10 Things I’ve Learned After 7 Years of Blogging

Today, according to WordPress, is my 7th anniversary of blog writing (nearly 6 with this blog).  I started this blog because I got my first story sale with my short story Death Watch, which was published by the good folks over at Liquid Imagination.  Originally my blog was my website, and though I have since separated the two, a lot of people still find me through this blog.

When I started out, I really didn’t know what to expect.  And seven years later, I still really don’t know what could happen.  But here are at a few things I have learned since starting out.

1 – Getting traffic to your blog is hard.

It took me a long time, a really long time, to gather up any type of blog traffic.  I tried funny posts, writing posts, life posts, and mixtures of all three.  What I learned is the topics don’t really matter, it just takes time to start showing up in search results and for people to come to your blog looking for certain content.  Which leads to number two.

2 – Pick a topic for your blog

Pick a topic for your blog and stick to it.  Does that mean I don’t blog about life? No.  It just means that the general topic of this blog is books and writing.  I love the movies, video games, and hockey.  Sure I mention those in my blog, but I don’t think I’ve written blog posts on those things.  This doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to write on other topics, but you’ll get a better following if your blog has a theme.

There are exceptions to every rule.  My post, Eight Things I’ve Learned Since Moving to Washington is not writing related at all, but it is the only post that gets a hit at least once per day.

3 – If getting traffic is hard, getting a following seems impossible.

For the longest time, my family were my only followers.  It look a long time to work up to a decent following and to keep them following.  There are a lot of ways to get the regular following and keep them, and many of those are involved in these things I’ve learned.  The truth is, no advertising ever worked.  The only followers I ever got were from reading a post of mine and liking it enough to follow the blog.

4 – Losing followers is very easy.

People stop following a blog for many reasons.  The most common, you offended them.  Society has placed a lot of weight on being offended, as if it really means anything.  I’ve lost followers when they found out I’ve got LGBT characters in my novels. I’ve lost followers because I’ve mentioned I own guns.  I’ve lost followers because I made a Trump joke.  You will also lose followers if you don’t blog in a while.  I lost most of mine during my two year hiatus.

5 – You can’t please everyone.

So you may be thinking that you should sterilize your blog from any possibility of offence.  I tried that in the beginning of my blogging days.  Hell, I used to try that in the start of my writing days.  Well, fuck ’em. People will get offended by what you say.  If they don’t, does your writing carry any real passion anyway?  As I said above, people think being offended means something.  It doesn’t.  What I have learned is that more people appreciate the honest writer connecting with his audience than they do a sterilized blog.  You can’t please everyone, so don’t try.

6 – Listen to your audience.

Many of my blog post ideas come from blog comments or my social media.  I’m not saying you need to ask them what to blog about next, though you can a time or two.  But pay attention to what they are saying about your blog.  As a self published author, I noticed many of my readers were talking and interested in that aspect.  As a result, I wrote Self Publishing, a post in which I explored what Self Publishing was all about.  It took more work than most of my posts do, but it was also the most successful post.

7 – Read and connect with other bloggers

You really need to read and connect with other bloggers.  For one, you will see what is trending and discover what other bloggers like you are doing.  This will let you know if the topic you want to blog on is over-saturated or that it is of no interest to anyone.  But also you can work with others to do guest posts and other connections to attract their followers to you and your followers to them.

8 – Guest posts are great.

Guest posts are a great way to drive followers of others to your blog.  For a long period of time I was doing an author focus blog series that allowed guest posts from other authors.  It drove new eyes to my blog that may have otherwise not visited.  Don’t expect a ton of new followers from it, but you just might get someone poking around your blog for other stories.

9 – Don’t expect your blog to be a revenue stream.

I’m not sure I have made any book sales from people who came to read my blog.  In most cases it is the other way around.  People have come here after reading my work.  Some to complain, but most because they liked what they read and wanted to see more.  Also, ad riddled blogs suck to read (of course we have no control over the WordPress ads).  One ad maybe, or sponsored content is okay.  But some blogs read so heavily of sales pitches that they become no fun to read.

Also, don’t overly self publicize on you blog. It isn’t wrong, but it is a fine line between content and advertising.  The point of a blog is to connect with your audience, not sell them shit.

10 – It is okay to blog for yourself.

It is absolutely okay to write a blog for yourself with no aim to gain followers.  You might accidentally acquire a few anyway.  But not every blog has to be for fan connection or to gain more readers.  Some can be for the hell of it.  You can have as many blogs as you like too.  The choice is yours.

BONUS: We’re all full of shit.

Here is a bonus thing I’ve learned, everything on the internet about how to write a great blog is full of shit.  This one included.  What worked for me may not work for you.  Lord knows I read a lot of crap, that when I tried it, did’t work for shit.  More to the point, articles with things I’ve learned titles are there to help you see what was learned.  You can use it, or you can toss it.  The choice is yours really.

