Monday, December 30, 2013

Celebrate your wins

As 2013 winds down to the final hours, there are some--or maybe even several--goals you didn't accomplish.  Instead of beating yourself up, celebrate what you did accomplish.

I had a Twitter follower goal that I accomplished.

I had a blog post view count that I accomplished.

I self-published three books.

I paid off our van.

My "spiritual" goals were met.

I submitted a short story each quarter to the Writers of the Future contest.

As well as others.

What did you accomplish?  Celebrate those wins.  Look to the positive.  Let's say one of your goals was to write and complete your first book, and got 70,000 words written (and you figure another 15,000 should finish it).  Pat yourself on the back.  You got 70,000 words written that weren't written before.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 27-Dec-2013 / Guess where we've been this week?

We've been out of town all this week.  Can you guess where we are?

Yes, we've been at Disney World over the Christmas holiday.  Cheers!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Have you submitted to the Writers of the Future contest yet?

Every quarter there is a contest you should be submitting to--if you're not already a published author.

That's the Writers of the Future contest.

As we speak, you have a little over a week (December 31st) to get your next submission entered.  What in the world are you waiting for?

Here'a hint too: check out last year's edition: Volume 29 (hint: I gave it a 5-star review!)

So check out the contest rules and if you quality, consider submitting to the Writers of the Future contest.

Who knows, you just might win.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 20-Dec-2013 / Winding down

Not only am I winding down for the year, I (and my family and in-laws) are winding down for a little vacation over the Christmas holiday.

The past few weeks have been busy (aside from packing) with getting blog posts written and scheduled.  I don't like to miss my Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule, so I made sure I scheduled them ahead of time.

Where am I going?

You'll see.  Let's put it this way: I live in northwestern Minnesota, where we've already seen severe below zero temperatures, and we're going someplace where it's not only warm, snow is rare.  We're going someplace much, much warmer.

Think warm climate and . . . mouse ears.  Yes, it's Disney World.

I'm inching along with Shadowkill.  I have a lofty goal of self-publishing this book by Q1 2014, which means time is running out.  I'd also like to have the first draft of the second book in the Central Division Series complete too.  I have lofty goals for 2014 to begin with--and most are centered around publishing more.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"But what should I write?"

The chef wanders into his kitchen, scratching his head.

What in the world should I make?

He peruses the cupboards, the refrigerator, and even the freezer, looking for ideas on what to make for his next meal.  It doesn't matter if he's creating something for himself or maybe for his significant other or even a group of close friends.

Now, one would say that he should've prepared more, that he should've written down a list of meals to make.  Well, he did that.  Yet when it comes to actually cook something, the creative juices still need to flow.

Okay, maybe another trip to the market.  Then I will surely get more ideas.

He spots an ingredient here and there, and finally a meal starts to form in his mind.

The same goes with writers.  No matter how much planning we do (and lately I've been doing more and more, to be honest), there is still the act of sitting down and doing the work, creating the story.  You think about books you read or movies you saw, drawing on any ounce of inspiration where you can get it.

Writer's block is a real thing . . . if you let it.  I may experience a temporary writer's block, but I don't call it that.  I call it searching . . . firing the synapses in order to connect a few dots in my story.  I never call it writer's block.

If you need ideas on what to write--or even how to write it--look around.  Think of similar stories.  But in the end, write something.  You can always delete it using the digital eraser.  That's why it was invented.

Sometimes I think writers use the excuse of writer's block when in the end it's called laziness.  You'll never see a truck driver hop in his cab and say, "Damn, I can't inspire myself to drive today.  I guess I'll go back and take a nap."  He just gets in and drives.  Writers just need to write.

So do it.  Right now.

The world is waiting.

Monday, December 16, 2013

It's not too late to accomplish a 2013 goal

2013 is winding down.  How are your 2013 goals coming along?

Of course, if you're like the majority of us, you still have goals left.  No big deal.  Even successful people don't accomplish all of their 2013 goals list.  Because of they did, their list wasn't challenging enough/

Take that list down.  Look at it.  Is there one thing--just one--that you can bust through and accomplish?  I bet there is.

Maybe you're in the midst of a novel and you figure it won't be accomplished until January or February, but in reviewing your list there is something--maybe an entry into a contest--that you could do.

Do it.  Take a day or two and do it.

Cross that item off your list.

Then move on.

Please share what small goal you accomplished right at the end of 2013.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 13-Dec-2013 / Another 2013 goal accomplished

I counted up 18 separate goals for 2013.  I accomplished 13 of them.  Some goals were "pie in the sky" and due to time/money constraints they were not even touched.  Others weren't either--these I will keep with myself.

But I completed the 13th one a few days ago: I submitted to the Writers of the Future contest--it's a quarterly contest and I sent something off all four quarters.  I didn't place or even get past the first round on each one.  I don't mind.  It's the act of submitting that has made it worth while.  The competition is stiff, and I'm determined to continue.

