reading more.  So as far as importance goes, you decide.  There are several ways to get artwork for your cover.  There are plenty of stock photo/artwork sites.  You can buy the artwork per piece or you can pay a monthly fee and get all the artwork you want.  Some are even free.  Always check the terms and conditions carefully.  You may not be able to use the stock art commercially.  The other down side to stock is that your image could be used by some one else  not giving you exclusive rights to the art.  If that is the case, you may want to commission an artist to do your cover art.  It will likely cost you (unless you are connected) and it will likely be more than the stock art sites.
  4. Relevant artwork.  Artwork is important enough to get two bullet points (that I didn’t want to turn off my bullet point format).  Make sure however you get artwork it is relevant to the story in some way.  It should be eye catching as well.  The artwork should not be overwhelming either.  It is not an art gallery exhibit.  Just enough to entice the readers to pick it up off the shelf.
  5. The sales-pitch.  Typically this is on the back cover.  Not seen right away.  But you got the book off the shelf (or they clicked on the link).  Now you need to get them to buy it.  If you buy paper books like I do, the first thing I do after looking at the front cover, is turn the book over.  This is where the author now has a chance to tell me why I should buy the story.  Online they have a section for the Book description or synopsis.  There could be whole blogs on how to write that.  The main issue is you want to have a quick sales pitch about what your story is going to offer.  And then, if you have them, some quotes for fairly well known (or just known) reviewers.  This is your chance to get them to check out with your book.  A poorly written sales-pitch will result in them putting the book down.  Of course, they may also put the book down because the story isn’t what they like to read.  That’s okay though.  You’d rather have them not buy it then get it thinking it was something else and hate it (and possible tell a lot of people they hate it).

Lets take a look at the cover of Shining in Crimson and The Nanotech Muders.

Cover design by CL Stegall of Dark Red Press.

On SIC we see a large red eye.  That certainly will get you a second look.  The eye is not just some red circle.  It is very detailed eye that almost starts to tell the story itself.  The title is a unique font, but very readable and stands out.  The author name stands out from the cover art, while not taking over the cover.  The book description from Amazon provides a brief sales pitch and some praise:

Set in a dystopian, religiously-demented American Empire, the city of Las Vegas is no longer a city of sin. Now called Necropolis, it is a city that eats sin. The vampires of Necropolis wait patiently for the Empire’s weekly drop off of guilty Penitents; sinners and criminals full of fresh blood.

Hank Evans is one of those Penitents and he would gladly let the vampires take every drop of his blood if it weren’t for one detail: Toby. Toby is Hank’s only son. Now, Hank must do whatever it takes to escape the city of the dead and save his son from an Empire as bloodthirsty as the vampires it uses to keep its people in line.

Praise for Shining in Crimson:

“A big-scale vampire thriller that changes the rules.”–Scott Nicholson, author of Liquid Fear, The Red Church, and They Hunger

“One of the best surprises I’ve had in a long while. Writing with a smart, self-assured ease, Robert S. Wilson has given us a gift with Shining in Crimson. Part Underworld, part Escape From New York, Shining in Crimson is genuinely frightening, genuinely thrilling, but above all, first-rate storytelling. I’m a Robert S. Wilson fan from now on!”–Joe McKinney, author of Flesh Eaters and Apocalypse of the Dead

“Robert S. Wilson shows a lot of promise here with this debut novel. Now it’s time to see where that promise will take him.”–Ray Wallace, The Chiaroscuro

“You’ll not find some glistening torsos and smouldering eyes in this book. What you will find is a brilliantly thought out society of Vampires.”–Jim Mcleod, Ginger Nuts of Horror

“The Mesh of Religious symbolism and political commentary tucked neatly between pure horror and suspense is superb.”–Lisa Lane, The Cerebral Writer