It is your blog, write what you want, but I’ve shared what I’ve learned.  Your results may vary.

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The Male / Female Friendship

03a93992827bf5b99c1a8d41e46b3e7bAs I make my immersion into writing again, I’ve begun rereading some of my old novels.  I reread Volition Agent because it is a short novel and I wanted to get back into it.  But then I read Dissolution of Peace with the hope to get the sequel out later this year.  I also got to thinking about Broken Trust.

Now, I mention these novels for more than just a quick plug for myself, but also because I happened to notice a theme here.  All three of those novels, though less so in Volition Agent, show the Male / Female Friendship.  And not just a casual friendship, but a close bond often becoming best friends.

And since June 8th was National Best Friend Day, and I have a female best friend, I thought this was a great topic to discuss.

I think this theme is largely because of my own life experiences.  I find myself getting a long with females more than males.  I have some good male friends, but, of my closest friends over the years, most of them have been female.

But it is funny how in real life the Male / Female friendship is so complicated.  You have to deal with jealous significant others, rumors, and a level of social stigma that imply the friendship isn’t possible.  As a straight male, I’ve had this issue many times over and it has even kept me from ever having a good friendship.

The thing is, there is no reason a man and a woman can’t be friends.  Society has this absolutely wrong and it drives me nuts.  I could go on a long rant about this but I won’t because I want to stick with the writing part of this.  (Besides, I am fairly sure many will see the rant behind the topic.)

So here are some of my tips, both from real life and from writing, on how to have successful coed friendship in your novel.

Attraction is Okay

It is absolutely okay to have a level of attraction there.  It is natural to develop a bond with someone and get a little attraction involved too.  Attraction is normal and personally I do think all of my female friends are attractive women.  Remember attraction isn’t just physical appearance either.

In Dissolution of Peace, Janice’s first impression of Mike is that he isn’t that good looking of a man.  After developing a very close friendship with him, her perception of his appearance changes.  They have a friendship forged in their protection of each other and as that trust grows she just begins to see him differently.

The point here is that attraction comes in a variety of forms and it is normal and possible to find a friend of the opposite sex attractive and not “make the moves” on them.

Banter and Flirting are not the same thing

My wife often teases me that I flirt an awful lot.  But my banter with my friends is often mistaken by outside eyes as flirting.  And maybe by the very technical of definitions it could be seen that way.  But I don’t think of it as the same thing.

When you develop a friendship bond with another male, to give each other shit it is perfectly normal and acceptable.  The exact same words can be said to a female friend and society says, “ohhhh they want to hook up.”

Again, the point is that there is no reason your male and female friendship can’t exchange banter.  You shouldn’t have to second guess your words with true friends and neither should your character.

Compliments are Okay

This one is insane to me.  I tell my male friend, “That shirt looks sharp.” And it is just a compliment.  But I tell a female friend that those jeans are amazing and next thing you know the rumors start up.  Why has society done this?

Compliments to your friends shouldn’t be awkward and they should be part of any healthy relationship.  Not just compliments on appearance either.  Compliments on hard work, success, a new significant other, or anything about their life should be included.

Friends hang out

If two friends go get a slice of pizza and see a movie, it is hanging out.  But a male/female friendship is treated different.  These two decide they want to go to a movie, and now it might be date.  That shouldn’t be the case at all.

While I think it is great for friends to hang out with the significant others involved too, there isn’t any reason a friend should have to include them all the time.  It is okay for a male and female friend to go and hang out alone.  It is not a date.

Jealousy

Jealousy is a real emotion.  I am jealous often and easily.  It doesn’t mean anything more than that I feel left out or not as important.  I recognize that.

My wife is very supporting of my having female friends, she even claims to not be jealous. And while I know very well that my wife trusts me and doesn’t get jealous near as easy as I do, I know she is human and thus gets jealous from time to time.

I am not just talking about the jealous significant other, though, in my experience, that has been the most damaging to friendships I’ve had.  There is also jealousy between the friends. It is okay to be a bit jealous that your friend has dedicated their time to something other than you.

Jealousy can be just a fleeting thought or a raging storm.  But it is a part of any healthy friendship.  It is how far the jealousy goes that really matters.  Jealousy can by a nasty catalyst for disaster, so the line is fine.

In Dissolution of Peace, Serenity finds herself a bit jealous of Janice and Mike’s friendship.  This isn’t because she is worried Janice with steal Mike, but because Mike and Serenity have to hide their relationship while Janice and he are able to hang out in the “open” and more often.

Imagination

I put this at the end for a couple of reasons, but one of those is the fact that it is probably the most awkward of the dynamics of a male and female friendship.  But also, our imagination is often one of the things we keep secret the most.  But I don’t do that because it isn’t healthy for any relationship.

First is the dream realm.  Why we are so scared to share that we dreamed about someone of the opposite sex is beyond me. We are hardly in control of our dreams but we somehow feel responsible for them.

