Friday, December 12, 2014

Simplistic 2015 Goals / Happenings In The Outhouse

A few months into 2014, I realized I had WAY too many goals.  I won't embarass myself by listing how many, but quickly into the new year I decided to simplify my goals.  I may have still done a dreadful job of completing very many of them, I still published three ebooks, got my website Mark S. R. up and running, paid off our car (we have no car loans whatsoever!), signed up for the Goodreads Author Program, and submitted at least twice to the Writers Of The Future contest.

My three published works this year were:

Killzone: Book 1 of the Shadowkill Trilogy

The Things They Collected (free short story)

If Walls Could Talk: A Terrifying Short Story Collection

I am also not exclusive with any online publishing platform.  My ebooks are found everywhere--and right now, Guest Of Honor, my free novelette, is selling like crazy on the iBooks store.

2014 has been good to me.

And I believe 2015 will be even better.  I have also simplified my goals even more.  For starters, I have two focuses: publishing and weight loss.

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Friday, December 5, 2014

The news that shocked me about Madonna / Happenings In The Outhouse 05-Dec-2014

I was sitting at work yesterday, editing some pages, when I noticed one of the daily advertisement flyers the local radio station delivers for free everywhere.  In the flyer are snippets of news and local events.  One shocked me.

It said that the singer Madonna was the highest grossing singer last year, with over $800 million, and Paul McCartney was behind her at $660 million. (if you don't believe me, here's a link to the article.)

Now, I'm old enough to remember when Madonna first came on the scene, with songs "Like a Virgin" and "Vogue" and so many others.  I will admit though, her music isn't necessarily to my liking--I love hard rock, mostly from the 80's and early 90's.  But when I read her biography on Wikipedia, I was most than impressed.

What does this mean to you and I?

Take a lesson from her (or any of the others on the list) and take control of your destiny.  Do things your way.  Because the more you control, and the more you branch out into your field, the more success you'll achieve.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Chapter excerpt from "Straight Razor" thriller novel

Here is an excerpt of the first chapter of Straight Razor, the second novel in the Central Division Series.


Simon Templeton snaps off his gloves, tosses them in a red medical waste bag set up just outside the door, and says to the Forensics team, “Two bodies in the second floor bedroom.  Top of the stairs, first door on the left.  Murder weapon is in the male’s right hand.  Beretta 9mm, from the looks of it.  Female has two rounds in the chest and the male one, also in the chest.”
His investigations partner, Kolin Raynes, follows him outside.  “Why would he do that?  Kill her, then kill himself.  And why a chest shot?  Why not in the head?  Yeah, I know, I know, I heard the divorce was getting pretty nasty, but it seems to me he was the one making it nasty.  God, I’ll miss hearing her at MECC.  I heard once that she was in line for Eva Rosen’s job when she retires.”
MECC is the Minneapolis Emergency Communications Center, responsible for coordinating emergency calls throughout all of the suburbs in the Twin Cities area.  Eva has been working as a 9-1-1 dispatcher for over forty years, half of that time in a mentor capacity for all trainees.
Grinning, Simon says, “I don’t believe Eva will ever give up her post.  Even when she’s ninety, she’ll still be taking 9-1-1 calls.”  His cell rings.  “Great.  The boss.”  He brings the cell up, plugging the other ear with his thumb.  “Yes, sir.  Yes, murder-suicide, just like we thought.  What was that, sir?  Gary worked for Dope?”
“You’re kidding,” says Kolin.
Dope is the nickname for the Minneapolis PD’s Narcotic Enforcement Unit, housed in the same building as their department: Violent Crime Unit.  Kolin had the unpleasant experience of working with an infamous Dope sergeant Jim Brandt—AKA Dope Jim—six months back when his daughter Claudia was kidnapped by the serial killer Marie Holter.
AKA The Video Slayer.
Simon nods.  “Yes, sir, we’ll contact them.  Not sure how much they’ll tell us.  I’ll keep you informed.”  He disconnects, then rubs his ears.
“Is your hearing ever going to be back to normal?  I mean, I’ve been to a few rock concerts in my day, and I still have near-perfect hearing.”
During Claudia’s rescue, Simon was forced to shoot his way out of his car which had plunged into a river, causing much damage to his hearing.  He’s currently doctoring at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester—the result of a second opinion when the first doctor he consulted said nothing could be done and wanted to fit him for a hearing aid—and has seen tremendous improvement.
They walk out to the car.  “Captain said Gary worked for Dope,” says Simon.  “Been working for them at least a year.”
“Why would the PD promote a drunk like that?”
“Kolin, Gary was good at his job.  You know that.”
“Of course, but after his seventh or eighth DUI, you’d think the department would strip his license.”
Simon sighs.  “Gary was two years away from putting in his twenty.  He’s not the first cop to get arrested for drinking and driving.  Nor the last.  Certain cops just have skills that aren’t easily replaced.  And when that’s the case, the higher-ups have a tendency to look the other way.  It’s not right, but that’s just the way it is.”
“Now what?”
“We talk with someone from Dope.  Just in case this isn’t a murder-suicide.”
“You and I both know this is a murder-suicide.  Hell, the world knows it is.”
“Just need to cover the bases,” says Simon.  “Boss’s orders.”

