A request

A plea from your friendly neighborhood indie author.

Please consider reviewing ANY book you’ve purchased or downloaded, mine or others, by indie authors. We live or die by reviews- two or three good reviews can lead potentially untold numbers (As high as ten or twenty other people!) of readers to our work.

I don’t know about any other authors, but if you’ve purchased, borrowed, or been given a copy of my work, please, please, PLEASE leave me an Amazon review (or Goodreads)? And unlike some authors, I’m not afraid of bad reviews. If you’re gonna read my stuff, please be honest. I’d prefer you to be honest than lie to give me a good review.

And, honestly? I’d love to hear from anyone who’s read my stuff and has an opinion, good or bad.

Review. The career you jumpstart may be mine. =)

ProAm Tips #8

What if?

Those words should be your guide.

I write science fiction, a little horror, a bunch of crime, and three dramas. And each of them started with what if?

You want to always ask that question, even when you’re writing a story about something normal and non-scifi and non-horror and non-spec. What if?

What if vampires needed to apply for hunting permits?

What if in the future, misdemeanor offenders have to pick up trash in orbit instead of by the highway?

What if an upstanding member of law enforcement were in love with the most wanted criminal in the world?

What if magic were real- and more addictive than heroin?

What if you intervened in a fight between an angel and a demon?

What if a jewel thief fell for a hooker, who gets kidnapped?

What if being a repo man meant stealing spaceships?

What if no one knew how important your job was to the universe?

What if people needed replacement parts like cars, every three thousand miles?

What if you caught a criminal and then found out he was innocent, only the world didn’t want to believe it?

What if there were a lottery to get off the dying Earth?

What if you were born to be a blues guitarist, and trained to be a composer of classical music?

What if you were an ex-cop and people in your neighborhood started getting killed, only the cops didn’t do anything?

What if society fell, and all that stood between your apartment building full of old people and a raging mob was you?

What if you were in charge of deciding who could leave a dying world, and one of the applicants was an old, unqualified girlfriend?

Every one of these questions has been behind my novels and stories. I ask a thousand stupid questions a day. Maybe one or two is what iffy-enough to be a good story. But that’s what it takes. You want to write? Ask questions. Look at the norm and ask what might happen if.

The hardest thing to write is originality. There just aren’t that many plots in the world. Forty, maybe. But settings? Infinite. And characters? Twice infinite.

 

People are interesting. Places are interesting.

Unusual ideas? They’re gold.

So, what’s your what if?

 

 

 

One down. Next?

I just wrote the worst best words I know.

The End.

Orphan World, the new novel, is done. Draft 1 clocked in at 79k.

Now to let it marinate for a while. Time to begin edits on the next release. Yeah, I’m a masochist. Or, in simple terms, a writer.

ProAm Tips #7

Writer’s block.

Uh… wait. I.. I KNOW I had something for this.

That’s a writer’s joke. Ha.

WARNING- This post is HIGHLY subjective. My opinions are my own, yours are yours. But here’s my two cents.

Writer’s block is an inability to think of the first word. And the second. And the third. And so on. It’s not a block of creativity. If you’re a writer, you’re creative. You don’t STOP being creative. You stop writing. You freeze at the keyboard. You can’t organize your thoughts. You can’t get your hands to make words.

For me, writer’s block stopped being an issue when I realized this truth. I’m still creative. I’m still making up worlds. People. Situations. It’s putting them on paper (or an LCD) that’s the issue. So here’s the truth-

All pumps need priming. (Shut up. Self-priming pumps still fit the definition). You need a little flow to gett he big flow going.

Writing is a purely physical act, whether you’re using a pen, a keyboard, a chalk, or a recorder. (I tried to dictate once… it was weird. I started to talk to myself. That wasn’t weird. The arguing was. I have issues. Shut up.)

You need to prime your pump (that sounded way dirtier than it is.) by introducing a little flow. So introduce a little flow. Get your hands moving. Keep your brain out of it. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Despite being a somewhat unoriginal sign of obsessive-compulsiveness (Kubrick demanded REAL typed pages, hundreds of them, for The Shining. And in the foreign language versions, he demanded hundreds of legitimate, foreign language pages. He was insane. But I bet those typists didn’t have trouble making the words move.) The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy sleeping dog. Now is the time for every good boy to come to the aid of his country.

Sit down, and start writing. Reread the last two pages of your manuscript if it helps you, but you don’t need it. Just start writing. Get your fingers moving. Get words coming out of you. Here’s a big secret:

THEY DON’T MATTER.

Just get them going. Get your mind right. Get your fingers moving. Get going. Write. Write. Write. You’re a writer, you need to write.

It doesn’t matter. Just write. I promise, if you just type, or scribble, or dictate long enough, you WILL find your happy place.

Yeah. That’s a personal guarantee.  You WILL get there.

I make no prophecy of the time frame. But if you wander around thinking about why you can’t write, you’re NOT WRITING!

Writers write. You NEED it. You HAVE to do it. The glue in your chair, the hand on the instrument. You HAVE to do it. You fake it til you make it.

If you ever thought you could be a writer, if you ever put a pen, a keyboard, a chalk, or a recorder to use, if you ever wrote something creative, you’re a writer. It doesn’t stop. It doesn’t go away. You don’t just NOT be a writer. Ever.

It’s not that you can’t find the words. The words never went anywhere. They’re always out there.

SO IS THE JOY YOU FOUND AT USING THEM TO CREATE. You can’t give it up.

To quote someone awesome, “You’re hooked, Max! AND YOU KNOW IT!” (I love Fifi. Not every man can pull off a neck scarf and no shirt. Listen to the Fifi. And if you don’t know that reference, there’s nothing I can do for you.)

Sooner or later, you’ll come up with something, and you’ll stop faking it. It’s OKAY to delete your exercises after you find your groove. Sooner or later, you’ll discover that you can use the words again. Push ’em around. Rearrange ’em. Move them around until they make sense to you. They’ll show you the doorway back into creativity. They’ll lead you back to yourself.

To continue that tradition, here’s another great thespian in a horrible movie, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”

 

ProAm Tips #6

This one is a personal affectation rather than an actual tip because it’s highly subjective. But hey, my blog, my rules. Today’s tip is this:

Always open on an action beat.

All the best stuff I’ve written opens in the middle of some kind of action beat. I opened a short story in the middle of a bank robbery. One short story opened in the middle of a spaceship repossession. One short story I wrote recently opened with an accountant getting attacked by a vampire in Central Park. You know, like you do. Every novel I’ve written: Magician opens with the main character trying to kill himself. Return Fire opens with an assassination. Pros with the main character bleeding to death in his apartment. The Long Way Home opens with the main character nearly getting blown to smithereens trying to land on Mercury because of a joke. What you Wish for opens with the main character watching his best friend overdose on stage in a bar. Orphan World begins with the main character fighting something called a spyger to the death (it’s a cross between a spider and a tiger.) Bleecker Street Bodies opens with a mugging. Martyr opens with the main character nearly breaking his neck falling off a rock outcropping.

All great action beats (he said modestly.)

I hate opening up a book and reading through twenty pages of setup before I get to the good stuff, but that’s me. I LOVE novels and books that dump me in the middle of a conflict, and explosion, a problem. They’re the ones that live up to the cover hype: “Grips you from the first page!”

A lot of books are excellent reads. A lot are classics. But gripping from the first page? The Hobbit begins by describing a hole in the ground. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Arguably the greatest realistic spy novel written) opens with the dry description of a teacher being hired mid-term. Godfather? Wedding. The Bible? Darkness. Then light.

Okay, that last one is because I’m tired. But you get the idea. I don’t advocate you writing like I do. Write like you do. But consider the audience. They like a bit of splash and dazzle. It almost never hurts.

ProAm Tips #5

Character.

It’s all about the characters. Are they tall? Short? What color is their hair? Do they limp? Have scars? Are they orphans? Are they secretly gay? Are they openly gay? Are they straight but keep getting hit on by their own sex? Do they have a lot of payments left on their cars? Their houses? Do they like vanilla or chocolate more? What do they do int he bathroom? Do they read? Or stare at the wall? Do the male characters sit down to pee? Do the female ones stand up?

None of this tripe matters unless you answer the most important question in the world:

 

WHY?

A character, no matter whether they have one line in your story or all the lines in your book, is ever a minor character. Do you want to write excellent characters? Remember this:

No one is a minor character int heir own story.

Every single person in every single thing you write MUST have their own story, their own lives, their own reason for doing what they do. You have to know all of your characters. You don’t need to write everything down, or even create a biography for every minor thug your write, or every passer-by on the street, but you DO need to know and REMEMBER that they’re all the star of their own story.

It may be an interesting story. It may be a boring story. It may be a terrible one or a great one.

One-note characters pull a reader out of a story faster than an oncoming car pulls you out of a reverie on the highway. A poor character is a train wreck, it’s a full stop. It’s the fourth wall shattering, revealing a message to the reader, and that message is “This writer is terrible.”

That’s okay. Every writer is terrible. Some are terrible on a regular basis. Some are terrible only in one scene in their book. Some are terrible only in one or two books in their career. More likely, you’re the kind of writer who’s terrible on a daily basis- because that’s 99.99% of all of us.

Be less terrible at character by remembering that they’re not there to sing for YOUR supper. They’re doing their job. The coroner’s assistant that carries the body away from your crime scene? Maybe he moonlights as a bartender in a fancy bar uptown. Maybe he plays tuba in an ad-hoc band. Maybe he’s a jewel thief by night.

This might or might not come up in your book, story, or whatever you’re writing. But when you feel more about a character, it’ll come through. You won’t just make her assistant coroner number two, carrying away a body- you’ll make her Caroline, the coroner who used to be a hand model and who now works on broadway as a makeup girl, because the cross-over skillset of making up actors on a stage and preparing bodies for a viewing in a funeral home are surprisingly similar.

That faceless walk-on becomes a person. You can’t ignore a person. You just can’t. It’s not right. It’s cruel. You have to make her live. And when she lives, your writing becomes more fluid, and expanded, and all kinds of things they have technical words for that don’t really matter, but which I prefer to call ‘un-terrible’.

When all of your characters live and breathe, even if they aren’t big, on-stage characters, they will react with your big, on-stage characters differently. You’ve all seen that walk-on by an actor who’s obviously filling in as background in your favorite tv show. They look out of place, because they’re not a character, they’re a person pretending to be more than a cardboard cutout.

Characters, ALL of them, are people, in your world. You don’t write about cardboard people. Write about real ones. Give them life, and purpose, and things to do, because there are no people who are minor characters in their own story.

In their own story, they’re the main character. They’re moving through your work on the way to their own story. Treat them as such, and I guarantee your writing will be much better.

ProAm Tips #4

To blog or not to blog.

Many books about indie publishing and self promotion tout the importance of maintaining a blog, building a readership, and establishing a rapport with your readers, trying hard to deliver top-quality, thoughtful content and reliable updates.

They also tout the importance of building a network of contacts among peers and reviewers to get your work read.

They ALSO stress the importance of this, that and the other.

What about the WORK? I spend as much time writing every day as I possibly can. I’m a writer: I have things to do. Books to write. I have a limited life span, and too much to do already?

How do you balance all of these jobs when you’re an independent author?

God only knows. Three days ago I finished a first draft. 80k words of a book churned out as quickly as I could type. Writer’s block is not for me. And the new manuscript is already 25k. What does it mean?

It means I’ve got to choose between what I do, and being successful at what i WANT to do. I want to be popular, i want to make enough money from my books that it is my job. I want to spend each and every day doing what I was meant to.

Sometimes that means putting -off what I SHOULD do.

You cannot shortcut the work. But some work is more important than other work.

ProAm Tips #3

This one is a little obvious, but I’m going to say it anyhow- writers WRITE.

If you want to get your stuff out there, you need to write it down. You can’t do anything until you have product. No one is going to read your stuff if its sitting in a pile on your desk, a file on your computer, or worst of all, in your head. You need to get it on paper, or the screen, and get it the hell OUT THERE.

You need motivation? Here’s motivation. Do it or don’t do it. I don’t care which.

Did not expect that, did you?

I’m not here to coddle you, or pat your head, or tell you someday they’ll appreciate your genius. I don’t know you. I don’t care about you. I care about the product. The book I adored. The short story that made me think. The poem that moved me to tears. That’s what matters. The Work. Yeah, I used a capital W. Because the Work is what matters. I shouldn’t have to motivate you. You want to write, you do it.

No other job, hobby, or profession has this particular feature going for it. If you want to do it, you just DO it. You don’t need a degree. You don’t need permission. you don’t need any preparation or training. You learn by doing, and you do by doing. Get to your computer. Don’t have a computer (how are you reading this?)? Get a pen and paper. Pen and paper were invented for writing. Don’t have a pen and paper? Use a piece of rock and a square of your sidewalk.

The only thing stopping you from writing is YOU. No distractions, no complications, no family, no job takes up all of your time, one hundred percent, 24/7.

If it matters to you, you’ll find the time. You’ll find a way. There will never be a better moment than right now. Go write. Be a writer.

 

Remember, you don’t have to be better than all the other writers out there. You only have to be better than non-writing you.