The most awkward can be the sexual dreams simply because this is your friend and now you’ve imagined them in a sexual scenario.  I always tell my wife all my dreams, even these, and she seems appreciative of the fact that I can share these with her.  I’ve never shared these dreams with the friend I was dreaming about.

This is because of two society stigmas. Sex is not to be talked about and then the female male friendship is taboo.  I have one friend I do tell when she is in my dreams regardless of the content.  She doesn’t seem to mind, in fact I think I could tell her anything and maybe that’s why we are close friends.

In fact she told me that she read that sexual dreams about someone means you want to get to know them better.  Don’t know if that is true, but sexual dreams are normal and often have little to do with sex.

Next is the day dream.  I think this normal too.   The imagination running wild thinking of what life might be like if you dated your friend.  I’ve more than once commented to a friend that, “If we dated you’d drive me crazy because…”  This is often in response to helping them with a relationship problem, but it does reflect that I’ve given it some thought.

When you are close to someone, I feel it is normal to let the mind wander to thoughts of people in different roles in your life.  Life without someone, with someone in a different way, getting closer to someone one, and so on.  When I met my newest friend, I often had day dreams about what my life would be life if we’d become close friends.  Now, I can’t imagine life without this person.

There are scenes in both Volition Agent and Dissolution of Peace where characters think about if they would be able to date their friend.  They don’t act on those thoughts, but they are there.

Real Life Inspiration

The bottom line, when writing any relationship it is important to draw from your own life experiences.  Mine tell me that the male and female platonic relationship is very possible and in my fictional worlds it is even seen a little bit as normal.  Because I see it as normal and acceptable. Society has made it something it isn’t.

The truth is, that I didn’t even notice this theme in my writing until I reread some of my work.  It just came out to the paper because that is what I know.

I hope you got some value from this post to apply to your own writing, but in the end write what works for your story.

Happy writing.

 

Don’t Read Your Own Work After Publishing It

IMG_20130406_142102_592That is what I was told when I started writing.  Never, ever, ever read your work once it has been published.  Just don’t do it.  If you do, you will open a rift in time and space that even The Doctor won’t be able to stop.  Children will weep in the streets, entire cities will be lost, and Trump will be elected President of the United States.

It is another one of those “cardinal sins” of writing that seems to have just caught on and stuck.  The reasons are endless, but when you really get down to it, I am not sure what the point of this law of scribes is all about.

Perhaps it is the worry that you will cringe at your prior work and never write again.  The whole, I am the worst writer in the world and I need to stop.  Or maybe it has to do with the endless revision cycle that many writers can get into.  I’ve warned of this in the past.

Maybe it has to do with the look forward, not back, ideology.  This idea the progress only happens if you look to the future.  But if you don’t know your past, what is the point of the future?

That’s why I am of the mentality that reading your past work is actually a really good idea.  I promise the children will be fine, there will be no rifts in time, and no cities will crumble as a result of you reading your past published stories.  I am also pretty sure that Trump and reading have never been related.

Let me explain why it works for me.  I think you will see that, like most rules of writing, individual preference is really key.

One:

It helps me to find my muse again.  I have a terrible time with my muse.  She, like the writer she inspires, likes to travel.  The problem is she never takes me with her and never returns without me having to hunt her down.

Sure, she calls every now and again but she never seems to return until I start reading my work.  It is like she stops and goes, wait we wrote that shit.  We are pretty bad ass, lets do this shit.

Two:

It reminds me.  I have a terrible memory.  I need the reminder of what my characters were doing and what exactly I edited out before.  You see, when I write a story the story sticks.  And I forget that I cut our a scene, or that I changed a character’s gender.

My novels live in my head.  The world is continuing to go on well after I stopped writing the story, and when I go to write the sequel I don’t always remember where I stopped.

Three:

It builds my confidence.  This is especially true when I read my short stories.  I always go back to the publication that published them and read them again.

It reminds me that I am good enough to be published.  That someone else read my story and loved it enough to put into their publication.  It lets me know that I can do this, that it is worth the time out of my day to write something.  A lot like reading my reviews, I find it a reminder that other do want to read what I put to paper.

Four:

If I won’t even read my novels, why should anyone else? I know that is really silly sounding, but I believe it.  If a novel I wrote isn’t worth the time for me to read, and reread, then why would others read it once.

I suppose this comes from my leadership mentality.  I’ve worked as a leader in my day job for so long and I’ve always believed that I shouldn’t expect my staff to do anything I wouldn’t do.  And I guess the same goes for my readers. I wouldn’t expect them to read anything I wouldn’t read.

It may be four simple reasons, but they are the reasons why I will read what I write even after it has been published.  I don’t feel like my worlds have to die as soon as I put them to paper.

There really are not any rules for writing, your method is your own.  Feel free to break a few of them every now and then.  You just might find that you’re better for it.

