Monday, December 31, 2012

Shoot for the stars

Over a year ago, I posted a blog titled "Don't shortsight your goals like JFK and NASA did"

Without rehashing it here, the gist is about goal-setting and what your list consists of.  Last week, I advised everyone to have a "pie in the sky" goal amongst their list.

I've been listening to a lot of podcasts lately regarding Kickstarter projects.  One piece of advice that has come about these is to have a "pie in the sky" goal.  For example, if you want to fund a writing project and you feel $5,000 would do it, once you've established the lesser dollar goals, establish one big, awesome goal.  Something like, for $20,000 I'd fly the person to my house, and I'd spend an entire week counseling them on their writing project.  No one may not ever take it on, but what if?

So, in your list of goal you'd like to accomplish for 2013, make one of them a "pie in the sky".

Here are some examples:

Lose 50 pounds and will run in one half-marathon

Pay off the car two years early

Learn a new language

Commit to writing a book.

Publishing a book

Double your income

Big, hairy, audacious goals, huh?  "Pie in the sky" for sure, but at the same time they're very doable.

What's your "pie in the sky" goal?  Have it?  Good.  Write it down, then commit to brainstorming ways to accomplish that goal, as well as your other goals.

One reason why you need this is because if you don't shoot for something way out there, you're never going to grow as a person, mentally, physically, intellectually . . .

Set one goal super-high.

Then do it.

Because you can.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

My 5-Star Review of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"

In college, the Harrison Ford movie Clear and Present Danger (based on the novel by Tom Clancy) came out into the theaters.  I've always liked Harrison Ford as an actor and once again it proved to be a great action movie.

A few days before I went to the movie, a guy in our dorms (I believe it was the R.A. but don't quote me on it) said, "Yeah, Mark, don't waste your money.  The movie absolutely sucked."

I found this incredibly odd as Harrison Ford, once again playing the Jack Ryan character, was a decent actor and I didn't quite believe the movie would be that bad.

I pressed further.  "Why did it suck?" I asked.

"Because it had nothing to do with the book."

Okay, he got me there.  I had bought the book but was holding off reading it because it was quite a lengthy tome--as much of Clancy's novels were.  I then went to see the movie, despite the seemingly 1-star review from one person.  I liked it.  It was a great action flick, worthy of repeated watchings.  What was that guy thinking?  Then I read the book.  He was right: the book had little to do with the movie.  In fact, the Jack Ryan character was maybe in 1/3 of the book.  But movie-goers would be a litle pissed to spend their money to see a movie where Harrison Ford was only in it for 40 minutes.

I still liked the book.  And even the movie.  They were just two different versions of the same story, and I was fine with that.

The same goes with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first of three movies based on J. R. R. Tolkien's book The Hobbit, directed by Peter Jackson.

If one were to watch the movie with such a critical eye to see if all of the elements of the book were in the movie, you may be disappointed.  But only because there is so much more in the movie than I had expected.  I won't reveal any spoilers here, except to say that so far Peter has done a wonderful job of tying this movie in with the three Lord Of The Rings movies as well as the other histories of Middle Earth (i.e. The Silmarillion).

Keep in mind, when Tolkien first published the Lord Of The Rings, he released a newer edition of The Hobbit because in the first edition the One Ring did not play as large as role as he originally planned.

I give 5 full stars for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The only drawback is that I have to wait a full year to see the second of the three films.  But, like millions of others, I will be waiting with much anticipation.

Going back to what we talked about at the beginning of this blog post, let me ask you a few questions:

How many versions of Bram Stoker's Dracula have been made?

How many Batman or Spiderman or Superman movies have been made?

How many different versions of fairy tales (i.e. Snow White, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk) have been made--no, Disney isn't the only one doing this.

Aren't there two theatrical versions of Stephen King's The Shining?

Tales can be told in various ways, depending on the medium.  Theatrical movies and written novels are two entirely different ways.  Don't criticize one if it doesn't match with the other one.

Go see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  It's well worth it.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Happenings In The Outhouse 28-Dec-2012 / A few changes in the outhouse

You may--or may not--have noticed that I didn't post anything this past Wednesday.  There's a reason for it.  Possibly many, but I've decided to blog a little less.  Not much.  I'm already (on this blog) down to three days a week.  I'll post a "Happenings" on Fridays (or every other, depending on what's going on) and one other.

Why, may you ask, would I do this?  I love blogging and I love writing.  But as I continue to fill my RSS feed with fellow writing blogs, from agents and writers and other industry wisdom magnets, I've discovered many of them don't blog every day (or every other) either.

I want to spend my time writing.

What am I writing?  Right now I've identified 10 short stories--one of which titled "Salute" is available for free on this blog--that I'm in the process of polishing up and will be submitting to publications.  "Salute" is done and the other nine are progressing very nicely.

Beholder's Eye is still being queried out to agents.  I've recieved only rejections so far, but a few of them have been extremely heart-felt--I responded back in kind to one in particular because I could tell this one would have taken me on if it wasn't for her hectic schedule (I believe all of them have hectic schedules, and are possibly some of the busiest people in the world).  Oh, by the way, this one I went back and forth with a bit on Twitter, so people it does work, this social media thing.  Don't be afraid of it.

After the short stories are completed, I have several writing projects planned for the next year.

How are your plans for 2013 coming along?  Have you written them down?

If I might make one suggestion, try this: make one goal a "pie in the sky".  Something huge and awesome, something that would take much effort to accomplish.

Monday, December 24, 2012

What I Listen To: The Tolkien Professor

With the new Hobbit movie, directed by Peter Jackson, out in theaters--no, I still haven't seen it yet at this point--I want to share a podcast series I listen to fairly often called The Tolkien Professor.

The Tolkien Professor is Professor Corey Olsen, who is an English professor at Washington College, and he has various lecture-style podcasts on . . . you guessed it: Tolkien!

His first introductory lecture is about "How to Read Tolkien and why."

He even has a lecture series on The Hobbit and has written a book on the subject.

With tons of various lectures, be sure to check out the lecture feed for a list of all the subjects.  So, if you love Tolkien and want to know more about Middle Earth, or even about medieval literature in general, be sure to check out The Tolkien Professor podcast.

For more information, here's a TED Talk Professor Olsen recently did:

Friday, December 21, 2012

Happenings In The Outhouse 21-Dec-2012 / End of the world?

The end of the world came . . .

And went.

We're still here.

Thank you, Mayans!

I'll keep this brief today.  My literary agent search is still commencing, although with the holiday season much of the publishing industry is on hiatus so it may have to be put on hold until after the new year.

But still I press on.

Despite the supposed end of the world.

What else am I working on?  Right now I have a list of about a dozen short stories I'm editing and expanding.  One I even had published in a regional publication several years ago and have changed it up quite a bit.  Once that is done . . . who knows.  I have other projects in the wings, all waiting patiently for me.

Have I seen The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey yet?  Nope.  Due to circumstances beyond my control, this may have to wait a few more days, but rest assured I will see it in the theaters.  It is my absolute dream to see a blockbuster movie like this on the opening night--one day, by God, I will!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

There's no excuse nowadays

I grew up in a small town in northern Minnesota.  The only radio station was a local AM which played oldies from the 50's and 60's.  If you were lucky, on a clear night you could pick up the faint whispers of an FM pop music station out of Grand Forks, ND--Magic 96 it was called.  Needless to say, my exposure to great amounts of rock music was limited to the selection held at the local Ben Franklin store--Poison was my first taste of hard rock, and I've loved that kind of music (80's hair bands being my favorite) ever since.