Because one of two things will happen: I'll either win or I'll make myself ineligible because I'll sell too many books.

That's a good place to be.

For 2014, I have another 18 goals--different goals, for some of them, the same for the rest.  My emphasis will be on publishing more.

Which brings me to what I'm working on.  This week has been a little hectic.  I've been hammering away at Shadowkill, now into chapters 5-6 and beyond.  It's been a slow process so far, but if I still keep plugging away, it's gonna be done.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Make every minute count

Slice and dice your next 24 hours.  Or even your next 168.

Everyone has the same amount of time to accomplish what they need.  Rockets have been built, mountains have been climbed, diseases eradiated, great novels written, songs composed, paintings have been created . . . all within the same 168 hours in a week.

How are you spending yours?

My typical morning routine starts at 6:00am.  I get up, toss on some shorts and a shirt, and head downstairs where I write until 6:45am--by the time I get ready, I only have roughly 40 minutes or so, give or take.  Then, at 6:45 I get the kids up and ready for school.  If I'm lucky, they're out the door by 7:30am.  After that, it's back downstairs to write until roughly 8:30am.

All total, about an hour and a half of actual time allocated to writing.  I know this, and there's been times when I'm tempted to check out Facebook or Twitter or even Amazon to see what my book rankings are.

But those precious minutes wasted are minutes wasted not writing.

Be mindful of the little things that eat your time away.  Get them under control before they start controlling you . . . until you find yourself ten years older and still haven't accomlished your dreams.

What's your biggest time waster?  Please share and comment below.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Create sawdust

You open the door to the workshop.  The master woodworker is busy at his bench, sanding down the finishing touches on his latest creation.

"So, you want to become a master, do you?" he asks.

"Yes, sir."

"Any questions before we begin?"

You rub your hands together.  "Yes, sir.  What's the key to it all?  How can I become a master woodworker like yourself?  There must be one thing you can tell me."

"There is," he says.  "And it is simple."

"I knew it," you say, excited to finally hear the secret to the master woodworker's success.  "Please share, sir.  What is it?"

"Create sawdust," he says.

"What?!?  Create . . . sawdust?  What do you mean by that, sir?"

"In order to become a master," he says, "you need to put in the work . . . and create sawdust.  Lots of it."

What irritates me about a lot of Q & A sessions authors have with fans and/or wanna-be writers is that everyone thinks there's some magical key to success.  "How do I create scenes that resonate with my readers?"  "How can I increase the tension in my story?"  "How can I make my characters more believable?"  And on and on . . .

Writing advice can be broken down into six simple words: read a lot, write a lot.  That's it.  In other words, as with the master woodworker story above, you need to create sawdust.  What you write in the beginning isn't a masterpiece, so don't treat it as such.  Just write.  Write as if you're practicing for the big story.

Create sawdust.

Write.  A lot.

If you read a lot of stories, you'll know how good stories are put together--and you'll also recognize how bad writing is . . . well, bad.  But don't just study stories, you also need to write them.  I learned a lot about writing back in college when I wrote my first novel.  Some of it I didn't recognize until years later (yes, I thought it was a masterpiece at the time).

If you want to become a successful write, then write.  Create sawdust.  You can't reuse sawdust and make a bird house or tool chest or even a house.  It's throwaway wood.  But it doesn't matter.  Write anyway.

The world depends on it.  The world needs you.

So write.  Today.  Create the equivalent to sawdust.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 06-Dec-2013 / Gearing up for 2014

As 2013 is winding down, I'm planning for 2014.

I don't like rushing things along--I have to constantly be reminding my kids not to wish for time to move faster, that you need to savor each moment--because before you know it, the holiday season will be over and the new year will be upon us.

My two novel projects are inching along:

1) Shadowkill is still being edited in the opening five chapters

2) the sequel to Beholder's Eye has seen roughly 1500 words written this week, and is sitting around 6100 words total.

My goal is to publish both of these within the first quarter of 2014.  I'm not sure if the sequel will be done or not with editing, but it'll be close.

I have some bold goals for 2014.  Sorry, I will not share them here.  It doesn't matter what my list looks like when compared to yours.  Each of us is different.

But you need goals in order to know what you're aiming for.  Write them down.  Be specific.

Then do it.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

External character conflicts

Everyone in real life has conflicts. And your characters are no different. There are basically two types of conflicts: internal and external. Today we'll explore external conflicts.

External conflicts are, by and large, beyond the character's control.  A loved one gets cancer.  They lose their job.  Their house is set on fire.  The world is under attack by aliens.  A plane gets hijacked.  A salesperson goes on a sales call and gets rejected time and again.  They meet someone they're deeply attracted to.

Combining these external conflicts with internal conflicts makes for an interesting story.