A Guide For Beta Readers

productReviewSo you’ve been tasked with beta reading a novel, or maybe you’re an author looking for what you should expect from your readers.  The real question, for you, is probably what do you do?  And when I look around, I don’t see many guides for beta readers.  So here is a guide you can use, whether you are a beta reader, an author, or an editor.

What Is Beta Reading?

I just finished editing my next novel’s manuscript, and I found it hard to get beta readers.  When I spoke to several other authors, I found that they too had this problem of getting new beta readers.  I think this is largely for two reasons.  The first is that many don’t know what a beta reader is, and two, many are intimidated by the idea.  Beta reading is essentially a trial reading.  A beta reader reads over an early form of the manuscript for an upcoming novel.  This manuscript is often a little rough, but largely publication ready.  It just needs a little bit of polish.  They are the readers that are trying out this novel for the first time.

Don’t confuse Beta Reading with Advanced Readers.  Advanced readers generally are receiving a finished, and publication ready, copy of the book called an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy).  They are reading a copy of the book for editorial purposed to review the book.  It is a very different thing than Beta Reading which helps to polish the book for publication.

What Are the Qualifications of a Beta Reader?

There really aren’t any specific qualifications needed to be a beta reader.  I think this is something that most people don’t realize.  It sounds fancy, so people assume that they can’t possible help out.  But a good author wants beta readers from a cross section of people, to give the best representation of his potential readers.

Some of the people that authors want to beta read: They want a mixture of men and women.  They want a wide age range with the bulk of them falling in the books target demographic, but they do want a few people a little older and younger than your target audience. They want people of various educational background. They want people from different belief systems.  They want people from different fields of work or study.  They want a few fellow authors or editors, but mostly they want regular readers.  They want readers of their genre and potential cross genres.  For example, Volition Agent is science fiction, but it has action and thriller elements, so when I selected beta readers, I chose a few action and thriller readers.

As you can see there is no “typical” beta reader.  So no matter where you come from in life, if you like reading and want to help an author mold his work, you can be a beta reader.

So, what should I expect?

Each author does beta reading a little bit different.  With Dissolution of Peace, I sent out a few chapters at a time to the group and then compiled there results and sent out the next set.  When my next two novel manuscripts I just sent the whole manuscript and waited to compile the answers at once.  Some authors are more involved and like to have you read a few chapters and then meet up on Google Hangouts and have a group discussion about those chapters.

Expect to get a Word or PDF document that is in standard manuscript format.  That means it will be double spaced and in a uniform font. It won’t be a finished book, remember it still needs its polish.  Expect to be given some basic instructions too.  Some authors are very specific about what they want, others are more open.  I’ve been more open on my last few manuscripts.  That is something that is entirely up to the author.  Some will want you to make notes using the Word Comment function (which is my favorite).  Others will just want notes on a separate sheet. I prefer a combination of both.

Also expect a deadline.  Authors are often working under deadlines and they need these notes back from you by that deadline.  If you can’t commit to that deadline, then don’t agree to be a beta reader.  Authors are expecting responses from all of the beta readers (typically authors don’t select a lot of beta readers, I go for around ten).  So if the deadline doesn’t work, it is best to say so.  This way another reader can take your place.

What do I do?

Read.  But make notes while you read, either on a separate sheet or using Word’s comment function.  Do NOT change anything on the author’s manuscript, unless they have instructed you to.  And if you do, make sure you turn on Word’s Track Changes function.  Otherwise, the author will never know what you changed.  If you aren’t allowed to make changes to the manuscript but you see something glaring, you can use the comment feature to point it out.  Author’s don’t mind you pointing out typos and grammar issues, but that generally isn’t the focus of beta reading.

What Should I be Pointing Out?

I think this is the number one question beta readers want to know.  Here is a list of some things.  Authors may ask for more, but this generally covers all the bases.

Questions that Pop into your head – Point out to the author when and where a question came to mind.  Sure, it could be answered later, or not at all.  The author can see if he is putting the right questions in your mind during the right parts of the story.

Areas where you lose interest – Point out areas where you begin to lose interest or your feel like the author has slowed down the story too much.  For example, you might read a long drawn out paragraph about a starship’s engines and you feel your mind starting to wander rather than focusing on what is being said.  Point that out.  It could be what is called an “info dump” and we need to fix that.

Dialogue that doesn’t work – Perhaps some of the dialogue seems fake.  Or you don’t think a street thug would use such proper English.  Point out confusion areas where you are not sure who in talking.  Also point out scenes where dialogue is taking place but you don’t know where it is taking place at.  Dialogue absent of scene.

Passages you had to reread – Point out areas you had to reread a few times to understand.  It could be an awkward sentence, or an over technical passage.  But if you had to reread it, it is probably worth pointing out.  It is also worth points out if you reread a passage because you like it a lot (see below).

