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.)

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.

What am I Reading?

I get a lot of people who email me and ask what I am reading.  Some give no reason for asking, others explain that they would like an idea of who to read for ideas in their own writing.

So I thought I would share a bit about what I am reading now.  If you want to keep up with everything I have read, you can find me on Goodreads.com.

Short Stories

Every day I read Daily Science Fiction.  They email a short (often flash length) story to me Monday through Friday.  I find it is a great short read and I usually enjoy them.  If  you don’t get them by email they do post them to their website after a bit.  I won’t review them, because that’s not the point.  I will tell you which ones I enjoyed the most.

I also read Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, but I have not received the new issue yet.

Recently I enjoyed these stories for DSF (in no particular order):

Fields of Ice by Jay Caselberg

Ned Thrall by Amalia Dillin

A Great Destiny by Eric James Stone
Call Center Blues by Carrie Cuinn
I Kill Monsters by Nathaniel Matthews Lee
Tomorrow’s Dawn by Milo James Fowler
There are many more I like, but those are the most recent.

Books

In the books category I recently finished, Empress of Eternity by L.E. Modessit Jr.  It was a great read.  My review in on Goodreads, so you can read it there.  Its the second book I have read by Modessit Jr. and his style was close to the same in both books.  I think he always an entertaining read.
I am currently reading Black Prism by Brent Weeks.  I have not read anything by Weeks, but I had not read any Fantasy is a very long time.  I saw this book and it was the first of a series and a newer release.  So far I find the story very compelling and I am enjoying every page.  I am not very far into it and it is already a page turner.  It seems promising.
Of course I list all the books I read on Goodreads, so please come by and you can keep see what I am reading now.  If you don’t use Goodreads I recommend it.  There are a ton of good ideas on there if you are looking for a new book.

Novels or Short Stories

I wasn’t sure what I was going to go with for this weeks blog post.  John Miller posted on my Facebook page about a survey he has out now.  Of course I had to check it out, but it got me thinking about something else.  What do people like to read?  How does an author decide what they want to write?  Is it better to write a novel, or a short?

First, lets set some definitions here:

People have trouble defining fiction length.  This seems to the widely accepted standard.  Probably the most disputed will be Flash, as the definitions seems to vary from publication to publication.  Here are the SFWA guidelines.

Short Story: less than 7,500 words;
Novelette: at least 7,500 words but less than 17,500 words;
Novella: at least 17,500 words but less than 40,000 words
Novel: 40,000 words or more.

SFWA does not have a “Flash Fiction” definition, but I will go with what I believe to be widely accepted which is anything less then 1000 words.

As a Reader:

This is where I would love to hear for you guys.  Leave me a comment below and let me know what you like to read.  Do you like short works (Novella, Novelette, Shorts, or Flash) or do you prefer a Novel?  If so, why?

Go ahead, scroll down to the comments and let me know.  I will be here when you get back.

Thanks for you comment!

For me, I have found a recent love for Flash as a reader.  For one, I subscribe to Daily Science Fiction.  So I get short fiction (not always Flash but always on the shorter side) in my email Monday – Thursday with a longer one on Friday.   I don’t have a lot of time.  Flash fiction is a short entertaining read for me.

As I have mentioned before it is important for Authors to read.  So this is a good way for me to get a lot of reading in from different Authors.  This gives me diversity in my reading, as far as styles go.

I also subscribe to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction as well as read several e-publications.

I love a good Novel too.   So I wonder if there is any advantage to one or the other.  If you are an author, read both.

However, strictly as a reader the advantage to short is growing with our impatient world.  But I think people still like a good novel.  Something they can get connected with, live in the world for a while, and really savor.

Shorts can be really moving and powerful too.  But there is a lack of time there to really bond the reader with the story. And it can be easier to read shorts when you like to read during those brief breaks in your life (doctor’s waiting room, ect.).

So my suggestion is that if you like quick stories, with a wham and bang type impact, go for the shorts.  If you like going for gold and really bonding with a story go for the Novel.  If you like both, like I do, read both.

For Writers:

I never gave a thought to writing anything other then a Novel when I started taking up writing as a hobby.  I didn’t really know anything of the craft and didn’t think there was much of a short story market.  And really it had not ever crossed my mind.  When I began my self study in writing and professional writing, I learned that speculative fiction has one of the strongest short story markets in the industry.

So I gave a short story a try.  That first short story will be featured in the upcoming issue of Cygnus Journal of Speculative Fiction.  I liked it a lot.  It allowed me to get the immediate satisfaction of writing, editing, and eventually publishing in a relatively short amount of time.  Of course short amount of time depends on a number of things.

Well, I liked writing that short so much that I wrote my first Flash piece.  “Death Watch”, which is out now on Liquid Imagination Online, did well based on what readers have told me.  I have since written a third piece which is making its rounds at markets and I have a fourth one in the editing phase.

So I have three going on four shorts completed in a matter of around ten months.  This is a lot slower then I want, and I hope to pick up the pace.  But considering I was learning the short story market at the same time, I feel I did well to get started.

In any case, lets compare this to my Novel in progress.  While I have written out two and half novels, many years ago, those where not publishable novels.  They were things I put on paper to escape stress in my real job of the time.  Anyway, I probably still have six to eight months before this novel is ready.  I think I am may even be giving myself too little time.  We will see.  Since I have not completed a publishable novel, this is really more of a guess.  Now once it is done, it has editing, rewrites, and then query.  After query, which can take forever, I then have to submit the full manuscript.  My point, Novels take a lot of time.