In my thriller Beholder's Eye, the main character Kolin Raynes is an investigator for the Minneapolis PD.  He's new to the job--aside from his many years as a street cop--and finds himself in the midst of a serial killler.  One that is targeting him.  But for what reason, he doesn't know.  Then, his teenage daughter is kidnapped.

Talk about external conflicts!

Then, to top is all off, he witnesses an accident and finds himself temporarily disposed.  Lots of external conflict.

Conflict is what makes a story interesting.

To find out more, be sure to check out Beholder's Eye, the first thriller in the Central Division Series available on the Amazon Kindle store.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Internal character conflicts

Everyone in real life has conflicts.  And your characters are no different.  There are basically two types of conflicts: internal and external.  Today we'll explore internal conflicts.

Internal conflucts are defined as events or processes within the character that shape how they act.  They may be happy-go-lucky on the outside--what they show the world at large--while inside they're an alcoholic or a budding serial killer or a kleptomaniac.

Think of the people around you.  Whether or not they're reserved or outgoing, what's going on in that brain of theirs.  Maybe they're caring for a loved one who has terminal cancer, and the stress is causing them to take a few pills here and there.  Maybe they're in a high-paying, high-pressure job and they want nothing more than to sit out at their lake cabin and paint.

What's going on in their brain?

How do they handle stress?

In my thriller Beholder's Eye, the main character is an investigator for the Minneapolis PD.  He's good at his job, but he struggles with the job as a whole.  He wants nothing more than to be with his family, but the pressures of the job keep him away.  And the bigger the case, the more he's away.  His wife has a decent job, so it isn't because of the money.  Skills-wise, investigating crimes is what he's good at.  Wow, what a problem to have!  Many times we read thrillers where the cop is married to the job and has marital problems.  Kolin is the opposite: he wants to be with his family and puts his job far below on his list of priorities.

To find out more, be sure to check out Beholder's Eye, the first thriller in the Central Division Series available on the Amazon Kindle store.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 29-Nov-2013 / Being an outlining convert

Yes, you heard me correctly.  I am an outlining convert.

At least for now, and for what I'm doing.

This week I found myself struggling with writing the first draft of the sequel to Beholder's Eye as well as editing Shadowkill.  It wasn't an easy task.  I only have around 5000 words written on the new thriller novel so far.

Then, a thought occurred to me Wednesday: why not outline the novel.  At least try.  So I spent my work day and did it.  I felt good afterwards too, because now I have a game plan for the novel.  Now, all of you staunch outliners out there are sure to pat yourselves on the back--not so fast, sweetheart!  I do see the value in outlining.  But I do love the discovery part of writing as well.

In Shadowkill, I am around chapter 5 in the editing process--and a long ways to go.

But I'll get there.  Keep in mind, we had Thanksgiving this week and another trip to Mayo this past Monday thrown in mix.  And I still wrote.

Also, my mystery novelette Guest of Honor is free today.  If you haven't picked it up yet, please do so.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Silence is golden

Ever since we got hooked up with high-speed Wifi at our house, I've listeneed to podcasts.  There was quite a number of them I listened to.

Then, this past summer, I decided to take a break.  Silence is golden, they say.  Yes it is.

I have a roughly twenty-minute commute to and from work each workday.  I used to spend that time filling my head with various podcasts.  What I did was educate myself not only on the publishing industry and genre writing, but also in financial and career matters.

I chopped the number of podcasts I listen to by quite a number--sometimes, in any given week, I don't listen to any on my daily commutes.  Instead of turning on the radio and listening to Stairway to Heaven for the nine-hundredth time, I brainstorm.

The time I've brainstormed has been valuable.

Recently, I was listening to Mur Lafferty's I should be writing podcast (yes, that one made the cut) and she also said the same thing, that she took a little break from podcast listening--and she's a successful award-winning author as well.  I'm in good company.

I do still listen to podcasts from time to time, but the majority of the time it's just me and my dreams.

Have you tried taking a podcast/radio break on your daily commutes?  Try it and let me know what you think.  Please comment below.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Don't throw the trunk novel away - use it as an outline

I've been reviewing my list of goals for 2014, and one of them is to publish a lot more books.

Trunk novels are stories that authors write and they either don't feel are any good or need a lot of work.  So, they sit and wait--in the proverbial trunk, so to speak.

I have at least four completed novels that are my trunk novels.  Lately, I've been brainstorming how I can go about getting them ready for publication.  The earlier ones need a LOT of work . . . almost to the point where they just need to be rewritten.

Then it came to me: why don't I do that.  Rewrite them.  From scratch.

Using the already written novel as an outline.

So don't throw those trunk novels away.  If you feel they can be salvaged, use what you've written as an outline and rewrite it.

If you do try this, please comment below on your progress.  I'd love to see if this works out for others too.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 22-Nov-2013 / Yet another new cover

Once again, I have a new cover.  This time it is for my ebook novelette Guest of Honor.  Check it out:

Quite a bit better than before.  I didn't like the other one very much--although it was much better than what I could do.