Story gaps – Point out things that the author doesn’t seem to explain.  There are gaps in the story line or something you don’t follow.  It is easy for us authors to forget you don’t live in the same world we created and while we know this happened in the “background” it may not be obvious to the reader.

Plot Holes or Weak Plot Points – Plot holes are dangerous for authors and weak plot points are sometimes even worse.

Unbelievable Story Elements – I like a good twist as much as the next reader, but I don’t like being completely shocked to the point I’m screaming “yeah right!”.  I like to read a twist and be both surprised but also think back and realize I could have seen it coming.  A character who can suddenly stop bullets with her bare hands on the last chapter, but there was no hint to this ability anywhere in the book before, is something you may want to point out.

Use the expertise you do have – We all have knowledge about different things.  Don’t be afraid to share it.  I recently read a book where a character carried a Glock (pistol), and the character repeatedly “flipped off the safety”.  As a Glock owner, I wish I had beta read that novel so I could have told the author that Glock’s have no external safety to flip off.  The safety is ingratiated into the trigger.  In my next novel, Broken Trust, the location of the novel is based on Lagoon Valley (though modified), near my hometown.  The problem was, I refer to the lagoon.  One of my beta readers pointed out that a lagoon is a body of water near a coast.  Not the case in my Lagoon Hills city.  It is really a lake.  The point is you have knowledge that you can, and should share.

Tell the Author of your Ignorance – Just like you have expertise in certain fields, so does your author.  And that tends to mean we do one of two things: We either show off our knowledge and really it has no point in the story.  Or, we assume everyone knows what we are talking about, and it leads to confusion.  Point out both of these to the author.

That’s out of Character – Point out things you see a character do that you feel are not in line with the character.  Characters evolve, but generally not suddenly.  If it doesn’t seem right point it out.

I loved that line – Here is where beta readers tend to forget.  They forget to praise what they like.  Even now, I listed it way on the bottom of this list.  I suppose it is human nature to point out what is wrong first.  But you need to tell an author if you liked something.  Did one line stick out in your mind or hit a special cord with you?  Tell the author this.  Did you love an action scene, or a character’s particular dialogue, or did you love a particular twist?  List those for the author too.  List the stuff you liked for the author too.  Let them know where they really hit the nail on the head.

General thoughts – Here is another point beta readers tend to forget.  I like to take a moment at the end of each chapter (or section of chapters), and again at the end of the novel, to tell the author my overall general thoughts on it.  Both the good points and the bad.  Things like: I really liked how character X is starting to come to her own in this chapter, but I wish she wouldn’t have been so weak with Character Y.  Or, I really loved this action packed chapter, when it was over I couldn’t wait and dived right into the next chapter.  Any general thoughts are good for the author to consider.  Maybe they were looking to slow things down, or speed things up, or give a since of romance.  Your general thoughts will tell them if they hit that mark.

Characters – I think this is another point that authors need from beta readers, but are often left off.  Give a thought on the novel’s characters.  I like to do this as part of the summary.  I go through each of the characters I remember and I tell the author if I like them, didn’t like them, and why or why not.  I tend to get more detailed and explain what I liked and didn’t like about each character.  It gives the author a better idea if they are hitting the mark with how the readers feel about a certain character.

NOTE:  Never get insulting with you comments.  The criticism you give should be constructive in nature.  That doesn’t mean some of your comments won’t sting a bit, but as long as you are constructive with your comments it is fine.  Here is an example: “You’re being foolish if you think a woman would ever say that.” versus “I don’t think Character Z would really say that.  It doesn’t seem inline with anything she’d done or said before.”  See the difference.

What will the Author do with everything I note?

That depends on the author’s process.  I will wait until I get all the notes back from all the beta readers.  I read all the comment made.  I then reread the manuscript and go through each area line by line.  Chances are, if the majority of the readers comment on something, I will make changes to correct it.  If just a few, or even only one, reader comments on something then I have to decide on that change on a case by case basis.

This is one thing that I have seen frustrate a few beta readers.  They complain that the author didn’t make some of the changes they suggested.  The truth is the author did take your suggestions under consideration, but in combination with all the other reader’s suggestions.  If nine readers like that Character X is a jerk, but you hated this about him; chances are the author will keep him as a jerk.  That isn’t to say that he won’t tweak Character X based on some of your suggestions.  Remember this is the author’s novel and they will make changes they feel best suits the story.  But rest assured, they did read everything you had to say and took it all as important.

What happens next?

Well for me, I like to adjust the story based on the reader comments and then send it to my editor.  Other authors do the beta read step twice and will get a different set of readers to read it again.  That is up to the author.

Summary

So now you have a guide on what to do as a beta reader.  I find beta reading a lot of fun and an excellent chance to really help develop an author’s story.  As an author I enjoy getting beta reader feedback, it is often the only time I get a direct feed into a readers thought on my story.  With this guide you can be an effective and excellent beta reader for any author out there.  No go forth and help an author out.