This was the genesis of the compact disc.  Portable CD players were large boom boxes guys held over their shoulder like a bazooka.  And the bigger the better!

My selection of books was also limited to whatever was at the local library.  Now, I must admit, there might've been a wider selection, but no one ever showed me where it was so it's possible it never existed--I mean, the section where great tomes of science fiction and fantasy were housed.  I read Stephen King and practically memorized the AD&D DM Guide and Player's Handbook.  I listen to a lot of podcasts nowadays, and while so many great writers and editors are mentioned, I feel like I'm behind the eight-ball due to my lack of exposure in this field.  However, it's a lack of exposure I'm quickly eliminating the more I learn about the field and the who's who.

Today there's no excuse for this lack of exposure.  Through the web, there is a vast field of knowledge right at your fingertips.  What's your excuse for not learning about your desired field of work?

There is no excuse.

I have no excuses either.  I am tearing down the barriers of my limited knowledge--although, isn't all knowledge limited to some degree, as you can't certainly know everything about everything.

And, as an aside, one day . . . I would also love to see my favorite band in concert.

Thanks Bret, Rikki, Bobby, and C.C. for the great tunes.  And a special thanks to Bret in his fight to cure diabetes.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Literary Agent Database:

Looking for a literary agent?

One online resource you may want to check out is Agent Query.

This resource has drop-downs that allow you to search for specific topics under both nonfiction and fiction.  You may also search for various industry blogs under Agent Query's Blog Roll.  Here you can find agent and editor blogs, as well as categeries like "Digital Publishing" and "On Writing."

Be sure to check out Agent along with your other resources to look for your next literary agent.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

My thoughts on tragedy

I vowed myself I'd stay out of this, but as a writer I found out I couldn't.  So much as been said already, no matter what side of the 2nd Amendment you sit on or the effects of video games on our youth or even the entire mental health issue.  I won't muddy the waters here with any of the rhetoric, as all that will happen is push everyone even further apart.  And that's not my intentions here.

In the quiet little community of Sandy Hook village, of Newtown CT, tragedy befell them in a big way--the last notable crime to have occurred there was in 1986, a crime known as the Woodchipper Murder.

Tragedy can--and will--fall upon everyone.  Even tragedy of yesterday's magnitude (and even larger, when you think of the 9/11 terrorist attacks).  My deepest prayers go out to everyone involved.  Mourn the loss of your loved ones.  Then, prepare to heal.

Since the beginning of Man, tragedy (large and small) has occurred.  And then people moved on to buidl stronger lives.  And it will in this case too.  You may not know it yet, but there will be someone--or many someones--who will emerge from this tragedy stronger than ever because of their involvement.  How many stories from 9/11 are out there, the individual stories of heros and heroines who fought the tragedy and won?  Just wait and see.

Less than a month ago, tragedy befell our small community: two houses away from mine, a madman entered a woman's home and tried to kill her.  She fought off the attacker and ran to the neighbor's house, where they called 9-1-1.  In the meantime, the cowardice killer took his own life.  I can honestly say that I'm proud of the neighborhood, and community, I live in that one would feel comfortable to go to the neighbor's house for help.

How's your neighborhood?

Do you know any of your neighbors?

Maybe what needs to be done in light of this tragedy is to mourn where it sees fit, then move to glueing this society back together.  Get to know your neighbors.  Then, when tragedy comes crawling into your life, you will have people who can help.  There isn't a day that goes by of how thankful I am for this community to pitch together when my wife was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia.

Instead of pointing fingers and playing the blame game, mourn and pray for those involved.  Then move on.  Emerge stronger than ever.

It can be done.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Happenings In The Outhouse 14-Dec-2012 / The agent search revisited

My literary agent search is an interesting one.  With social media nowadays, how I've done agent searches several years ago is far different.  My research has even increased as I've come to the realization this time around that I need to spend some time finding out what agents want, whether or not they're open for submissions, and overall what their "platform" looks like.

One day, after I've signed with an agent and Beholder's Eye is published, I'll share the history of "how I found an agent."  Now, I'll just tell you that it's an interesting world and far more connected with the use of social media.

Before I go, I must share a literary agent database I stumbled upon while listening to a podcast.  It's called Agent Query.  It seems to be another resource one can use for finding an agent.

What else have I been up to?  Brainstorming and writing.

Not only do I have my ambitious 2013 goals set, I'm using my strategic strengths to plan for the immediate future.  First up are 10 short stories, all of which have been written and edited, but now they need a thorough polish and then . . . well, let's cross that bridge when we come to it.  I may decide to self-publish them or tack them into another self-publishing project I'm working on.

After that I have at least three more short stories I need to write, two science fiction short stories I need to edit, and then work on a novella--at least I think it's a novella.  It's called "Guest of Honor," something inspired by my recent viewing of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Before I forget, I said before that I was possibly going to do NaNoWriMo in the early part of 2013.  I still might do that, as November is typically a busy month for me.  I will keep you posted.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

NaNoWriMo isn't just for November

I know, I know, the month of November is over and you're still hearing the throngs of NaNoWriMo--the National Novel Writing Month.  I promise, only a little more and then that's it . . . maybe.

What did you learn?

Did you accomplish your goal?

There are pros and cons to participating in NaNoWriMo, none which I will rehash here.  Instead, take what you've learned into the other eleven months of the year.  Keep writing.  Think as a professional and treat the end of the month as the deadline from your editor.

There are many lessons learned while participating in NaNoWriMo.  What did you uncover?  How will you use it to enhance your writing in the future?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Unusual writing styles. Do what works best for you.

In as about as many writers out there in the world, there are as many writing styles.  When I mean styles, I'm talking about the manner in which their stories are written.  Now, most probably are similar in which they involve sitting down at a desk or table and putting words into a computer or on paper.

Two such fantasy/science fiction writers I know of are different--well, one is but the other has a work schedule that needs some attention here.  They are Kevin J. Anderson and Peter Orullian.

Kevin J. Anderson, for the most part, dictates his stories while hiking along the trails near his Colorado home.  Then, when he arrives home, he takes the dictation and has them entered onto the computer--I want to say either his wife or an assistant does this but don't quote me on that one.  It's possible he does it himself.  If he happens to find this blog, I'm sure he can comment below and clear the water for us.  Otherwise, if I run into him, I'll ask.

Kevin J. Anderson has had a long career in the fantasy/science fiction genre.  I first ran across him while reading one of his many Star Wars novels, which are truly awesome.

Peter Orullian is a fantasy author who lives up in Washington state and has a full-time job at Microsoft.  When does he have time to write?  At 3am!  Yes, kiddies, he gets up at three o'clock in the morning and writes.  He has one published book out now and is working on a second one.  And all the while he holds down a full-time gig at Microsoft--I believe in their Xbox division.

There are several more I could mention here, but both Kevin's and Peter's writing style is so unusual yet impressive.

What is your writing style like?  What sacrifices could you make in order to become a published author?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Happenings In The Outhouse 07-Dec-2012 / Goal setting

My 2013 goals have been written.  It's quite an impressive list too.  I've written some bold goals before but somehow I have a feeling that 2013 will be different.