Cover art by Deron Douglas

On The Nanotech Murders we have a beautiful woman standing in front of a detailed back drop, holding a gun.  Let’s be honest here, it catches your eye for several reasons.  One you have an attractive woman, two you have interesting shading, that almost implies she might not be all human, and last you have that gun.  The cover certainly catches the eye.  The font on the title is unique while readable and the authors name is prominent but not overwhelming.  The book description from Amazon offers a brief sales pitch:

The year is 2071 and there’s a serial killer loose in Atlanta. Lieutenant Jak Decker, a homicide cop, is on the case but is getting nowhere. As the body count mounts, his boss assigns him a partner, the smart and beautiful Detective Cassandra Smith. Decker, a tough, wise-cracking loner, doesn’t want a partner, especially when he finds out she’s an android.

While I am no expert in Book Covers, I do understand that we judge books by their covers.  If you want to sell some books cover art helps a lot (and it certainly doesn’t harm anything).  We must also remember that your cover art will become that books brand.  And we all know how powerful branding is.  Just think about golden arches.  So consider your cover art carefully.  I can’t wait to get some cover art for my first novel.  Please comment below with your cover art tips and tricks to help others learn from your own experience.

Updates: February 2012

A lot has gone on since I wrote my January Updates in the first part of January.  There are new announcements and progress reports to share.  Let’s get started, shall we.

On February 5th, I finished the first draft of my still untitled novel.  It game is at just over 67,000 words and only took forty seven days start to finish.  As I mentioned before, I didn’t write everyday.  Life gets in the way sometimes.  So, it took 21 days of writing.  I am pleased to be finished, but now the real work starts.  There are many other steps ahead and I will probably start the self editing in March.

I did write a January short story.  I put it out for critiques and the overwhelming response is that it seems unfinished.  I originally wrote it with a quick little idea, thinking a flash piece.  But it seems it needs some expanding.  The problem is, I am not sure where I will go from here.  We will see.

My other two short stories are still out with various markets.  I hope to hear back on both of them soon.  Of course I will still announce their sales on Twitter and Facebook.

Daddy is Tired,  the children’s picture book, is still waiting on the illustrator.  So, unfortunately there is no cover art to show you yet.  I also don’t think a March release will happen either.  The lead time from the publisher is lengthy.  So, perhaps April.  The illustrator has told me she will be staying up late tomorrow and hopes to finish then.  Official release dates will be announced as soon as I have them.

I’ve done a lot of reading since I finished Shining in Crimson by Robert S. Wilson.  I read Shadows in Flight by Orson Scott Card and The NanoTech Murders by Lee Gimenez (review here).  Right now I am reading I, Robot by Isaac Asimov.  I know it is amazing that I have not read this book yet, not sure why I never got to it but I am reading it now.  Once I finish that, I will have to head back to the book store.

I’m planning a move any day now.  I plan to move back to Vacaville, my hometown here in California.  I’m living just up the road in a neighboring city right now.  We moved here for cheaper rent, but we miss home (even with it being so close) and we hope to move before March 1st.  But, that may not be possible.  It all depends on if we hear back from the applications we have put in.

Well, that’s the updates for February.  We’ll have to touch base on these again in March.  Hopefully then I will have release dates and other fun stuff to share.

Book Review: The Nanotech Murders

Cover art by Deron Douglas

From the Back Cover:

The year is 2071 and there’s a serial killer loose in Atlanta.  Lieutenant Jak Decker, a homicide cop, is on the case but is getting nowhere.  As the body count mounts, his boss assigns him a partner, the smart and beautiful Detective Cassandra Smith.  Decker, a tough, wisecracking loner, doesn’t want a partner, especially when he finds out she’s an android.

 
The Nanotech Murders by Lee Gimenez (Double Dragon Publishing) was added to my ‘to read’ list because the topic of future police work appeals to me.  I felt it promised to show me another author’s take on the future of police work.

I spent a lot of my college years studying Law Enforcement.  It had been an eventual career goal for me at one point.  So when I read or watch fiction involving police work, I tend to be extra critical.  I tend to notice unbelievable situations, reactions, and characters.

Unlike others I have know, I am able to recognize that police fiction has to be dramatized because in general the job has a lot of very boring moments.  No one would read a book about a cop who pulls over traffic violator for eight hours, maybe handles a domestic quarrel or two, then goes home and goes to bed.

Trust me, I am not down playing the daily duties of our police, they regularly put their lives on the line.  They often have to go from boring to complete terror in seconds.  If fact, that is exactly whey we love Police fiction.  It takes that terror and puts it into a believable scenario so we can watch police officers become the heroes we know them to truly be.

It is 2071 in Atlanta, and the police are dealing with a serial killer.  They have almost nothing to go on and the number of victims are rising.  To make matters worse the Captain is putting a lot of pressure on Detective Jak Decker to solve the case before the media gets wind of it.

Jak’s boss feels he needs a partner and forces Cassandra on him.  As you read this story Jak and Cassandra  find themselves neck deep in a case that may be more then they can handle.  Every time they pull a small thread, their word unravels even more.   They must struggle to solve this case before it destroys everything they have worked for.

Jak is you stereo-typical detective:  A drunk with a troubled marriage, who doesn’t play by the rules and often goes rogue from his orders.  It’s pretty much all thrown at you in the opening scene, and it was a bit troublesome for me to take.  But, Gimenez quickly breaths life in Jak and despite the stereo-types, I quickly found myself drawn in by Jak’s character.  I really wanted to see him succeed.

The character I most identified with was Cassandra Smith, the CS android unit that represents the best android technology has to offer.  Every scene and chapter in her point of view was enjoyable to read.  She is struggling to understand police work beyond the programing she has.  The relationship that Cass and Jak develop through the novel was one of the very enjoyable plot threads of the novel.

Gimenez writes a thoughtful thriller that applies subtle twists and turns to the plot.  It is a fresh take on the thriller with multiple entertaining plot threads that work well to complete an overall story that was fun to read.  I don’t think there was one point in the novel where I thought, I saw that coming.

The action scenes are written well.  They provide you with an intense feeling as if you are actually involved in these scenes yourself.  There are plenty of gun fights in the novel, but they don’t ever become boring or predictable.   Each time a character was involved in something life threatening you got the real sense that they could lose everything trying to solve this crime.

As I mentioned above, I am very quick to spot the mistakes in Police stories, the unrealistic descriptions of events.  This story has some of those.  None of this was distracting to the story.  I never felt like yelling:  Oh come on!  That’s impossible!   

So overall this is a great future cop thriller, that is believable and an entertaining read.  Gimenez does everything right with this one.  He takes believable cops, and shows them to be the heroes we all know them to be.  The Nanotech Murders is a must read for anyone who enjoys Science Fiction, Thrillers, and/or Police fiction.  Gimenez does a great job telling a blockbuster tale here.  One that is fun to read, has believable characters, a strong plot, and is just plain entertaining.  It is easily a four out of five.  I strongly recommend you pick up a copy.  I know I will be adding some other Gimenez titles to my ‘to read’ list.

(You can purchase The Nanotech Murders in paperback or for your Kindle on Amazon.com here.  It is also availble in paperback and Nook at Barnes and Noble here.)

Multiple Projects

Working on multiple at one time is something I am very accustomed too.  Having worked as a manager and business owner for many years, I am well aware of the difficulties involved in multitasking.  However, until this month, I wasn’t aware of how hard it would be to do that with my writing.  You see, before this month, I had only one work in progress at a time.

I think more of my problems come because I am typically not an outline writer.  I don’t create and outline to work from, I just type.  Well, that also makes the ideas stored in my mind a bit harder to track.  There where a few things I was already doing that helped dramatically and there are some things I learned recently.