Dissolution of Peace Blog Tour

Dissolution of Peace Spring Blog Tour is official!

Book Tour Image

I am going on a blog book tour with Dissolution of Peace.  The book and I will be traveling through the virtual world to attend various blogs to spread the word about my book.  I’m excited about this since it will allow me to share a little bit about me and the book with a new audience.  You can visit these blogs and see interviews, guest posts, and book reviews.  I will be on tour from April 8th until May 13th this year!

Dates:

As I mentioned above I will be traveling blog to blog from April 8th until May 13th.  There are still a number of dates available so if you would like to get in on the tour, it isn’t too late.  There are still several open dates available.  If you want one, just go here (link) and pick a date.  Then scroll to the bottom of the page and you will see “Would you like to host this author on your blog?”  Click the link and sign up.

The folks over at Orangeberry Book Tours are hosting this tour for me.  They’ve taken a ton of the work out of it so I just get to hang out at various blogs.  While I will try to keep the listed dates below updated, for the most current dates and locations visit my Tour page.

While I hope you will go check out each blog host before and after my posts, I will be posting links to blog tour posts throughout the tour on my Facebook and Twitter pages.  So if you don’t follow me there, please do.

Terms:

Book Feature: A quick feature just announcing the basics about Dissolution of Peace

Twitter View: A interview with me over Twitter.  I’ll be off work so I am going to do my best to answer these questions live.

Twitter Blast: A collection of book quotes sent out via Twitter.  Please RT the heck out of those. 🙂

Book Review:  Just that, a review of Dissolution of Peace

Author Interview: An interview with me, posted on their blog.

Guest Post: This is a post I write for their blog, as a guest.

Tour Dates and Locations:

8th April – Book Feature at Peace from Pieces

9th April – Twitter View with OB Book Tours

10th April – Twitter Blast with OB Book Tours

11th April – Author Interview at Mommy Adventures

12th April – Guest Post at The Bunny’s Review

13th April – Twitter Blast with OB Book Tours

14th April – Book Feature & Author Interview at The Reading Cat

15th April – Guest Post at Blog-A-Licious Authors 

16th April – Book Feature & Author Interview at Author’s Friend

17th April – Guest Post at Kindle Nook Books

18th April – Book Feature at Paws on Books

19th April – Guest Post & Book Feature at Anya Breton‘s blog

20th April – Book Feature at Book Professor

21st April – Author Interview & Book Feature at Michael R McDuffee‘s blog

22nd April – Guest Post at Books Are Magic

23rd April – Author Interview & Book Review at Pages 2 Pages

24th April – Guest Post  at Disincentive Reviews

25th April – Book Feature at Book Professor

26th April – Guest Post at Quality Reads

27th April – Author Interview at Fantasy Books

28th April – Book Feature at eInk Reviews

29th April – Book Feature at My Love for Books

30th April -Book Feature at Brainy Reads

1st May – Book Feature at Pages to Chapters

2nd May – Book Feature at Living for Books

3rd May – Orangeberry Pick of the Week & Sidebar

3rd May – Guest Post, Author Interview & Book Feature at Talisman Book Publishing

4th May – Book Feature at Gentleman Reads

5th May – Book Feature at Working For Books

6th May – Book Feature at My Love for Books

7th May – Book Feature at Aspiring Book Reviews

8th May – Book Feature at Reading My Addiction

9th May – Book Feature at Imagination in Books

10th May – Orangeberry Book of the Day – Gentleman Reads – Excerpt /

11th May – Author Interview at Up In Smoke

12th May – Guest Post at Richard Stephenson‘s blog

13th May – End of Tour Celebration post! at Flores Factor.

Blog Tour Giveaway!

This book tour will include the largest giveaway I’ve done to date.  There will be some great prizes including: Signed Paperbacks, Free Paperbacks, Free eBooks, and an Amazon Gift card.  This is hosted by Rafflecopter and there are multiple ways to enter.  The giveaway will end on May 19th.  Check back with the giveaway often because as more blogs post, more entries will be possible.  In fact, you get five entries just by entering this GIVEAWAY CODE: “E.S.S. Australia”

You can find the Giveaway on my Facebook page: CLICK HERE FOR A DIRECT LINK

I can’t wait to see you all on the tour!

You Can’t Please Everyone

swearing_3421243I’ve talked a lot about getting used to rejection.  But, most of the time I am referring to the rejection letters sent by editors who don’t want to publish your work.  I’ve always found that rejection from editors is easy for me to accept.  I have always braced myself to hear “No” from an editor.

On the other hand, I hadn’t prepared myself for rejection from readers.  Sure, I had heard about it from other authors. Sometimes readers won’t like what you do.  They won’t like what you write.  They just won’t enjoy the stories you have to tell.  Rejection makes it sound harsher than that.  I’m certain people have read my stories and not liked them.