I'm starting the two projects I spoke about previously: first, the sequel to Beholder's Eye in the Central Division Series called Straight Razor.  I've only just started it, and I'm excited for what I have planned so far; second, is the editing to Shadowkill.  I'm in the opening chapters for that one too.

I'm thinking positive that this can be done--working on two projects at once--so we'll see how long it takes befoe I concentrate on just one.  I have a feeling it may not be the case, for the editing can be done while I work at my full-time job (you'd be amazed what I can get done on my breaks and lunches) and the first drafts of Straight Razor can be done in the mornings and some evenings.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Don't forget the basics

Two weeks ago was our local writers group meeting.  There were three of us, and we had a blast.

One member of the group is just finishing up writing the first draft of her first novel--a fantasy/science fiction novel with a steampunk twist.  She has over 100K words so far and I told her I'd love to be a beta reader for it.

As our conversation rolled on, she asked me basic questions about publishing and agents.  These were things I've been dealing with for a while and honestly thought they were common knowledge.  I was wrong.  I've just been studying it for so long, to me it's common knowledge.  It's now up to me to help teach others.

No matter what endeavour you find youself in, keep in mind not to forget the basics.  Back in college, I studied Tae Kwon Do.  Eventually, I earned my 2nd Dan (that's 2nd degree black belt in layman's terms) and it always amazed me, no matter how complex the techniques or forms or combinations I had to do, you can always break them down into basic forms.

Bemidji Tae Kwon Do Master Spencer Brandt (who later became the late Grandmaster Spencer Brandt) always taught us: perfect practice makes perfect.  If you're going to practice something, don't do a sloppy job.  Do it right.  And continuously do it correctly so that it becames natural.

For writing, it's to know the basics.  To teach the pros and cons about finding an agent, querying them, and/or even taking the self-publishing route.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sometimes the best thing your story needs is time

The first novel I ever wrote, as I've said before, was a deer hunting horror story.  I love deer hunting, however over the years my time spent at this activity has dwindled.  A few years ago, I actually didn't even hunt at all--something I honestly thought would never happen, but hey life happens and I had to work, for the good of the family.

What has struck me as odd is that this story never had a brother or sister or even a distant cousin.  This horror story, centered around deer hunting, was the only story about hunting I could come up with.  At the time.  For years since then, I've wracked my brain, working hard to come up with more stories.  The ones I constructed weren't very good, with the exception of one or two minor stories--I believe those are still sitting in the mental trunk.

Over a week ago, on November 9th, I went out hunting with my fifteen-year-old son.

Not only did I come up with a detailed plan to rewrite my first horror story, I came up with another one as well as a mystery/suspense series.  Roughly a month ago, I also wrote a deer hunting short story--my next submission to the Writers of the Future contest.

Then I realized that all I needed to construct these stories was time.  Time and life experience.  It's not necessarily a bad thing to set something off to the side because you're not ready.  When Stephen King came up with the idea for 11/22/63, it was in the early 1970s and he knew he wasn't ready to tell a tale of that magnitude.

So he waited.

If you're having troubles with a story, set it off to the side and do something else.  Because time is not necessarily a bad thing.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 15-Nov-2013 / A strange thing happened while deer hunting

My first novel--a deer hunting horror story--was, by all conversative accounts, a 200,000 word novel.  I wrote it back in college, Bemidji State University, and I completed the first draft roughly nineteen years ago this month.

There were a lot of things wrong with this novel.  Most of which I didn't realize until several years later.  I still learned many lessons with that first novel, ones I still carry with me to this day.

As I sat in the deer stand this past Saturday--for Minnesotans, this time of year is practically a statewide pasttime for many of the forests and fields are littered with spots of blaze orange--I thought about this story.

Then I came up with a plan to rewrite it.  Completely.  From scratch.

The basic story is still good, but it was way too long.  I also had so many plotlines running through it, I failed to utilize the K.I.S.S. principle: Keep It Simple Stupid.  Now, this story may not even be written (over from scratch) in 2014 for I have tons of other projects in the works.  By all accounts, I'm probably looking at a 2015 date to work on this.

Sitting in the deer stand with my son, I also came up with a few other story ideas: a new mystery/suspense series, based on a character I wrote about in a short story in my novelette Guest of Honor, and another story that I'm calling Wild Hogs meets Duck Dynasty.  Right now that's all I'm going to say about that--about either one.

I've started editing Shadowkill.  I'm only on the fourth chapter at this point, out of an overall 50+, but things are going well so far.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Book review: A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish (4 out of 5 stars)

A month ago, I won a Goodreads contest where I recieved an ARC (advance reading copy) of David Dalglish's A Dance of Cloaks.  This is the first in his Shadowdance series.  It is a fantasy book, in much the same vein as George R. R. Martin, R. A. Salvatore, and Brandon Sanderson.  If you like fantasy books, Dalglish is a young writer you'll want to check out.

Here is my Goodreads review - I gave it 4 out of 5 stars:

I will try make this as spoiler free as possible.

First, the prologue was like something straight out of Game of Thrones.  I then wanted to know much more about the character Aaron Felhorn--and you got much, much more about him throughout the book.  His character growth was astonishing to read.

For those who love their fighting scenes to be blow-by-blow, much like R. A. Salvatore, then you will not be disappointed.  For me, these scenes wore on me.  At times, there also seemed to be too many point-of-view characters, and even those characters seemed to be thin.

This is the first of a trilogy, and even though I do give it a 4-star rating, Dalglish has produced a gritty world like one of Martin's Game of Thrones world or Sanderson's first Mistborn book.  The highlight of the book was the planning of the takeover of the Kensgold, a one-day event where the three kings of the Trifect meet to discuss trade agreements.

And the ending led me to want more of this story.  Well done, David Dalglish.

Here is a link to the Amazon Kindle store for A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Book review: Writers of the Future Volume 29 (5 out of 5 stars)

Ever wonder who the best new writers to watch for? Look no further than the Writers of the Future Volume 29..

I purchased this book because I wanted an idea as to what stories were accepted, as I too have been submitting to the quarterly Writers of the Future contest.

Like most anthologies or short story collections, not all stories connected with me. But, what few I didn't like someone else undoubtedly will, and the ones I liked outweighted the ones that didn't. Hence the 5-star rating.

Among some of my favorites were "Cop for a Day" by Chrome Oxide (love that pen name!), "War Hero" by Brian Trent, "Master Belladino's Mask" by Marina J. Lostetter, and the grand-prize winning "Twelve Seconds" by Tina Gower.

Aside from the wonderful stories, the illustrations were well-worth the price of admission.

Tucked within the book were also essays by Dave Wolverton, L. Ron Hubbard, and others. Hubbard's "The Manuscript Factory" was sheer brilliant, and Nnedi Okorafor's "The Sport of Writing" put a unique perspective on the craft of writing.

Link to the Amazon Kindle page: Writers of the Future Volume 29

Monday, November 11, 2013

Closing out 2013 / Thinking ahead to 2014

I had 18 distinct goals for 2013.  As of this sitting, I have completed 10 of them.  Not bad.  I'm very happy with where I'm at.  In reviewing some of my goals, a few I did not even continue to pursue--namely a novel I had written years ago and was going to edit for publication this year, however its writing needed A LOT of work, so I decided to put it on hold for now.

How is your list of goals for 2013 coming along?  Please feel free to add your comments below.

On to 2014, I have brainstormed quite a list I'd like to accomplish.  Now, in the upcoming weeks, I'll refine it and tack it up so I can see it.

One goal I didn't even come close to hitting is my exercise goal--actually, it's a weight goal I wanted to hit.  In speaking with my wife and sister-in-law recently, I have decided to join the local gym.  But not yet.  There's a small financial matter to settle first as my wife continues treatments down at the Mayo clinic quite often.

But that is a goal I will be pursuing in 2014.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 08-Nov-2013 / No NaNoWriMo for me

The month of November is NaNoWriMo.

"NaNo . . . what?  Rhino?"

No, silly.  NaNoWriMo - short for National Novel Writing Month.

"Oh, okay.  What's that?"

For the month of November, participants are committed to write 50,000 words of a new novel--this comes out to roughly 1,667 words a day.

Even though I'm in the process of editing a novel and writing the first draft of a new one, I'm still not participating.  Officially.  I do believe participting in NaNoWriMo is good for someone just starting out, who has never written a novel.  It's a good way to set a daily goal for yourself, to get in the habit of writing everyday.

Good luck to all NaNoWriMo'ers.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Amazon's new Kindle Countdown Deals - worth checking out

Recently, Amazon has announced a new feature on their Kindle store: Kindle Countdown Deals.

This allows Kindle-exclusive ebooks to be discounted for a limited time.

The following link provides an in-depth look into this new feature.  One of the high points of this program, I see, is that there is a special list that these books will appear.  Here's the link.  I'm going to try this out, and will let you know what I discover.

Some of the features are:

1) deals are time-based - hence, the name countdown.  Not only does the author have control over how much time is left, the readers see that time as well.

2) royalty rates are retained at the lower price - this is an incredible feature, for typically ebooks selling below $2.99 have a much lower royalty rate than those priced $2.99 or higher.

For those self-publishers out there, you might want to give this a try.

Here's the link explaining the new program.

Note: my thriller novel Beholder's Eye (Central Division Series Book 1) is currently on the Countdown program.  It is normally $2.99, so if you want to pick up the book for less, please click on this link to pick up the book on the Amazon Kindle store.

And here's a copy of the new cover.  Let me know what you think:

Monday, November 4, 2013

Eyeballs on your work

What all writers, new as well as seasoned, need are eyeballs on your work.  You need more and more people to read what you write, and to crave it, so that when you have something new come out, they can't wait to pick it up.

It's as simple as that.  It doesn't matter if you're Stephen King or a new writer who just started her first blog post, all of us writers need readers to read our work.

And the more people read your work, the more money you can make.  You may never get up to the level of success where instead of asking if you can afford the latest Lamborghini, you ask what color, but if you don't put yourself out there, you may never achieve your dreams.

Write something.

Send it out--whether it's on a free blog post or self-publishing on the Kindle or even submitting to a professional market.

Then write something else.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

The world depends on it.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 01-Nov-2013 / My 500th post!

This is my 500th blog post.  Hard to believe I've written so much on this blog, and even when I go back, I'm astonished at what I've written.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Writing a novel in a year - setting goals (this post was the fifth one I ever wrote, and it shows how one can take a task as daunting as writing a novel and complete it sooner than one thinks)

Use your favorite author as inspiration, not a boundary (this one sums up why it's unwise to say, "I want to be the next Stephen King" - because your goal is to be better than them, not to use their success as your boundary)

Simplicity (post regarding getting good at one thing, then branching out - i.e. Stephen King writes horror novels or John Grisham writes legal thrillers)

Writers Groups - the good, the bad, and . . . the weird (self-explanatory - about writing groups)

Shoot for the stars (where I introduced the "pie in the sky" goals)

There are a ton more, so for now these are a few highlighted ones.  I hope you've enjoyed it so far.  Now, onward to the next 500!

And beyond!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The between projects lull

Over the past two months, I've been on a publishing spree.  First, with the novel Beholder's Eye and then with the novella Gabriel's Hope.

Last week I finished a short story--one to be submitted to the Writers of the Future contest eventually.  Just need to edit it first.

I have two projects sitting in the wings (editing Shadowkill and writing the first draft of the sequel to Beholder's Eye) and . . . oh, let's be honest.  I'm having a difficult time getting started.  There is a lull in my writing.

Not quite sure where it comes from, but at least I recognize it's there.

Ever feel this way?  How do you cope?

I guess I have to follow my own advice: just write.  Do it.  Today.

The world depends on it.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Don't be afraid to make changes

One of the beauties of self-publishing is that, if you don't like something, you can always change it.  You don't needs meetings and permission from a publisher.  You are the publisher.

Recently, I changed the covers on a few of my books.  The first was a nonfiction wedding ebook I published in 2012.  The new cover looks like this:

I also re-did Guest of Honor with this one:

But I need to be completely honest--I don't like this one the best.  It's better than before, but I'll still be looking to change down the road a bit.

Try out various artists, to see which one resonates with you or not.  Just don't be afraid to change something.  That's what being a self-published author is all about.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 25-Oct-2013 / Quit being disgusted with success

I hate to even show this video, because lately it has invoked some "disgusted" views from various people online.  Here it is:

On my Friday "Happenings" posts, I typically give an update to my week, but I've been fired up by a number of the views on this video, I just had to get this off my chest.  For those people out there who feel all income should be distributed evenly, stop reading right now and head on out to the Huffington Post (oh, wait!  The Huffington Post is part of the 1% too!  Didn't realize that, did you?).

I completely understand people viewing this video as a sort of "us vs. them" mentality when it comes to earning money.  But instead of being disgusted by how much money the 1% earns, the question you should be asking yourself is this: how does one become part of the 1%?

Throughout my life, I've met with or heard about people who make a ton of money.  And the first question that pops up in mind is: "What do they do?"  Followed closely by: "How did they do it?"  I've always been fascinated by these people.

Those sitting on the side that all income should be distibuted evenly seem to be, in my opinion, jealous of other people's success and, therefore, don't want to face the fact they've lived a life of mediocrity.  What they may not realize is that the difference between the 1% and the 99% can be boiled down to hard work, sacrifice, and time.  That's it.  You may think luck has a huge part too, but I disagree.  When you work hard, sacrificing, for a long time, opportunities pop up that look like luck, when in reality you were just ready for success to come knocking at your door.

Here are examples of the 1%:

The pro football player who, instead of wasting hours upon hours of his time watching TV and playing video games, goes out and throws the football over and over and over again.

Or the pro hockey player who wakes up at 5am, just to go to the arena and shot pucks for hours.

Or the writer who, instead of joining in on the gossip over lunch, keeps writing his first novel.  And second.  And third.  And tenth.  He also skips watching TV at night, and continues writing, improving his craft.

Or the painter who dreams of what she can paint next, and doesn't waste a single minute of her day in creating a masterpiece.

Or the businessman who, fueled by a dream, gathers up a few of his friends and builds the next "big thing" in their buddy's garage.

Or the singer who goes to every open mike night she can and sings, improving each and every night, never giving up.

Or the band who plays in the dirtiest bars, living on practically nothing, but dreams of hitting it big time.

These are the 1%.  Or a part of them.  Are there sleazebags out there, who would screw his own mother out of her pension check just to add to their immense stockpile of cash?  Or the business person who wants nothing more than to gain more and more power, no matter what kind of laws are broken?  Of course.  There are generous, heartful people in the 1% as well as in the 99%.  I know scumbags who live in poverty too.

Instead of being jealous of the 1%, find ways of improving your own life to become a part of the higher income bracket.  Quit buying things on credit.  Stop spending more than you make.  You can have a house without a mortgage and a car without a loan and even be a student without the dreaded student loans.  Do you really need that new iPhone or the $400 pair of headphones?

Stop listening to the poltiicians and media who are dividing this country up more and more.

I'll get off my soap box now.  Go do something with your life.  Not tomorrow.  Today.  The world depends on it.

Besides, there's plenty of room for so many more of us in the 1%.  We just need to have a dream and work towards it.

To recap my week in writing, I finished writing a short story.  It's roughly 5500 words, and it will be this quarter's submission to Writers Of The Future.  Next on the plate is editing Shadowkill and writing the first draft of the sequel to Beholder's Eye.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sometimes attention is overrated

My Twitter strategy is simple: retweet.  A lot.  Sounds simple enough.  At this point, I'm edging close to 1000 followers.  I've made a lot of professional contacts through Twitter, some of whom have enormous platforms--like, we're talking, tens of thousands of followers.

(Oh, by the way, if you wish to follow me, my Twitter handle is @marksrpeterson)

On occasion, I get retweeted and a free little blurb is shot out to their group.  At this point, I rub my hands together and keep refreshing the magic Amazon ranking for my books.

Guess what happened?  Nothing.  No bump in sales.  Nothing.  Have I mentioned I sold nothing on those attempts?

Now, I loved the attention and they've responded back in kind.  Some people think they need just "that one break" and all of their money worries will be over.  Be still my heart.  It only happens after so much work is done ahead of time.

Because sometimes attention is overrated.  Oh, and these large Twitter accounts I mentioned.  If you looked at their history, they tweet something every 1-3 minutes.  All the time.  It's no wonder I got lost in a sea of tweets.

And so I keep plugging away . . .

One final note: my very first ebook 99 Ways To Have A Memorable Wedding On A Shoestring Budget just had a book cover makeover.  Here it is:

Much better than what I had before.  This one was professionally done.  Here is the Amazon Kindle site link to the ebook.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Have a story template for new stories

I use Microsoft Word for all of my stories--as do many people.  But one thing that upset me every time I opened up a new file, I would have to go through all of the settings and fix them.

I had to change the font to Time Roman 12.

I had to change the line spacing from single to double-space.

It also started out in italics, and had to remove that.

Also, since I've published in the Amazon Kindle store and Smashwords (not currently on the latter), I had to format the identations so instead of using the tab key to create paragraphs, they would be automatically created once I hit return after the end of each paragraph.

Now, there is probably a way to make sure all new documents start out the way I want it.  I haven't figured it out, if there is.  In the meantime, I have a story template saved, which I use to start every new story.

You may want to consider using one, if you find yourself always changing new documents to format to your settings.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 18-Oct-2013 / New stuff and a quick trip to boot

I've written 2200+ words on a new short story so far--this is as of Tuesday morning.  But wait, why not more?

Tuesday afternoon, I took my wife down to the Mayo Clinic in Rochster, MN, for another eye appointment with her cornea specialist.  She has to do again next week for further check-ups as her other eye is starting to erode.  We were back in our home work late Wednesday evening.

Aside from the short story, I am preparing for the second novel in the Central Division thriller series.  This one is titled Straight Razor.  I will keep you posted on how well that one's turning out.  I will post daily updates on my Twitter page - @marksrpeterson.

Also, I will begin editing my alternative history military novel Shadowkill.  Nope, no grass is growing under my feet.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What's the rush?

The mentality of several self-published (indie) authors is that they want to rush their work out into the world.  It seems that we've all become impatient with the waiting process.

This isn't just with indie authors, but that's one argument the "traditionalists" quote as their mantra, that all indie authors publish is crap and the publishing gatekeepers are there for a reason.

I disagree.

However, I do have to ask those indie authors: what's the rush?  My latest project, a novella titled Gabriel's Hope, is finished and now up on the Amazon Kindle site.  One part I was waiting on was the cover.  I will not mention where I got the cover from, but when I placed the order, I was quoted 3 days to completion.  Well, I placed the order on the 5th of October and the 8th came and went, with no cover.  Okay, I looked at their queue and yes, not only is this artist a top seller they also bumped the quoted completion date for new orders at 4 days.

Wednesday came and went.

Thursday came . . . and I got a notification that the cover was complete.  Keep in mind, all this time, I was still editing so the wait didn't bother me.  As of Saturday morning, on the 12th of October, I finished editing and was pleased that I was just barely over the 17,500 novella mark.