Juggle

Being an writer, and doing it a lot, is like juggling chain saws on a unicycle while up on the tight-rope.  If you don’t know what you are doing someone is bound to get hurt, and it will likely be you.

You may be planning to only work on one project at a time.  That you will complete one manuscript and move on to the next.  While, I don’t think you should do that, I can respect that.  But, there are still some other things to consider.  Lets look at what I juggle right now (and this is just writing related).

  • Novel A
  • Ideas for Novel B
  • Ideas for Novel C
  • Short Story A
  • Ideas for Short Story B, C, D, E, F, and G
  • Critiques and edits for Short Story A
  • Copy editing for Children’s Book
  • Keeping track of illustrator’s progress on Children’s Book
  • Researching best publishers for Children’s Book
  • Writer’s Group meetings
  • Critiques and edits for the works of writers in my writing group
  • Self Publishing research
  • Weekly Blog Updates
  • Webpage Management
  • Twitter Updates (to promote myself)
  • Facebook Page Updates (to promote myself)
  • Self Promotion
  • Planing to see if I can attend OSC’s Boot camp
  • Submission tracking
  • Short Story Market research

I am sure I have already forgotten a few things.  But, that is a lot.  Most of it has little to do with writing multiple projects at once.  The funny thing is, it didn’t become overwhelming until I tried writing my short story while working on the Novel.  The fact of the matter is that I refuse to trim back on any of this (and I still have personal obligations as well).  Each of these things is enriching and rewarding to my craft and my future in the craft.

So, let me share with you what it is that I have learned.

Organize

Organization is absolutely key to surviving the onslaught of things I need to do.

Schedule. I use my Google calendar like crazy.  It links with my android phone and my wife’s Google Calendar.  Aside from the list above, it keeps track of my kids’ appointments, my wife’s appointments, my personal appointments, my volunteer appointments, and my writing appointments.

Story notes.  I know I said that I don’t outline.  But often while I am writing one scene an idea comes up for a future scene in the same work.  So I have a file on my computer called “Story Notes” and on it I keep track of my daily word count, ideas for future scenes, characters (and their quirks), and much more.  It helps me to refresh my memory when I open my novel, especially after working on another project.

Ideas notebook.  Every good writer needs an ideas notebook of some type.  Maybe its a file on your phone.  Maybe it is a little notepad.  Whatever it is, you need to be able to carry it with you everywhere.  Ideas hit me at the weirdest times, from the middle of the night to the drive to the kids’ schools.  This gives me the ability to write them down.  Many of them don’t work out to a story right away, but recently two separate ideas merged when I was flipping through that notebook.  That became Short Story A that I mentioned above.

Submission Tracking.  If you are not tracking your submissions, you will be in big trouble.  I currently have two short stories out at different markets, and one more that will be going out soon.  The worst thing that could happen to those would be for me to forget about them or to even confuse them.  You might forget you sent one to a market already and resubmit it to them (wasting your time and theirs) or you might skip a market thinking you already sent it there.  I use Duotrope, it’s free and it works well.

Folders.  Organize your computer’s writing folders in one spot.  This keeps your works together while also making back up easier.  I have one folder called “writings” (original I know).  In that folder, I have a folder for novels, short stories, contracts, and the miscellaneous files.  I can drag and drop the ‘writings’ folder onto my Passport hard drive for simple back up.  Also, when I decide I want to write on a particular piece, I find it quickly.

Project Tracking.  It might be a cork board in your office.  It could be a program on your computer.  But you need to keep track of what projects are where and when was the last time you worked on them.  Set up three categories for your works in progress:  Writing, Editing, and Submitting.  Each project should be under one of those categories.  And, keep a date attached to it.  Otherwise, you may keep writing the newest thing while your other piece sits and collects virtual dust waiting for the edits.

Time Management

Time management is important.  You can’t expect to get everything done in every day.  There are only so many hours in a day.  I don’t plan out every hour of every day.  Life with three little boys doesn’t work like that.  Instead, I only plan for a few activities each day.  If I can get more done then great.

Check the Calendar.  Don’t tell yourself you will write for three hours today, when the Calendar says you have to be at the Doctor’s at noon, take the car in for an oil change at three, and you have a volunteer meeting at six.  With everything else you have to do, three hours of writing is not practical on that day.  But, perhaps you can fit in some smaller activities in between.

Know what fits.  I can’t write for one hour.  It’s just not how I work.  I have to write out a whole chapter and once I get going, there will be no stopping me.  So I know that I can’t sit down and write during the hour between when my two older kids get out of school.  I’m setting myself up for failure if I do that.  I do know, that I can read during that time.  So, I often sit in the car and read.

The point is, the first step to failing at multiple projects is assigning the wrong projects for the wrong times.  For example, my wife has the kids today.  She handles getting them to school and home.  That means I can focus on my writing today.  You won’t see much from me on Facebook or Twitter.  But, Wednesday through Friday you will see a lot more for me on the social networks because I can easily squeeze in a quick tweet or post while I am making lunch or entertaining the kids.  Every day you should work on your craft, but that doesn’t mean that everyday you have to type in a manuscript.  Take your weekly writing to-do list and plug it in around your life.

The best-laid plans of mice and men.  Plan on forgetting something.  Listen, you are human.  I know that may come as a surprise to you, but you will forget something you wanted to do.  Yesterday I forgot to write this blog post.  Even with all the plans in the world, something will be forgotten.  If it was a crucial line in your manuscript you can go back and add it.  If it was to even write, there is always a chance to make up for it tomorrow.  When I first pledged to write 1,000 words a day no matter what, I knew I would miss a day or two.  So, I have revised that plan to be an average of 1,000 words a day.  Much easier to manage.

Just know that you can’t do it all in one day, or even in a week.

Priorities.  Get your priorities down now.  And writing shouldn’t be number one.  Your life should be first.  Once you know what is important to you, you can better plan what needs to go where in your schedule.  Writing is very important to me, but my family is always first.  My own sanity is next.  So on a busy day, I may not plan to write in the hour I have to myself.  I may plan for a game or to zone out on the TV.   I won’t be writing anytime my kids deserve my attention.  I won’t be writing anytime the San Jose Sharks are playing.

Writing can’t be number one in out lives.  Recognize that, and place it where it really falls.  Then plan around that.  Your priorities change daily depending on what else needs to be done that day.  Once you get into a rhythm of your own priorities and schedule you will quickly realize there are certain days you won’t be writing in that manuscript but you may have time for reading, editing, promotions, and of course ideas come at their own times.   But, you will also see when you can maximize the writing time you do have with minimal distractions and without letting it consume your life.

Know your own limits

If you can’t juggle two tennis balls on the ground, I don’t recommend the tight-rope stunt above.  I know that I am just getting started in this multiple writing projects realm.  So, even though I have an idea for the next novel, I won’t start writing it until this current one is at least into editing.  I did put together a short story while I was writing this novel.  It is still waiting for it’s first round of edits.

I knew that one novel at a time is my current limit.  I also knew that I needed to push myself just a bit and try writing a short story while I was still working on another project.  It’s okay to push those limits just a bit from time to time.  But over doing it will result in burn-out and the possibility of dropping the craft all together.  That is something to be avoided.

Summary

In the end, I can’t tell you what will work for you.  You may not like my ideas, but I can hopefully point you in the right direction.  If you organize yourself, manage your time, and know your own limits; you can juggle all that life has to offer and still get your writing done.

As always share your ideas in the comments section below.  Let the readers know what works for you, and I am always willing to learn something new myself.

Updates: January 2012

Well, in my post “Distractions” I talked about setting a writing goal.  Part of that commitment to writing more was to share the journey with you.  So, once a month, I am going to give you some updates on how my writing has gone.  I’ll also touch on some of the other projects I have going.