But the other day I got my first real hate email.  I use the term hate, because it wasn’t my story they hated, it was one aspect.  A small part of the story really.  Truthfully, I hadn’t even given much thought to the element of the story.  It was just there.

This person wrote me an email, roughly three pages long, insulting me because one of the main characters in Dissolution of Peace is a homosexual.   If you haven’t read the book, you might not know what I am talking about.  But one of the main characters discovers she is a lesbian through the course of the novel.  The email went on to call me the “devil” and that I was a “demon” at several points.  She clearly read the whole book, as she referenced parts from throughout the novel, but she just wasn’t happy it included a lesbian couple.  She told me, “I can’t believe you ruined this excellent story by putting homosexuals into it.” and “You could have just as easily made one of those characters male and kept the book clean.” and “You just used this story to push your pro gay agenda.”

Frankly, the email shocked me.  It shocked me for several reasons.  First, I never gave a second thought to Janice’s relationship with Willard.  Second, I just never had anyone so upset with something I had wrote.  And the best part, she never even mentioned the scene in which Carlson walked in on Willard and Janice during sex.

Typically I don’t respond to negative comments about my work, but since many will see this blog as a form of response, I must say a few things.  First, I am very happy to hear that this person thought my story was “excellent”.  Several times she told me how great the book was, in between the other points she had to make.

I have no “pro gay agenda”.  I am not opposed to homosexual relationships, and I am not opposed to gay marriage.  But, Dissolution of Peace is not about that.  If you find a “pro gay” message in that book, well, each reader will see the message that calls to them.

Finally, I couldn’t have made Willard or Janice a male character, because that is not who they are.  Writer’s know that their characters become real people.  Janice became who she became, regardless of what I wanted (or didn’t want) her to be.  I couldn’t have changed her any more than I could change the person who emailed me..

As a writer, you may never want to put a homosexual person in your stories simply to play it safe.  But where do you draw the line?  Will you never have any discussion or mention of politics?  What about feminism, social commentary, or even humor?  If you sterilize your writing to try to keep everyone happy, you will wind up with a story that few will want to read.  Even if you can write an excellent story that walks the line and avoids hot button issues, someone won’t like it because of your style, plot, or for no real reason at all.  We are a vast and diverse world.  It is a beautiful thing.  But is also means that eventually someone will read something you’ve written and simply not like it.

Should you go out of your way to offend?  No.  Shock value rarely works either.  Write the story you want to write; with the characters, world, and plot that you want.  Writers want people to enjoy their stories.  But not everyone will.  You just can’t please everyone.  Don’t try to.  Just write the story you want to tell and let the chips fall where they may.

And for the readers out there, please understand something about writers.  To build worlds and create believable elements we must include people of all types regardless of our personal beliefs.  Writers have to include murders, corrupt people, evil people, and bigots in our worlds.  Why?  These people exist and will likely exist for all time.  I don’t condone murder, but the antagonist of Dissolution of Peace is a killer.  A writer might write a racist character, that doesn’t mean the writer has an “agenda” against a particular race.  Most readers know this, and see a story for what it means to them.

I appreciate the readers, and the feedback.  Even the negative feedback helps me as a writer (even the feedback I don’t agree with).  But, I just have to learn that I can’t please everyone.

Novel Announcement: Volition Agent

If you follow me on Facebook and Twitter, you’ve undoubtedly seen a few teasing posts about my next novel project.  I’ve teased with a few hints, surprises, and more.  Well the teasing can come to an end, I have decided to finally let the cat out of the bag.

My next novel, titled Volition Agent, is a fast paced SciFi Thriller set in the near future.  The highly secretive Agency has a Volition program.  They take everyday people who are physically fit and recruit them as Volition Agents.  They are implanted with a control chip so that a highly trained “handler” can control their every action.  If a Agent is captured the loss to the Agency in minimal.  Agents are sent on missions from intelligence gatherings to assassinations.  Volition Agent followed Lexia, one of the agents.

Here is a tentative blurb:

Lexia Santarelli is part of a top secret group of Volition Agents.  These untrained, unremarkable, everyday people are recruited by the agency to be literally controlled by their “handler” through a device implanted in their necks.  It is an exciting life, and despite some of the annoyances, Lexia enjoys it.

That is until the Agency decides to let Lexia take the fall for a mission gone wrong.  Her link with her handler, Lance is severed.  Suddenly Lexia finds herself alone, unprepared, and hunted by the very people she trusted.

With few clues, minimal training, and an unlikely ally Lexia sets out to discover what really happened on that botched assignment.  Determined to set right the wrong she created, nothing can stand in her way.  Not even the Agency itself.