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Monday, December 1, 2014

The mentality of the first novel

I'm very proud of completing my first novel back in November 1994.  It was a crowning achievement, of which I celebrated by going out to the movie Interview with the Vampire, starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt--honestly I saw the movie four times in the theater; something I had never done with any other movie before or after.  Not even any of the Star Wars movies (although I have probably seen Star Wars: A New Hope close to a hundred times on video).

The day before I completed my first novel, I achieved a total of 1,000 pages (these were Brother word processor pages, where the word count is much less when compared with that of today's Microsoft Word).  I celebrated that by going out to the bar, Bottom's Up, in Bemidji.

I came back early that night, just a little buzzed.  I was alone.  Well, not really.  I had the characters in my head who just wanted me to finish the damn story.  Which I did the following morning.  Then I saw the movie.


Looking back on it now, I couldn't believe how much stuff I put into my first novel--a deer hunting horror story, an homage to my second favorite author, Stephen King (my favorite author is yours truly).

When I calculate the approximate word count nowadays, I come up with between 175,000 to 200,000 words.  *Gulp!*  If it was a fantasy novel, that would be about right.  But this was a horror story.  It was complex.

But a bit too complex.

I threw everything, inlcuding the kitchen sink, into it.

Why?  Because the mentality of the first novel is that everything needs to go into it.  Throughout history, there are authors who have struck gold with one novel.  Harper Lee, J. D. Salinger, and William Peter Blatty come to mind, in that regard.

The best advice on first novels is NOT to throw everything into it.  Hold back.  Only put in what it necessary for the story, and that's all.

Because there are always other books to write.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Missing scenes / Happenings In The Outhouse 28-Nov-2014

A few weeks ago, I got to the halfway point in Straight Razor, the second novel in the Central Division Series franchise.  When I later examined my current word count at that point, I was around the 25,000 word mark.

And the goal for this book was between 70-75,000.

Not quite halfway, in my book--and I was fairly good in math, in my late high school years.

I then realized I introduced a lot of leads (AKA red herrings) that would lead the investigative team of Simon Templeton and Kolin Raynes, of the Minneapolis PD Violent Crime Unit (VCU), but forgot to add them into the story.

*insert head slap*

My progress has slowed some, as I examined what should be written in and where.  I truly believe the story will be stronger because of it.

And a hell of a lot more interesting.

Monday, November 24, 2014

What "Stand by Me" taught me about storytelling (go deep and wide with your story)

In 1986, I saw the movie Stand by Me in the theaters.

In those days, I didn't remember seeing any movie trailers or hyped reviews about the movie, but in the small town where I grew up in (strangely enough, it resembled that of the fictional Castle Rock depicted in both the movie and in Stephen King's stories), there wasn't much else to do.

I was fascinated by the story.  Not only was it a tale about four boys who went out into the woods, in search for a dead kid their age, there were subplots upon subplots that not only kept the story interesting, it made for a more richer tale.

Each character in the story had a tale or two to tell.

In the end, when the credits started rolling, the packed theater was shocked when it was revealed that the movie was based on a novella by Stephen King.  I could hear his name being said repeatedly across the entire theater.  It was amazing.

When telling your tale, use some of the lessons that King has used.  Go deep and wide in your storytelling.  Let people know more about your characters.

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Friday, November 21, 2014

New cover for Guest Of Honor / Happenings In The Outhouse 21-Nov-2014

My novelette, Guest of Honor, just got a face-lift.

Here it is:

Pretty cool, huh?

Yesterday morning, I hit the 30K mark on Straight Razor.  My publication goal of January 2015 is looking grim, but never fear, miracles could still happen.