First lets talk about writing.   I made a commitment that I would try to write 1,000 words a day.  Honestly there have been a few days where I didn’t write at all (six days actually).  But considering we had the Holidays in that time, I am okay with that.  However, there were a lot of days were I wrote a lot.  I even had some great days, this past Friday I almost got 10,000 words.  On the days I wrote I averaged over 2,000 words.    I’ve been posting my daily word counts on Twitter (when I write).   I have written just over 38,000 words.

None of this counts the writing I do here.  While I love getting the blog to your guys.  I even had a very successful post on self-publishing.  But, this word count has gone directly into my novel.  You may remember I have set a goal of one short story a month and one novel a year.  I haven’t thought of a short story for January yet, so I may be a little behind on that.  But, the novel is coming along well.

I have a children’s book my oldest son (he was five when we wrote it, six now) and I wrote together.  The status on it’s publication is still a bit in limbo.  I have an illustrator working on the drawings.  The backgrounds are all done, and the characters have slowly been put in the scenes.  But, the next part is all the coloring.  She just had a baby, so of course that slows things down.  Fingers crossed for a March release, but I haven’t set any dates yet.  It is the hope that by the time I do the Updates for February I can show you the cover art and announce an official release date.

I think those of you with kids will enjoy it, and likely relate with it.   It also embodies the joy of working on a project with your own child and sharing in an art you both can enjoy.  In any case, “Daddy is Tired” will be a joy to read for parents and young children learning to read.

I still have two short storied for 2011 out at different markets.  They will make their rounds until they are published.  I will of course announce that right away on both Twitter and Facebook.  Once I start turning out short stories monthly, I will be really glad to Duotrope to help track where they all are.

As far as my reading goes, it has been put on hold with the holidays.  I am currently reading the novel Shining in Crimson.  As some of you know I read this when it was still a draft to help Robert S. Wilson with my thoughts on the novel.  I am excited about reading the completed work, and have found he left in all the good parts (so far).   I don’t have a novel on this list for once I am done reading this one.  So, a trip to the book store may be in my future.  Shadows in Flight by Orson Scott Card is set to release in a few days, that will certainly be on my list.  You can always follow what I am reading by becoming a fan on Goodreads.

I still get my daily dose of short fiction from Daily Science Fiction.  But, I am way behind on my issues of Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine.  I haven’t even opened the Nov/Dec issue and the Jan/Feb should be coming any day.  Perhaps I will take a break from novels and catch up on those.  We will see.

My short story “Death Watch” has been nominated for two awards in 2011.  I am very please with this.  First, of all this is my very first published short story.  It was only the second one I had ever written and the first one considered Flash Fiction (under 1,000 words).  You can still read it at Liquid Imagination by clicking here.

The first nomination it got was for the Micro Awards.  The announcement on that won’t come until the very end of February.  It will be judged by a panel of judges and we will see how it does.

The second nomination came as a complete surprise.  It was nominated in the Preditors and Editors 2011 Readers poll.  There are a lot of good works there.  I was reading and voting through the categories when I got to Science Fiction and Fantasy short stories.  And there was “Death Watch” listed.  I about jumped out of my seat.  I was honored to find that I was even nominated.

Because it is a poll, it is done based on voting.  I am even more pleased to announce it has been in first and second place for a good portion of the polling.  Polling ends January 10th.  Please, go place a vote here.  It only takes a minute and I would appreciate it.

I think the last thing I will bring up isn’t directly related to writing.  I used to own a business, and I am dying to get back into owning one again.  I have been contemplating many different things, but another Security Company is not one of them.  I have been in the industry for a while, but the big companies really have locked the start ups out of the business.  Perhaps if I had clients set before I got started, I might consider it.

So that is the updates for you this month.  I will continue to post my weekly blog posts on a variety of topics.  Please subscribe to my blog to receive email updates on when I post.

 

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.