In my research, experts say goals should be broken down into seven categories.  This is something different for me.  They are (in no particular order):








How are your goals coming along?

My literary agent search for Beholder's Eye is going well.  I've narrowed the list down and am engaging them via social media to find ones to query.  It's a far different world than what I've done even a few years ago.

Different . . . yet better.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

An interesting conversation with my niece

A few weeks ago on Thanksgiving I had a very interesting conversation with my niece.  It involved writing.  (insert smiley face emoticon here)

"Will you read my book?" she asked me, the notebook poised in her hands.

"Of course!"

At this point, it had been passed around to a few other people, who all said "it was good."  Honestly though, as a writer, you love to hear that kind of praise but you also want to know "how can I make it better?"

Hence, that's where I stepped in because she knew I was a writer and could help her.

The opening line was gripping, something that could be the opening line to any number of bestsellers, and she had sentences that made me all the more impressed.  Her dialogue was engaging as well, and you could almost hear the teenagers talking to each other.

Afterwards, I curled my finger and we talked about what she had written.  She was thrilled at the constructive criticism I was able to offer, talking about what worked and what didn't.  I suggested areas where she could cut, and then she said something about "the story's point of view."

I smiled.  "Now you sound like a writer," I said.

She understood that it takes long hours (10,000 to use Malcolm Gladwell's analysis) to build up the craft of writing.  They say an overnight success takes 10-20 years.  No one sees that hard work that goes into publishing a book except those that live it.

And she's well on her way . . .

Monday, December 3, 2012

Was this movie ahead of its time?

Probably not one of Christian Slater's best movies, but Pump Up The Volume could be a movie ahead of its time--if only when compared to the advances in technology nowadays.


The premise of the movie is a teenage boy (one Christian Slater) who is a loner and finds a way to break into an unauthorized radio station.  The movie may be worth watching on Netflix, and sorry to say the movie trailer doesn't do it justice.

Fast forward roughly twenty years--this movie came out in 1990--and instead of an unauthorized radio station, the main character would probably be the star of his own podcast.  He would have revolutionized it by doing what he did to the radio station.

And it would not have been illegal.

Interesting food for thought . . .

Friday, November 30, 2012

Through The Outhouse Window Video Blog - Episode #7

Let's talk about agents.  Literary agents, that is.

In this 7th episode of the video blog called Through The Outhouse Window, I discuss just that, as well as my quest to researching my own agent.


Happenings In The Outhouse 30-Nov-2012 / Ye Olde Agent Search



And more agents.

That's what my life has been like since completing Beholder's Eye.  I'm having fun too.

My approach this time around is different than any other time I've done the "ol' agent search."  How?  Let me share a little--I don't want to give too much away at this point, because much of it is still experimental on my part.

First of all, let's get this out right away.  Being a literary agent is not a 9-5 job.  I follow quite a number of agents on Facebook and Twitter, and many are tweeting about their work late into the evening.  It irks me when I hear other people grumble about their job, and that they can't wait for five o'clock to roll around because "they're outta here!"  Being an agent (or even a book editor, for that matter) is probably one of the most difficult jobs in the world.  They get bombarded with queries and sample manuscript chapters, forever searching for that one gem they can polish up to try sell to a publisher.

That involves a lot of reading.

And they love it.

My "ol' agent search" involved pouring through the latest Guide to Literary Agents and Writer's Digest, and writing down any agents that was interested in the genre I was trying to publish.  I would give an extra star if they were looking for new/unpublished authors as well as a quick turnaround time and electronic submissions--believe it or not, even as of a few years ago, most agents wanted queries mailed to them with an SASE.

Nowadays, times have changed.  With social media through Facebook and Twitter (for two examples), one can find out what books they're recommending or looking for or even news about the publishing industry in general.

I'll keep everyone updated in my quest . . .

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pseudonyms - reasons why you don't (or may not) need to

Two days ago, I posted on the reasons why you should have a pseudonym.  Now let's talk about why you may not need one.

"But, Mark, my readers will get confused if I start writing in other genres."

Hogwash!  Readers are not stupid, and may even like it when their favorite author writes in another genre.  I just got done reading the latest John Grisham legal thriller (The Racketeer), and I have to say that it was a lot better than many of legal thrillers he's been publishing over the past few years.  But here's the funny part: my favorite books by Grisham are not the legal thrillers (okay, maybe a little bit) but the stories that outside the genre: Skipping Christmas, A Painted House, and Bleachers.  The same goes with Stephen King.  My favorites from him are The Green Mile and On Writing.

This seems to be the main reason why publishers want authors to write under a pseudonym.  Dean Koontz wrote several stories under a pseudonym, and has since becoming a mega-bestseller republished those books under his own name.

"Okay, Mark, I get it.  But I'm not Stephen King or Rowling or Koontz.  I'm just (insert your name here) from (insert place of residence)."

You make a valid point.  However, all of the writers you named above started as a nobody.  They, through sheer dogged determination, churned out books that connected with people en mass.  You can do this to.  Just sit your ass in the chair and write.  That's all they do.

Here's my final argument for why you don't need (or may not need) a pseudonym.  Why do you really think you need to?  Years ago, I wrote several of my novels under a pseudonym--name to be withheld at this time--but then came to the realization that I may not have to, and if a publisher forced me to do so in order to publish a book, then I'll consider it.  For now, I write under my own name.

I want to repeat this again: readers are NOT stupid.  They may also appreciate it when you do branch out into other genres.  Let me leave you with this final thought (okay, I said this above, but now I'm serious): who is Elvis Presley?  He's the King of Rock and Roll!  But did he sing just rock and roll?  No.  The reason he was--and still is--considered the King was because he branched out into so many other musical genres, including hymnals and folk, that he captured the lovers of those musical tastes and drew them back in to his rock and roll.

Elvis was a master.

Follow what the masters have done.

And remember: readers are NOT stupid.  They just may not be able to find you if you happen to write under a pseudonym in another genre, and you could've expanded their reading tastes.  Not long ago, I read a collection of science fiction/western short stories by Alan Dean Foster.  I'm not a reader of westerns, but after that I may branch out my reading tastes to include the likes of Zane Grey and Louis Lamour.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pseudonyms - reasons why you should or may have to

You are a man who strives to write romance.

Or erotica.

Or you are a woman who has an itching to write thrillers or horror.

Let's say you've written multiple fantasy novels and now wants to branch out into horror or thriller novels.

Your name could be boring.

Or simple.

Or too generic.

Or too difficult to spell or pronounce.

You don't want your readers confused when you suddenly write in another genre.

You've written nonfiction, have even won awards for your work, and now want to write genre fiction (i.e. John Sandford).

Or you could do the old Stephen King/Richard Bachman experiment where you're convinced that people buy your books solely due to your name and not on the quality of writing.

All of these, and countless more, are reasons for you to write under a pseudonym.  The choice is yours.  If you do, you're in the company of grand writers such as Mark Twain.

What are some other reasons you could think of to write under a pseydonym?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Happenings In The Outhouse 23-Nov-2012/ Working through Thanksgiving

For those living in the United States, yesterday was the Thanksgiving holiday.  Did that mean I didn't get any writing done?  Perish the thought--in fact, this week, I'm currently putting three short stories that I wrote before, roughly a year ago, from my notebook to the computer.

Yes, I wrote them long-hand.  Handwritten, even.  It's still a viable form of writing, if one does not have a computer or iPad or other electronic device to write on--or you find writing on a tablet tedious, like yours truly.

I'm also doing the literary agent search.  I've narrowed the list down some, and I'll start tackling it within the next few weeks.  I still want to research the ones I've identified, search for them on Facebook or Twitter or even on their own blogs, to see if they'd be a good fit.

This week I also got a stroke of luck.  Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson and successful author, blogger, and podcaster, answered one of my questions on this week's podcast, which was an open-question session.  I asked him about whether or not his latest book Platform had any chapters regarding fiction writing and I also asked him on whether or not fiction writers needed for an online presence.  It was interesting to hear his answer, which can be shortened up with a simple: "Yes."

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pseudonyms - the great debate

"Why can't I have a great name like John Grisham or J. K. Rowling?  Oh, hell, a name like Joe Montana or Tiger Woods or Clint Eastwood has got to be the key to success!"

I'm not quoting any such individual with this statement, but I've heard it plenty of times: if only I had a great name, I'd be successful.


Or, you may have heard the story about the writer who writes in one genre and when it comes time for him/her to publish in another genre, the publisher asks them for a pseudonym--AKA a pen name.

Next week, I'll debate the pros and cons to pseudonyms.  At one time, I even had a pseudonym that I wrote under, and an agent called it "contrived."  After much internal debate, I decided to just write under my own name, with middle initials included.

Need an example of someone who writes in multiple genres under his own name?  Check out Dan Simmons.  He writes in fantasy, non-fiction, noir crime, science fiction, horror, etc.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Free reading material

I have two new links of FREE reading material.

First are the opening five chapters to my thriller novel BEHOLDER'S EYE

Second is a short story titled "Salute."  This short story was submitted this last summer to a local contest--local, meaning somewhere within the northwestern Minnesota.  I didn't win, which I was fine with.  All I wanted was to try.  Anyway, I cleaned it up a little more and have decided to put it out here on my blog.


Down to the home stretch - how are your goals for 2012?

For 2012, I had a total of 11 separate goals.  And of those goals, I've accomplished a solid 5 so far.

What are they?  Sorry, my goals are something I keep to myself, although you may guess one of them: finish editing Beholder's Eye.  Yes, I can mark that one off the list.  To publish it was another one.  Even though I didn't accomplish that one doesn't mean I'm a failure.  On the contrary, I've accomplished much.

Now with the holiday season looming ahead and the rest of the head coming at us like a freight train, how are your 2012 goals shaping up?  Don't kick yourself for not getting to all of them.  In fact, if you did accomplish them, you either didn't have as many goals as you should have or your goals weren't audacious enough.

Think big for 2013.

What if one of your goals is to publish your novel and all you did was write the first draft and get to a second editing round?  I think that's a huge accomplishment even for tackling such a goal.

Dust off your list of 2012 goals.  Let's take these last one and a half months and work to achieve something.  You can do it.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Happenings In The Outhouse 16-Nov-2012 / Agent searching

The literary agent search is on.  I've been going through my new 2013 Guide to Literary Agents, which I picked up for my Kindle, and I have to say this first off: having the Kindle version is so much easier than what I used to do with the physical copy.  I've scoured through the listings and have highlighted/bookmarked the ones who represent the thriller fiction genre.

My first plan with the agent search is to narrow the list down to roughly 10 solid ones who also appeal to new writers or ones that somehow connected with me in their listing.  I'm following a number of them on Twitter and Facebook.

What else is going on?  For Beholder's Eye, I have the first five chapters available for your viewing pleasure on this site.  Just go along the side and you'll see a link for it.

I have a few short stories I'm going to work on as well, and those will be up for viewing shortly.

For those doing NaNoWriMo, congratulations for even entering the frey.  November is roughly half-way done.  You can do it.  Believe in yourself that it can be done.  Don't give excuses for why it can't be done.  Give yourself permission to dream and to accomplish something.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Arm yourself against criticism

I thought I was ready.  But it turns out I wasn't.  What am I talking about?  Handling criticism.

It's funny too because a few weeks ago Joel Osteen covered this very same topic on one of his broadcasts.  Joel talked about handling criticism like slicking yourself up with oil and letting the negativity slide right off.

This past week at my full-time job, we had to come up with a clever team name to go along with a contest one of our vendors was planning.  I wracked my brain to come up with something clever yet creative.  Oddly enough, I couldn't think of something--I only had a few hours to do this, so it's possible the pressure of coming up with something at the last minute may have got to me.  Anyway, I asked some of my colleagues for ideas.  They had a few, but the ones they came up with were inappropriate.  So, I used one of the other suggestions tossed around by one.  They meant it as a joke.  I did not.

I ran with that particular team name.

Afterwards, I heard some awful grumbling amongst them, and one even called it "Gay."  Note: the name was not in any way associated with homosexuality and the comment was simply derogatory.  I was very upset.  I let it get under my skin.

Instead, I should've taken Joel's advice and let the comments slide right off.  In the end, that's what I did.  I didn't care what comments were said and even used the team name to "rally the troops" even more boldly to the cause.

The more successful one becomes, the more criticism you'll be asked to handle.  Take a look at the latest election and not wonder how either candidate can handle about half of the country not believing or rallying to your own message.

Get a tough skin for criticism early on.  You're gonna need it.

Monday, November 12, 2012

What I Listen To - Reading And Writing Podcast

Early on in my pursuit to find as many fiction writing podcasts as I could fit on my MP3 player (no iPod or other Apple toy for this boy . . . yet), one podcast that always seemed to be within others' top 5 is the Reading and Writing Podcast, hosted by Jeff Rutherford.  And I rightfully agree!

Jeff currently has 89 episodes, and in the beginning has interviewed many thriller writers but has branched out to interview fantasy authors like Peter Orullian and Kevin J. Anderson, and screenwriter Nick Santora.  As well as several others.

Jeff has interviewed many of the greats in fiction writing, from:

Lee Child

Saladin Ahmed

Tobias Buckell

Kevin J. Anderson

Christopher Farnsworth

Jonathan Maberry

Jeff's interviews typically delve into how the author got published, what they're currently reading, and even what their writing style entails.  They may be short but they're definitely not short on information regarding these authors.

Be sure to include the Reading and Writing Podcast into your recommended listening podcasts.  You will not be disappointed--there's a reason it's on so many top 5 lists!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Happenings In The Outhouse 09-Nov-2012 / Novel Complete!

Chapters 58-61 of Beholder's Eye are DONE!

The afterward, even, is also complete!

Does that mean my work is done, and that I can sit and be lazy?  Not on your life.  I've only just begun--hmm, sounds like the lyrics to a 70's song.

What's next for me is to work on chapter 1, to make sure it's polished to perfection, and then . . . well, I have a list of projects I want to do and I just have to sit down and decide what I want to do next.  A top project is the literary agent search--yes, I've decided to take that route vs. the self-publishing route.

For those of you out there doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), keep going.  Life is a marathon.  Don't be discouraged if you're not hitting your daily goals.  Even if you don't do it this year, keep writing and by the time NaNoWriMo comes next year, you'll be ready.  If you are hitting your goals, congratulations!  A job well done for all.

A few weeks ago, I let everyone know I had two new blogs added to my arsenal.  As I believed they were redundant, as they'd be stumbling over the same subject matter, I changed the Minneapolis VCU blog to:

Gillsley, MN - a fictional town I created with a few of my first novels, and a town where I will return to shortly.

The other one is the Twin Cities Crime Blogger where all material on that series will reside.

Nothing is really posted yet on these sites, but in due time they will.  Please be patient with me.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Election is Over. Get On With Your Life.

Last night was the 2012 Presidental election here in the United States.

Did your candidate win?

Chances are, somebody's candidate did, whether it be Obama for another four years or Romney for a first term.

Now that this is done, I must say this: get on with your life.

I've tried hard to keep the political discussions on this blog to a minimum as well as neutral--I'm a middle-of-the-road guy, a I-vote-for-the-person-not-the-party person, even though I do lean towards one side--I'm just not sharing which side.

This blog is geared towards writing and the business of writing, so that's what I'm going to continue to do.  I want to share my experiences and knowledge about writing, in the hopes that it'll help someone else get them closer to their own publishing success.

As I've said before, your life's success has very little to do with who is sitting in the White House.  If your candidate won, get over it.  If they lost, get over it.

Your life is waiting.  Create the future you were meant to have.  Do it now.  What are you waiting for?

Monday, November 5, 2012

When Should I Start Planning For Next Year?

If you've already asked yourself this question, you're a step ahead of most other people.

I'd say it's okay to start planning now for the next year.  These goals to accomplish don't have to be written in stone, but it's a good idea to start brainstorming some ideas.  There are about seven areas in your life where, in order to have a more fullfilling life, these accomplishments should be under.  They are:








Start brainstorming ideas on what you'd like to accomplish.  Even if you feel it's a huge goal that you'll never be able to finish, write it down anyway.  When you get closer to the next year, choose which goals you'd like to accomplish.

And don't be afraid to think big.  Because it's the big things that make a difference in this world.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Happenings In The Outhouse 02-Nov-2012 / Solar Flares?

Last weekend, my wife told me I should write a blog post about solar flares.

"But that's not what my blog is about, solar flares and such," I said to her.  "I write about . . . well, writing."

"I know.  But you should though."

Okay, here it is:

Yes, I know that's the Wikipedia link, but that's the best I can come up with.  Solar flares seem to have an aura surrounding themselves, and have even been linked to the end of the world in December 2012.  They do cause some interference, as they blast out huge amounts of energy at once.  Here's a video too, which can explain some of the solar flare phenomenon.

Now, on to Beholder's Eye.

By early next week, this book will be done with its final edit.  Chapters 58-61 are nearing completion, as well as the Afterward.  I've made tremendous progress, and on next week's Happenings In The Outhouse, I'm confident I'll scream, "I'm done!"

But not quite.

I recently read an article in the Writer's Digest's "Guide to Literary Agents" blog which touched on the importance of first chapters--or, rather, the first chapter.  The article is titled "7 Reasons Agents Stop Reading Your First Chapter"   Needless to say, I'm going to scan through the first chapter again to see how it holds up.  At a quick glance, it's fairly good.

I just want to make it better.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Who Is Your Favorite Horror Film Villian?

In honor of Halloween, I decided to take a little break from our normal talk and ask you who your favorite horror film villian is.  I'm sure I could stretch this on to include dozens upon dozens of baddies, but here are some of my favorite picks.

Keep in mind, I grew up in the late 70's and 80's, so mine may be different from yours.  If I grew up in the 50's, I might have Dracula, Wolfman, or the Mummy.

Which ones would you add to this list--an ever-growing list, mind you?

Personal favorite, of course, is Freddy Krueger.  This would be the Robert Englund version.  I haven't seen the new one yet.

A slasher favorite: Jason Voorhees of Friday the 13th.  I believe my all-time favorite is the very first movie, where Jason came out of the lake as a little boy in the end--sorry for the spoiler, but heck the movie came out like 30+ years ago!

Of course, Mike Myers of the Halloween movies.

Leatherface--inspired by the gruesome tales of a real life villian: Ed Gein

If you're talking about horror movies, you can't go without mentioning something by Stephen King.  Here is Pennywise from "It"

Pinhead from Clive Barker's Hellraiser.  The true master of baddie dialogue (I don't mean bad dialogue; I mean some fantastic prose that came across his lips).

You thought I forgot about the little evil doll called Chuckie, didn't you?

And, last but certainly far from the least, is the little boy named . . .


Who are some of your favorites?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Are You Better Off 4 Years Ago?

This is a question thrown around when people are asked to gauge who to vote for in this year’s Presidential Race. If they say yes, then they’re supposed to vote for Obama. If not, then the vote goes for Romney.

How stupid!

Your life runs its course despite of whoever is in office. The only one to control your life is . . . YOU! You are in control of your life. If you’re not better off, then you’re the one mostly at fault. And it’s about time you do something about it.

Is my life better off 4 years ago (or 8 or 12 or 20) than today? Of course not. But NONE of it has to do with who is sitting in the White House. Even last year when my wife was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia and spent the bulk of the year down at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN—in raising three kids, it was a lot like being a single parent, I might add—our life is still much better off. In fact, most of 2011 was pretty much crap for us, but there were lessons to be learned--and learned we did!  Our family is closer. Our debt load has lessened (but not completely, hence the "Please Donate" button along the top of the blog). Our knowledge has increased. Our careers are better. Spiritually we’re better. We are much farther along . . . and, once again, it has nothing to do with the person who holds the title of President of the United States.

My life is all up to me.

So when you’re asked this ridiculous question of whether your life is better off four years ago when compared to today, look to yourself instead of to the President. Now, I understand if you’ve had something bad happen that was beyond your control—Hello! Wife! Leukemia!—and I sympathize . . . but the lesson to be learned from it is how can you turn it around into something positive. Remember the Enron scandal? Many people lost their job and 401(K) fortunes because of it, and it was largely beyond their control—although, it was stupid to hold all of your retirement money in one fund or stock, but that’s a topic for another day. But I've heard several stories of people who started their own business afterwards and are earning more money than when they were at Enron.

Your life is up to one person: you.

What are you doing to make your life better in the next four years?

Or the next twenty?

Or forty?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Through The Outhouse Window Video Blog - Episode #6

Welcome to the 6th episode of my video blog: Through The Outhouse Window.

In this episode, I speak to the spouses and/or the significant others of the artist.  What makes them tick?  How can you handle them?

I even given an example from Stephen King's life.

Happenings In The Outhouse 26-Oct-2012 / Two new blogs and a Preacher

This week I've been working diligently on the final four chapters of Beholder's Eye.  That would be chapters 58-61.  There is also an Afterword, as I've previously said, but of the story itself, there are only four left.

Definitely the home stretch.  And it feels great!

Speaking of Beholder's Eye, I started two new blogs earlier this week, dedicated to this thriller and upcoming novels in the series.  They are:

Twin Cities Crime Blogger - a fictional blog based on one of the characters in the novel, Dexter Grant, who at one point was considered a suspect in the serial killings.

Minneapolis VCU - a fictional blog charting the progress of the two main characters, Kolin Raynes and Simon Templeton, who are investigators of the Minneapolis PD's Violent Crime Unit (VCU). **Note: as of November 4th, 2012, this blog has been changed - please see the blog post dated 09-Nov-2012 for the updated link**

As I chart my increased progress these last few months, I attribute it to a few factors: first, I am nearing the end, which pushes me to go on with more intensity--it's amazing when I can see the finish line, the more focused and determined I become; second, I have been getting up a bit earlier (around 5am), as I've discovered that working in the mornings have been more productive than at night.  I attribute this to a guy named Eric Thomas AKA the Hip Hop Preacher.  He has an inspirational story he tells about a guy who wants to be successful and asks a guru for the secret--a secret that can be boiled down into this one phrase:

"When you want to succeed as bad as
you want to breathe, then you will be
I subscribe to ET's YouTube videos and also have his app on my Android phone.  This week he posted a video regarding procrastination and driving yourself to finish what you said you were going to finish.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What Lens Are You Looking Through?

Are you a solid Republican?

Or a staunch Democrat?

Are your beliefs rooted deeply within these two camps, albeit camps that seem to blend at times, and you will fight anyone who tells you differently?

Perhaps you're a Libertarian?

A Green supporter?

A Tea Party activist?

A middle of the road Independent?

And the list goes on and on . . .

(I'm still waiting for the Zombie or Vampire Party, but that's a discussion for another day--please no Sparkling Vampire Party!)

Is the political lens you look through blinding you from looking at other candidates in a more "let's at least hear this guy/gal out"?

Is your candidate so above doing anything wrong, that no matter what they say or do, you forgive them?

Imagine your candidate killing someone close to you--would you hold them as accountable as if it was the other candidate?

Here's a question I would love answered, in an honest way: would the media and liberals out there have treated Sarah Palin the same way if she were a Democrat?

Or, here's one for the other side: would the right-wing have treated Hillary Clinton the same way if she were a Republican?

How are you looking through your political lens?  What value system are you using?

Monday, October 22, 2012

My One And Only Chance . . . Over And Over Again

Let me be honest right upfront: I do not avidly watch any reality shows or reality-competition shows on TV—what the heck, I’m usually writing! The key word, of course, is avidly. I have watched these shows from time to time, simply for the inspiration of someone taking a shot at stardom—this is more for shows like American Idol or The Voice, or even Donald Trump’s The Apprentice, than The Kardashian’s or Jersey Shore. These latter shows I do not watch. At all.
What’s disheartening when I watch these competitions—you may argue that these are staged, and I won’t argue one way or the other on that—is when you get some young person (it’s usually a young person, in their teens or early 20’s) and they say, “This is my one and only shot to become famous!” What total crap! Thomas Edison failed over 1,000 times before he found the correct formula for the incandescent light bulb.
Very few people have a “one and only chance” at achieving their dreams--meaning, just one single opportunity and if it goes south, that's it. Those who have said this either failed the first time or didn’t even try at all.
What are you waiting for? Take a shot at achieving your dreams. And if you failed, try again.
And again.
And again.
Think Edison.

New Profile Pic?

As this blog is called "Views From The Outhouse" I've wanted to update my profile picture to include myself in . . . well, an outhouse.

I put out a local shout-out for anyone with an outhouse, but no one had one.  My ideal one would be the type with the quarter-moon in it.

My parents, on the other hand, came up with a temporary solution--they own a small cabin in the woods, which they bought about two years ago, and it indeed has an outhouse on the property.  Until I find my outhouse with the quarter-moon, I took these two pictures of the outhouse--without me, for now.  If you could be so kind as to comment below or e-mail me at on which profile works better in your opinion.

I have already updated the profile pic to include the one with the open door, but I don't want that to sway your opinion.

The top one (closed door) hasn't been cropped yet, so I'd do that before I post it on the profile if that's the one that seems to work out best.

Thanks, everyone, for your help.  It is greatly appreciated.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Through The Outhouse Window Video Blog - Episode #5

This is episode #5 of my video blog "Through The Outhouse Window"

Here I talk about the three elements of business--R&D, Manufacturing, and Sales--and how they relate to your writing business.  This one is inspired by Earl Nightingale.


Happenings In The Outhouse 19-Oct-2012 / On the homestretch

Yesterday morning, I finished editing chapters 55-57 of Beholder's Eye . . . and I am now down to the final four chapters--58 through 61.  I do have an Afterword, as well, but the last four chapters are now being worked on as we speak.


I know I said before that I'm going to participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and I've also said that I'll probably still be working on Beholder's Eye in November, which is when NaNoWriMo is.  During these last few months, I've been saying that I'll be doing NaNoWriMo in a later month, like December or January.

That is still the case, even though I'll probably be done with the thriller Beholder's Eye by the time November rolls around.

I will participate in NaNoWriMo in January--and at that time I'll give daily reports on my progress.  I have a story in mind for it, so it'll be interesting to see that story take shape over the course of January 2013.

With me gearing down on the editing of Beholder's Eye I've also been giving thought as to what I'll work on next.  I have 4-5 projects coming down the pipe (one I am already working on, which is the weekly video blog Through The Outhouse Window), so I'll keep you informed as to my progress.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Are You Happy Where You're At?

Today, right now, are you happy where you're at?

This is not a political statement--I try steer clear of most political discussions nowadays, because all they seem to do is make my blood boil at how narrow-minded some people are--but a statement on your life.

Most would say no.  Life could be better.

Look back five years, ten years.  Is your life better now than back then?

If not, take in these two words: CHANGE IT!

What's stopping you?  Nothing . . . except you.

Money shouldn't stop you.  If it's a business you want to start, most need very little capital.  How much does my writing cost?  Virtually nothing.

In today's age, information is available is such quantity--in varying degrees of quality--that one just doesn't have an excuse anymore about changing their life.

Take a blank piece of paper and brainstorm ideas.  Don't throw up roadblocks and tell yourself why something can't be done.  Just get the ideas out there.  If you're more of a talker, use a recording app on your smartphone and throw out ideas.

Do that every single day for a week, and at the end of the week compile all of the ideas.  You're bound to have something in there you want to do.  If not, brainstorm some more.

Do it today.  Not tomorrow.  You can do it.

Your life, and the world, depends on it.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Good and the Bad on Having a Strong Focus Strength

Over the past few weeks, I've talked about strengths.  Authors Tom Rath and Barry Conchie put together a book called Strengths Based Leadership, which is about finding your strength and using it to maximize your skills. Through their research, they have an online tool called Strengthsfinder which is a series of questions one answers to find out what those strengths are, and have categorized them into 34 separate themes.

My first two are futuristic and ideation--these I talked about briefly before.

My third strength is Focus.

This has been both a blessing and a curse for me.  Tied up with also having a strong futuristic talent, I have a tendency to focus too hard on the future and my goals, and when some day-to-day disruption rears its ugly head I may dig my heels in resist--this has both good and bad repercussions.  If, in the larger scope of events, it's for the better, then I have to adjust my focus temporarily.

A real life example of this would be a month of so ago my youngest daughter got Diabetic Ketoacidosis (she was six years old, and has been a type 1 diabetic for the past few years), which required an immediate trip to the hospital in Grand Forks, ND, and also an overnight stay for treatment and observation.  Now, I didn't dig my heels and prevent us from seeking treatment.  But the loss of time caused me to re-plan what I was going to write--not a big deal, as my daughter's health is MUCH MORE important.

Haivng a strong focus helps at work, at my day job, because what am I usually doing during breaks and lunches: writing.  I work on my novel in a large cafeteria, at a table by myself, surrounded by a few hundred people.  One can easily get distracted, but I typically don't.  I just focus hard on the pages and tune everything else out.

Is this something you're strong at or can be able to do, to focus?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Through The Outhouse Window Video Blog - Episode #4

Welcome to the 4th episode of my video blog: "Through The Outhouse Window."

I talk about the "Perpetual Bell Curve of Publishing" I had previously published on my blog and I give it a more visual feel.


Where do you get stuck on in this process?

Happenings In The Outhouse 12-Oct-2012 / Nearing the finish line

Early this week I completed chapters 52-54 in Beholder's Eye.  It's coming along great, and I'm excited to see some of the minor changes I've made to the book along the way make their way to the end.  Now, it's on to chapters 55-57.  What's left you may ask: 7 chapters and an afterword--so, in other words, 8 chapters total.

The afterword is called "Views From The Outhouse" (I started putting these at the end of all my books, in much the same way Stephen King does in his books) and I talk about the finer details of coming up with the story idea and some of the other developments that went into the story's creation.

For an added bonus today, I'm sharing this funny video by Parnell Hall--thanks to Michael Hyatt for sharing this on his site:

There's a marketing lesson in this somewhere . . .
What would you do if this were you?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Who Is Your Perfect Candidate?

Imagine, for a minute, the perfect candidate, whether it be for President or Congress or even your local government.

Got a picture of him or her set in your mind?  Good.

This candidate thinks like you do, supports what you do, and votes the way you want.  They start programs you want, is on your side of the issues, and even if they make a few blunders, you shrug your shoulders and dismiss it.

Still have a picture of your perfect candiate?  It may or may not be one of these guys, but for tonight let's just take this race.

Still have the perfect candidate visualized in your mind, saying the perfect phrases you agree with and supporting your values?


Now . . . imagine that candiate switches political parties.

He or she still says the same things as before, but you have now colored them in a different light.  The light of the Other Side.

Do you still support them?  Are they still your perfect candiate?

How much of what your perfect candidate does has to do with what political party they stand in?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Finishing what you started

Last week was our tri-weekly writers' group meeting.  Evelyn and myself were the only attendants.  After sharing our works, we discussed blogs.  Evelyn is creating one, however is having troubles coming up with a name.  Ironically, her name is taken as a blog name . . . even though the person who took it hasn't done anything in years.

She writes a weekly column for the local newspaper, so I suggested using the name of her column as the title.  No go there either.  Taken.  So is a slight variation.  It's very irritating.

Earlier this year, I was toying around with starting another blog for a project I was working on.  I had a devil of a time finding a name that wasn't taken.

Then, for laughs, I tried some of my favorite authors and movies, to see if anyone had taken them.  Sure enough, all were taken.  But was anything done with them?


Why, oh why, would one ever start a blog, taking a great name, and not do anything with it?  Does it surprise me?  Not in the least.  It seems like I meet and hear about tons of people who either have ideas for books or projects or businesses . . . only to do nothing with those ideas.  If you do start and continue at it, you are in an elite club--you are a finisher.  Or, at least, you're using the vehicle in which you created for yourself.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Putting the creation of ideas to work

A few weeks ago, I touched on the book Strengths Based Leadership, written by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie, which is about finding your top strengths and using it as a guide to maximize your skills. Through their online tool called Strengthsfinder I came up with my list of top five strengths.  Last week I shared my top strength: futuristic.

My second top strength is called ideation.

In other words, the creation of ideas--this one did not shock me either, when I read the test results.

I've always been a dreamer.  Even as far back as elementary school, I've always dreamed of becoming wildly famous--whether it be as a rock star or as a number-one bestselling author.  Ideas were always something that came to me, except during times when I was put on the spot (call it the introvert in me).  Most of the time I either dismissed the idea as being stupid or it was odd that I knew it wouldn't work.  As time wore on, I took to writing down the better ideas.

This strength of ideation--creation of ideas--can be a burden too, I've noticed, because sometime I get so caught up in the idea that I think it's wonderful . . . at first.  Then, there are times when ideas can come to me and I have no way of writing them down.  This last one happened just yesterday, in church, while listening to our pastor's sermon.  An idea came to me--POW!  Yes, it was partially inspired by the sermon, so there will be a religous slant to the story.

But during the sermon, as well as the rest of the service, the idea for the story tumbled around and around in my mind--I came up with three or four different titles, one of which I temporarily settled on as being the best--and here's the worst part: I had no way of writing it down!  I did have my Droid smartphone in my pocket (set in silent mode) but I didn't want to look like an ass while I pulled it out and started typing away.  Once I was at home, the first thing I did was grab a piece of paper and took as many notes as possible.

The strength of ideas has also helped me in shaping what I'll be doing in the future--linking the first two strengths of futuristic and ideation.  I'm currently nearing the end of editing a thriller, and already I'm forming in my mind what I'll be working on next.  I have four major projects (most can work well with the others) planned once it's completed, which I'm hoping will be by around Halloween.

Do ideas come easily to you?

In what way do you cope with this, and if you feel it's a strength of yours, what are you doing to enhance this strength?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Through The Outhouse Window Video Blog - Episode #3

Welcome to episode #3 of my video blog - Through The Outhouse Window.
"Should I Play It Safe?"


Happenings In The Outhouse 05-Oct-2012 / Setback averted

I have deeply immersed myself into chapters 52-54 of Beholder's Eye, and the editing process is coming along nicely.

I had a scare last Friday night.  My computer--the one I am writing in--got a virus.  A nasty one.  It was called the FBI Virus.  I just came down to my office, and was going to do some quick research on the internet, when the screen seemed to freeze up and this showed up:

Needless to say, I thought this was real.  Then, I thought, "Why would this happen?  I'm not doing anything illegal?"

I immediately shut down the internet, which stopped the virus from continuing to do any damage, and while using the browser on my phone, I found the solution--which anyone can find by searching for FBI Virus Warning in Google.  I downloaded some Malware software on Saturday, and within an hour I was back up and running.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Looking to the future

Last week I mentioned that I had previously read Tom Rath and Barry Conchie's book Strengths Based Leadership, and in using their online tool called Strengthsfinder I discovered what my top five strengths were--out of 34.

My top strength is futuristic, which, from anyone who knows me, this does not come as a shock.  It didn't shock me either.  I'm always dreaming towards the future, planning and envisioning the best way possible.

Knowing this as a strength of mine as allowed me to focus (another strength, but that's for another day) on what lies ahead instead of just looking to the present.  This has even allowed me to contemplate what pitfalls I may encounter, anticipating them, and then figuring out a way around them.

How have I used it lately?

For example, if you're readers of this blog, you know I'm in the final chapters of editing a thriller novel.  What do I have planned once it's done?  PLENTY!  There are projects that I've started putting together, waiting for the day when the thriller is done, and I can start on them.  I also ask myself what the next step is in the process of getting the thriller to publication.  I always seem to be a few steps ahead.

Does this sound like you?  If so, you may have a strength of futuristic.  If not, that's okay.  You have other strengths.  I encourage you to take the Strengthsfinder test and discover what you are good at, and pour much of your energy in those areas.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Why Didn't I Think Of That?

We've all thought this at one time.  You're reading an article or watching the TV or just plain walking along the sidewalk and you see something new, and the first thing you think of is: "Why didn't I think of that?"

We're all bombarded with ideas on a daily basis.  Most of the time we're not conscious of it, but all of a sudden you read something and then tie it in to something you might've briefly thought of days or weeks or even months ago.  POW!  Your idea is born.

Most people, however, are resistent to ideas.  Or, they may get ideas but don't do anything with them.  I talked about this before in my blog post titled "The Engine Analogy" where I say that ideas without action is like an engine without fuel.  Ideas fall on all of us like rain.  And, like rain, many of those people have umbrellas to ward off the ideas--they do this and don't even know it, or if they do, they do so by making excuses for why the idea won't work.

What I challenge you to do is this: when you come up with ideas, write them down.  Even if you think they're stupid or won't work.  It doesn't matter.  These could be inventions or story ideas or even simply ideas on how to better do your work/business.  After a while, you'll become atuned to recieving ideas that it looks a lot like an upside-down umbrella, where you are collecting the ideas.

Write down as many ideas in the next 30 days.

Then, at the end of those 30 days, look over your list.  Instead of asking yourself how these can't be done, ask yourself how they can.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Through The Outhouse Window Video Blog - Episode #2

This is episode #2 of my video blog, where I talk about marketing and writers.

Happenings In The Outhouse 28-Sept-2012 / Agent or self-publish?

I have been a writing banshee.  Even with falling ill on Monday, I still managed to . . . drum roll please . . . finish chapters 48-51 of Beholder's Eye!

Thank you, thank you very much!

Okay, I am definitely on the home stretch in this thriller, and have even starting perusing the 2013 Guide To Literary Agents, which was just published--I got the Kindle version, thanks to an Amazon gift card I recieved for my birthday, and it's awesome!

That being said, I have decided to take the "look for an agent" route with this book.  I've been debating for a long time on whether to do the agent-thing or the self-publishing thing.  After gathering lots of information, I've decided to take this route.

At first.

However, that being said, if no agents decide to pick up on it, I'll self-publish it on the Kindle.

Two final notes: first, I noted a while back that I was starting to put together a podcast series.  I have not abandoned this.  I still very much want to do one.  I'm just focusing on finishing Beholder's Eye first.  Then, I'll start with putting the podcast together.  I've got the intro and ending completed, along with a little "commercial" for my ebook.  The only other "problem" I had was answered by Mur Lafferty (host of the highly-successful writing podcast called I Should Be Writing).  I was very honored she took the time to answer my e-mail.

The second note is NaNoWriMo.  I will be participating in NaNoWriMo, but it won't be in November when the rest of the universe will be doing it.  I may well finish the thriller before, but there's so much going on that month I will be putting it off until either December or January--haven't quite decided when yet.

Now, it's on to chapters 52-54.  Wish me luck!

Anyone else want to join me for NaNoWriMo in December or January?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How descriptions depend largely on your character's POV

I am currently reading Lee Child's A Wanted Man, and once again I am struck by the highly detailed level of descriptions found in this book--as well as the few other Jack Reacher novels I have read.  Then again, given what we know about the character Jack Reacher, being a former MP investigator, he would notice a lot of details because that's what he was trained to do.

Another book which shows a contrast in the level of descriptions is Jeffrey Deaver's The Bone Collector.  In the book, police officer Amelia Sachs has to assist a quadriplegic ex-forensic criminologist named Lincoln Rhyme in collecting evidence at a crime scene.  Amelia doesn't know what she's doing at first, and has to learn evidence collecting the hard way by Lincoln telling her through her headset.  The level of detail is also heavy.

Then again, it should be, given who the characters are.

If your main character is a former CIA agent, they'll probably know how many cars are out front of a cafe and exactly how many people are inside.  A guy, who is a male chauvinist, may always notice the shapely women in the room above anyone else.  If you have someone who is gay, they may notice certain things about a person of the same sex.

Let this run through your mind as you write your book, and hone this as you work on your edits.  You may not at first know what your character is like, but as you go through, you may discover what makes him/her tick, and can refine descriptions based on those discoveries.

Monday, September 24, 2012

My Strengths

What are you good at?  Where does your greatest strength lie?  Knowing this may better help you find where you should invest your time.

Think on this for a moment: your child comes home with a report card.  On it are one A, three B's, two C's, and a D.  What do you focus on?  If you're like any normal parent, you'll say the D.  But what subject was the A in?  Let's say it was Science and he got a D in music, the last thing you want to push them into is a career in music.  Or, let's say the D was in science.  I don't think your kid will be going to MIT or being a doctor.

And that's okay.  Each and every one of us has certain strengths.  Authors Tom Rath and Barry Conchie put together a book called Strengths Based Leadership, which is about finding your strength and using it to maximize your skills.  Through their research, they have an online tool called Strengthsfinder which is a series of questions one answers to find out what those strengths are, and have categorized them into 34 separate themes.  I took this test last year, and discovered I have the following strengths:

1) Futuristic

2) Ideation

3) Focus

4) Strategic

5) Achiever

Author, blogger, and former CEO of Thomas Nelson Michael Hyatt recently had a podcast featuring this very same subject.  I encourage everyone to also check it out--oddly enough, Michael and I share a few similar strengths.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing in-depth how these individual strengths work for me in order to maximize my skills in the best way.  Some of the results didn't surprise me, like futuristic and ideation, as I usually am full of ideas and always looking towards the future.

Have you taken the Strengthsfinder test?  What results have you seen since taking it?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Through The Outhouse Window Video Blog - Episode #1

Premiere episode of the "Through The Outhouse Window" Video Blog - Enjoy!

Happenings In The Outhouse 21-Sept-2012 / No NaNoWriMo for me

Having finished chapters 43-47 over the past weekend, I am not well on my way into chapters 48-51 of Beholder's Eye.

The story is coming down to the wire.  I have only fifteen chapters left.  But go back and count how many chapters I've tackled since the beginning of the summer.  It still may take me until November at least to complete this thriller novel.

Speaking of November, that is the month for NaNoWriMo.  Looking at the novel now, I probably won't participate in NaNoWriMo in the month of November.  Instead, I'm shooting for either December or January.

I know, I know, NaNoWriMo is supposed to take place in November.  You're right.  But because I'm focusing so much on Beholder's Eye, I don't want to stop it for a month-long hiatus and then waste a week or more building up steam to finish it.

Instead, I'm changing it for me.

And if anyone wants to join me, they're more than willing to do so.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I am an Introvert. Gotta problem with that?

I am currently reading Susan Cain's book Quiet: The Power of Introverts In a World That Can't Stop Talking.

I first discovered Susan from her fabulous TED talk:

Her book is packed with information on what makes introverts tick--as well as how one even defines introverts and how even in the realm of introverts there are vast differences.  First, in watching this, and then in reading her book, I knew I had some misconceptions on what introverts mean.

Now, I'm not going to say I'm an expert in this field, but I do have some first-hand knowledge from the battlefield.  I thought introverts just mean shy and extroverts just mean outgoing.  Wrong.  It's a lot more complex than that.

With that being said, I will gradually explore the notion of being an introvert.  Because I am one.  This very subject was also mentioned in a past podcast episode by Mur Lafferty's I Should Be Writing where she herself confessed to being an introvert.

It's not all bad.

Being an introvert and also having a creative nature can have its advantages.  But that is for another day.