I have some great cover art for this novel, and I can’t wait to share it with you all.  So here it is:

Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons
Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons Photography

KIPThe cover art is shot and designed by Kristin Irons (website).  I’ve worked with Kristin before, she designed the logo for Plasma Spyglass Press. Kristin is a very talented photographer and when I explained what I was looking for she said she had an idea.  The next week was a bit of a whirlwind.  Kristin found a model, the very beautiful and talented Joy Anna, to play Lexia in a photo shoot.  She then teased me relentlessly with images from that photo shoot before showing me the image she had in mind for the cover art.  I am a very picky and hard to work with person when it comes to cover art, but she kept taking my ideas and reworking them until we came up with the cover above.  And I couldn’t be more thrilled by it.

Let me tell you why this cover is so special to me.  This is the first time I’ve had anyone “play” one of my character in any way.  Joy Anna, whose modeling pictures I had only seen briefly before this, jumped into this project head first.  I understand they captured a ton of images and I’ve only seen a few of them. As a writer, I was excited to see what might come from this.  I’ve never met, or even talked to Joy Anna but I thank her for her time because the results are absolutely amazing.

A big heartfelt thanks to Joy Anna, Kristin, and her assistant William Harris.  So many folks use stock art, or stock photos to make custom cover art.  But I have a real custom cover for this novel.  Please take a moment to check out the people that helped with this cover, give them a like, follow, or whatever else to show them some support.  Kristin Irons: Facebook, Twitter, Website  Joy Anna: Facebook William Harris: Flickr

This is the first story I have written where it had a title before I ever wrote it.  The whole idea came from hearing the word volition and it’s meaning; the ability to make a choice or decision.  So Volition Agent was an easy enough title for me to come up with.  I think it works well given the themes in this novel.

So when is the release date for Volition Agent?  One hasn’t been set just yet.  But I have a deadline of the first week of June 2013.  So expect to see it no later than this.  I hope to have it out a little sooner, but you can’t rush these things.  I’ll be sending it out for Beta Readers in the first two weeks of April.  Then my editor will get this.  I’ll be working with a new editor this time, since Robert is booked up for the foreseeable future.  As always, watch this blog, my Twitter and Facebook for updates.

I’ll leave you with a few other images from the photo shoot:

Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons
Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons
Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons
Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons
Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons
Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons

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.

Dissolution of Peace — Announcements

I present to you, the cover for Dissolution of Peace.

As many of you know, I have been waiting on a lot of things before I officially make any announcements about Dissolution of Peace.  Some of you may have even been following along as I took each step.

This journey to publishing a novel really started with my first acceptance letter, in August 2011.  Followed by my second.  After selling two short stories, I decided to open up my original manuscript for the then untitled novel.  Perhaps I felt validated as a writer, or perhaps I simply the timing was right.  Either way the much needed rewrites began.

My New Years Resolution was to write more.  I rewrote the entire manuscript from scratch.  And by February I was finished.  I sent it out to several beta readers, made changes.  And then let it rest for a bit.

I struggled long and hard for a tittle.  The original title was  going to be: Serenity.  This was back when I wrote the first manuscript.  But, this certain movie came out a short time later, and of course I had to change it.  After some time, and using multiple different random title generators.  I came up with Dissolution of Peace.  After a good night sleep, I fell in love with the new title.  And I feel it describes the novel well.

In May I hired Robert S. Wilson to do my editing after giving it a look over for some time.  I followed that by hiring Neil Jackson to do the cover art.  And after waiting (rather impatiently I might add) I got both a marked up manuscript and a cover art sample.

I was ready to announce a release date that day.  But when I began to work on my edits, I was overwhelmed by it.  I was afraid and I had no idea how long it would take.

I got the final cover art.  I whittled down those edits.  And while there are still edits to be done, I can confidently announce a release date:

October 16th, 2012.

Of course that bars anything else crazy going on.  But it will be out and ready before the end of October.  After all, you will want to give this as a Christmas present.

Now many of you expected to see my cover art and a release date.  But I have another surprise for my blog followers.  I have attached the Official Trailer!

Dissolution of Peace will be available on Amazon.com for Kindle and in Print.  And I will be announcing a Pre-order sale soon.  You will be able to order a signed print copy right from my blog.  Details will come on that soon.

Description:

When Earth Navy Captain Christina Serenity is brutally attacked by a traitor, her life is saved by Security Forces Corporal Michael Carlson.  On the heels of her recovery, her ship is attacked by terrorists, and she is thrown into a difficult assignment.  She must chase after the only clue they have, a Martian ship called the Phobos, and find out what secrets it hides.  To make matters worse, someone still wants her dead.

Her ship, E.S.S. Australia embarks on a mission that leads Serenity on journey of discovery, friendship, betrayal, and revenge.  She quickly learns the only thing harder to prevent than war, is love.

Now Serenity must trust her protection crew to keep her alive long enough to solve this puzzle while trying to prevent an interplanetary war.

The line has been drawn… Who will cross first?

So with out further ramblings from me, I present the trailer for Dissolution of Peace: