Friday, May 26, 2017

"What Are You Gonna Be When You Grow Up?" / Happenings In The Outhouse 26-May-2017

Today, our eighteen-year-old son graduates from high school.


We're very proud of him.  There are things he's accomplished at such a young age that, when compared with thousands and thousands of kids his age, he's so far ahead.  Even though he didn't apply for any scholarships and hasn't been gifted with being the most athletic on the planet, he has accomplished far more.

Has it been an easy road with him?  Oh, God, no.  We've battled with him on grades, cleaning his room, and even some "medical" situations that I will not elaborate on.

But we've worked through it.  And he's turned into a better person because of it.

A few weeks ago, at the spring choir concert, the choir teacher lined up all of the seniors and reminisced about how long she's taught each of them and what she remembered most.  Our son was last on her list, and I must say he got the hugest reaction from the entire crowd.  Our son is extremely knowledgeable about current events, including politics and issues plaguing today's society, and has no problem expressing his opinion.  The teacher even said our son is a wealth of knowledge and odd facts, and even though his current plans in the near future doesn't include college, he has found ways of learning new things.  The teacher concluded with, "Just remember to keep learning."  He replied with his typical, "Okay, I will."

And he will too.

He has a YouTube channel and has even created podcasts and movies.  He constantly puts himself out there. And for the critics, he handles them very well.  No kidding.  Very, very well.  In fact, if the critics are harsh enough, he'll make fun of them and create a YouTube video of it.

(Insert smiley face emoticon here)

At tomorrow's graduation reception, there will be many people who will ask about his future plans.  It's the old, standard "What are you gonna be when you grow up?" question that all graduates get.  I hate this question.

A better question is: where do you envision yourself in five, ten, twenty years?

With the Internet, knowledge about a new topic is just a click away.

Where will you be in five, ten, or even twenty years?

Now, ask yourself: how will you get there?
That is the right question to ask.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Busy Times, Yet I Still Have Time To Write / Happenings In The Outhouse 19-May-2017

The past month has been extremely busy.  Two weeks ago, I had a daughter who got confirmed at the Lutheran church were we attend, then another daughter had her first communion the Sunday after, and now, on the 26th of this month, our son graduates from high school.

To top it all off, we are going on a 10-day trip to Tennessee, to visit some of my wife's family, less than a week after graduation.

Yet, even given all this chaos, I still have the time to write.  Most of the time.  Let's us be honest, there have been a few days where I have not written a single word, but other days I've made up for it.  And these events I just listed (from confirmation to graduation) doesn't even count for all of my time.  There are plenty that I am busy with, from yard work, cooking, cleaning, being a Dad and a husband, and . . . the list goes on and on.

Storming The Hill, the third book in the Shadowkill trilogy, is around the 50,000-word mark.  I am slowly nearing the end.  I have been averaging 850 words a day.  Depending on any interruptions, I have cranked out 500 to 700 words in a thirty to forty-five minute stretch.  A few Sundays ago--this was probably the day of our daughter's confirmation--I topped 3,000!  My personal goal is to finish the first draft by graduation.

#crossingmyfingers

I will not say that I'm a master at time management, but I do the best I can.  I also know my limitations when it comes to my health.  If I'm utterly exhausted, I'll either take a nap or go to bed.  Even if it's one of those haven't-written-a-word day.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Make A List, Check It Twice / Happenings In The Outhouse 12-May-2017

I messed up.

I have a laundry list of lists: a two or three-year list, an annual list, and even a quarterly list.

But nothing less, like a list for the week or month.  Not sure why?  I typically do, but for whatever reason I have forgotten.

This past Saturday, I changed that.  Boy oh boy, did that make a difference!

Now, my lists have a tendency to ramble on and on, almost like I was clearing the grime away to reveal more that I never saw before, but that's okay.  I then wrote out a weekly list, and immediately went to work.  I have 7-8 items on there, and, as of Wednesday, two are close to be complete.

Some items I list are "pie in the sky", and in a way you need to have some items on your list that will either stretch your abilities or dedicate more of your time.

Don't worry, Netflix will always be there.

I am currently around the 46,000 word mark on Book 3 of the Shadowkill trilogy.  I am nearing what I feel is the third act, where everything is coming to a close.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Yes, it's okay to have a day job (for writers) / Happenings In The Outhouse 05-May-2017

Last month, I celebrated my 20th year with my employer.

Did I ever think, way back in the day, that I'd still be there?  Let me be honest and say probably not.  It has nothing to do with the job itself, which I do enjoy, and has nothing to do with how the employees are treated, which are very well.

I had dreams, back in the day, of being a published author.  You know, as in, signing with Simon and Schuster or Tor or Bantam Doubleday.  I wrote, I submitted.  To literary agents, of course.  And I kept writing.

But to no avail.

My story is not unique.  In fact, roughly ten years ago, I had a countdown in my basement office with my "last day."

Of course, that day has come and gone.

I am not bitter about any of it.  Like I said, the employer treats its employees well, has one of the best health insurance plans in the entire country (no joke!), and I do enjoy what I do.  So it's okay to have this day job while I continue to add to my writing empire.

Will I still be here after another 20 years?  All I can do is shrug and say, "Time will tell."  Yes, I would love to be completely self-employed, but right now I'm okay with having a day job.

Okay, I promote all writers to read Dean Wesley Smith's blogs, and he has a series of blogs he titles The Magic Bakery.  Click on this link to read all of his blogs tagged with the magic bakery.  Dean always opens my eyes to the ever-changing world of indie publishing (actually, publishing and writing in general), so I strongly urge you to read these blog posts.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Story Trumps Facts / Happenings In The Outhouse 28-Apr-2017

Earlier this month, at the constant urging of a few co-workers (grin!), I started watching the TV show Prison Break on Netflix.

Spoilers for Prison Break coming, so be warned.  If you have any inclination of watching the show, do it now.  In fact, much of what I'm about to say is a culmination of the first four episodes (I am currently through season 1 only) so at least watch the first few episodes and then we can still be friends.

Okay, ready now?  Good.

As I watched the first few episodes--this came about even after the first one--I noticed a glaring discrepancy when it comes to writing about those with type one diabetes.  Jodi Foster's movie Panic Room portrays type one diabetes completely wrong.  I won't dissect why here, but on Prison Break the main actor, played by Wentworth Miller, goes to prison.  As he is brought in, he informs them he has type one diabetes.  Now, the show doesn't give a minute-by-minute account of his day, but it is implied that he gets tested once a day and also receives a shot then (once a day) if needed.

Wrong!

I have two children (and a wife) with type one diabetes.  At best, he would need a cell next to the infirmary, because managing diabetes is a constant battle.  But it wouldn't fit the premise of the show, so be it.

The second glaring discrepancy is in Miller's tattoos.  He has the prison map (and then some) all over his body.  Sorry, prisons meticulously document and photograph tattoos of all inmates.  It's possible they wouldn't know what the massive tattoo was, but again they'd have documentation on it.

Okay, this being said, the show is great and well-worth watching.  This is a case where story trumps facts.

In my third book in the Shadowkill trilogy, a team of ex-military infiltrates the White House, using its protective measures against the good guys.  I have definitely taken liberties with the story.  I've never even been to Washington DC, and one can only gain so much information from Google Maps without making someone in the NSA nervous.  But again, story trumps facts.  I make it feel as realistic as possible without dragging one down into the weeds with useless facts.

Does it work?  Time will tell.

Back to Prison Break.  The show is interesting, and even with some minor discrepancies when it comes to life in prison to add on top of it, one sees past it all.

Are there cases where you need the facts first?  Of course.  But don't get caught up in the weeds of research before telling your story.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Expanding On Publish A Lot / Happenings In The Outhouse 21-Apr-2017

Lastly, for the third week in a row, my simple advice for writers:
Read a lot.
Write a lot.
Publish a lot.

Let's dive into the third axiom: publish a lot.

I need to clarify and expand on "publish."  It should really be publish/submit.  If you send a story off to an anthology, a contest, a small or medium press, or one of the big publishing houses--or in any case where you are passing along your story for publishing consideration, then you are moving the story along the path of publication.  That is submitting.

If you decide to indie publish, it's a matter of uploading the document and hitting publish--okay, okay, there's a bit more to it than that, but in a nutshell that's all there is to it.

Where is the editing process?  The cover art?  The formatting?  For now, don't worry about it.  We're keeping it simple.  One can find themselves stuck in the weeds when it comes to writing/publishing advice.  Now, I'm not a major bestselling author (so what do I know, right?), but I have been indie publishing since April 2012.  If you take into accounts the other aspects of publishing, from writing (and finishing) novels/short stories and sending them off to agents, we're talking a timeline of 1994 when I completed my first novel.  I studied query letters and agents, and did that whole ball of wax.

The bottom line is that I kept the stories moving.  Not all of them, mind you.  There are stories that have sat in the virtual trunk, and even novels that hadn't been looked at for decades.  But, by and large, I kept working.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Expanding On Write A Lot / Happenings In The Outhouse 14-Apr-2017

Again, here's my simple advice for writers:
Read a lot.
Write a lot.
Publish a lot.

Let's dive into the second axiom: write a lot.

How much is a lot?  That depends largely on the writer themselves.  Five hundred words for you in a day may be the max, while someone like Brandon Sanderson or Dean Wesley Smith can crank out several thousand.  Even Stephen King had, in his definitive book On Writing, said he wrote two thousand words a day, everyday.

Do you have to write two thousand words?  Can it be less?  Or more?

Again, it depends on you.

My suggestion is to keep track.  Either on a piece of paper or on a spreadsheet, write down the number of words you write in a day.  One can even use a calendar, then at the end of the week add up the total words in the week.

Keep in mind, each writer is different.  Are there days you'll write zero?  Of course.  Will there be days where you'll crank out two . . . three . . . or even four thousand?  Or more?  Yes.  For me, when I'm on a roll, the words gush out like a tidal wave.

The key to all this is to write as much as you can.  I'm a father of three and a husband to a former cancer patient.  A lot is on my shoulders.  But I still carve out a few minutes here and there to write.