So what should you write?  Well write what you like.  If you don’t like to read shorts, don’t like to write them, and don’t like anything about them, then don’t write them.  If you don’t like taking time on a Novel, then don’t write that.

I write both for the same reason I read both.  I like that shorts give me imediate gratification while Novels give me the satisfaction of crafting an in depth world and a longer work.

Please don’t misunderstand me at all.  My short stories get my entire heart and sole, just the same as my novel.  Shorts can be deep and meaningful, they just don’t have the length that a Novel has.

Of course I would be foolish not to bring up the money side of things.  So call me foolish.  (Actually since I have not sold a Novel, I can’t really compare them for you).

Final Verdict?

Well in the battle over Novels and Short Stories, I don’t really think you get a winner or loser.  It is really all about what you like.  The market for both is strong.

Leave me a comment and let me know what you prefer.  Let me know if you are a writer, reader, or both.  What do you like?

Shining in Crimson By Robert S. Wilson

Today Shining in Crimson (Empire of Blood) by Robert S. Wilson was released in the Kindle Version with the Paperback and Hardcover editions set to be released October 2nd.  You can check out his website to see more about it, or visit Amazon to buy eReader version.  Also you can follow Shining in Crimson on Facebook.

Now that you can look up what I am talking about, I thought I would explain why I mention this particular book release.  Robert and I are both members of the Hatrack Writers Workshop (or Hatrackers).  In early February I came across a post in our Fragments and Feedback section in which I read an intro to a Vampire book.

Typically this is not my genre and I tend to steer away from it.  I don’t remember why I chose to read this, but I am glad I did.  I was hooked by the style of this small opening fragment.  I offered to review the whole thing.  I had not read a critiqued a novel before, but if I can help I figured I would try it.

I spent the rest of the month reading over three chapter blocks.  I offered my advice but truthfully I fell for Robert’s characters, their struggles, and the overall plot.   And I continued to push him to send me more chapters, while he continued to try to get them edited.  And, like most stories I truly love deep down, I was a little sad when it was over.    From the time I read that draft to now, I would say that I gained a friend in Robert.

It was a really good book, and I generally don’t care for Vampire stories.  Perhaps it is my limited knowledge of the genre.  Perhaps it is the way Twilight has transformed the mainstream vampire story.  I don’t know why I don’t care for the genre.  However, Robert changed my mind.  Or at least opened my mind a little.

This is not the Vampire story where the vampires are hunky men, and you have to join Team Mark or Team Sam.  This is about Hank, the Main Character who finds himself charged with a crime and sentenced to visit Necropolis, a city belonging to the Vampires now.  This is a sure death sentence, but Hank is desperate to survive for the sake of his son.

There are several plot threads to this story giving it depth and forward motion.  I found myself turning pages with ease as I hoped for the success of the various characters.  I’ll stop here.  It’s time for you to pick up your Kindle and read Shining in Crimson.

I have chosen to pre-order the paperback version which will ship on October 2nd in honor of Robert’s mother’s birthday (who passed away in 2006).  If you wish to pre-order a paperback or hardback edition you can do it here.  If you are on Goodreads you can enter to win a copy here.

At the very least, pick up the Kindle Version for only 99 cents.  It will be the best dollar you ever spent.

The Author Who doesn’t Read

Don’t worry, I am not one of those.  In fact, it was reading that inspired me to write.  However, it amazes me how many aspiring writers who have told me they can’t read.  Not because they are illiterate, but because it “gets in the way” of their writing.  Some have even told me they don’t like to read.  Others write in a genre they never read or don’t like to read.  This really amazes me.

An Author who doesn’t read is like a painter who has never seen art.

Reading can not get in the way of your writing career.  It has to be part of it.  It doesn’t matter what you write, you need to know the genre.  This is true for many reasons.

  • Writing is an art, you can learn a lot from other prose.  You can see what you like, and what you hate.
  • Reading expands your own knowledge.  Even if you read fiction you learn a lot about punctuation, dialogue, and even a few new words.
  • If you are trying to get published you will learn what publishers are buying.  This is also true for short stories, you can learn a lot about what an editor likes by reading their magazines.  It will save you a lot of time with submissions if you see that publication doesn’t much care for your style.

Recently I noticed my reading time had fallen by the way side.  I am behind on my favorite magazine.  My solution, I bought two more books.  I have now made it a point to make time to read every day.  At the very least I read the story of the day on Daily Science Fiction.  They email me a story every weekday, and of course who can resist reading email.  I can’t.

If you hate to read, don’t write.  If you think you will get rich, you are wrong.  If you don’t read a particular genre, don’t write in it either.  You don’t know the genre, write in a genre you read.  Or , pick up a few books from the genre you are writing in, and see what they are like.  I hate nothing more than the aspiring Sci-Fi writers who think it’s all about spaceships and geeks.

Next, no matter what genre you write, for me it is Science Fiction (mostly), you need to read other genres.  I have read the classics, Romance (ugh), Horror, Westerns, and many others.  Some I have liked, others I hated.  With the exception of Romance, I have found at least one novel in every genre I have read that I like.  Even better, each of the books I read (even the Romance ones) made my Science Fiction writing better.

Last, you have to read some non-fiction too.  Writing help books, current events, even the newspaper are all good things.  Once thing about Science Fiction is that you really have to understand the workings of our current world in order to create new ones or speculate how ours might be changed in the future.

The Author who does not read, will ultimately fail.  While writing is time-consuming you have to dedicate some of that time to reading.