But no cover.

Wait!  Didn't I get an e-mail saying it was done.  Yes, I did.  But when I checked the site, the artist forgot to upload it.  So, I sent an e-mail back and was quoted a 48 hour turnaround before I get the cover back.

So I waited.  Then, it was done.

I'd say it was worth the wait.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Donations requested for upcoming Diabetes Walk

On Saturday, October 19th, there is a Diabetes Walk sponsored through the American Diabetes Association in Grand Forks, ND.
What I'm asking for are donations: click here for donations.
Donations are used to help fund research to prevent and cure diabetes as well as educate those battling this disease.
My sister-in-law Bobbi is the team leader this year, and the team name is: Let Them Eat Cake.
Thank you for anything you'd be able to do.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Gabriel's Hope - available now on the Kindle

My novella Gabriel's Hope is now up on the Amazon Kindle site.

About a year ago, I sat in church and a wave of emotion overcame me.  My wife, Melissa, has been battling the effects of her leukemia treatment for two and a half years, and for whatever reason I imagined (quite morbid, I know) the funeral, if one was to come about soon.

Then, a thought occurred to me: what if someone, on their deathbed, prayed to God?  Not all that unusual, but instead of a prayer, it was an apology.  What if the person apologized to God for leading such an unimportant life.

Gabriel's Hope is the result.  Originally titled, "Sorry, Lord, I didn't do enough" and then to "Obituary of a loser", the story is about such a guy who falls asleep and meets someone like an angel.  Her name is Gabriel.  Gabriel brings Larry Wahl, the main character, on a journey throughout his life, showing him seven people he helped out in a small way.  And those small ways led to big differences in those people's lives.

This is quite an offshoot from what I normally write.  But it's a story that I needed to tell.  It has a dramatic ending I wasn't quite prepared for, but it turned out to be right on.

Please check out my novella Gabriel's Hope.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 11-Oct-2013 / Hope is nearly complete

I was hoping by now to be able to share the cover for my upcoming novella, Gabriel's Hope.  But alas, it is not quite complete.  Within a day though, it should be.

At the time of this posting, I should be nearly finished with editing.  There are only a few minor additions I want to make to it, then I can upload it onto Amazon KDP.

I can't wait, because I have a lot of projects waiting in the wings.  It will include editing my alternative military history novel Shadowkill and starting the first draft of the Beholder's Eye sequel.

Oh, and I have a few shorter works I plan on writing as well.

No grass growing under these feet.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Why I went free

Last weekend, on October 5th and 6th, I decided to place one of my ebooks up for free.

At first, I wasn't going to do this, but I wanted to experiment with something: have a shorter work for free, while at the same time promoting a larger work that one had to pay for.

My novella Guest of Honor I placed for free, while at the same time hinged it on the fact I had a thriller Beholder's Eye out there for $2.99.  I knew I'd probably sell a boatload of the free product, but at the same time I wanted to see if it would have any residual effect on the paid work.

By Sunday afternoon, I had sold close to 100 free ebooks, while I sold around a dozen of my $2.99 thriller.  Not bad.  Especially from someone just starting out.  Certainly, I'm not going to vacation in Hawaii anytime soon, but I might be able to afford a few extra Happy Meals.

Will I do it again down the road?

You betcha.

Stay tuned.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Planning Q4

As we all roll out of Q3 and into Q4, let's take a look at those 2013 goals.  How are we doing?

It's funny how, in the span of this year, I've revised a few of my goals based on what story ideas struck me and what I want to accomplish.

I've placed a bit of importance on the creation on new stories vs. revising some of my "really old" stories.  Because of it, I hope to have two full-length novels out for indie publication by Q1 2014.  I still have one more story to publish this year--Gabriel's Hope, an inspirational novella--and then it's to work on some larger projects.

Also, I have a few short stories I'm going to submit to traditional markets, for I want to be a more hybrid author.

(A hybrid author, if you don't know, is one who self-publishes as well as publishes through traditional means)

How are your goals for this year coming along?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Last Day to pick up Guest Of Honor FREE! Psst! And get a thriller for $2.99!

Last day only! My ebook Guest Of Honor is free this weekend. Normally a whopping $.99, it is now FREE.

18-year old MEGAN DUST lives the wild life. Parties, booze, boys--you name it, she does it. Her parents don't care what she does, and when she is home they ignore her. Their attitude started over a year ago when Megan's older brother was tragically killed in a car accident.

Then, when her parents die on the same road that took her brother, Megan decides to start over and move far away. She auctions off her parents' property, a country home in northwestern Minnesota, and heads down to the Twin Cities.

Megan knows hitchhiking is dangerous, but lately has become a way of life. And this time is no different. She gets picked up by Bart Simms, an attorney from Minneapolis, who agrees to take her where she needs to go. But only after he conducts a bit of estate planning business.

The Engels are a farming family who live not far from Megan's old place. They revel peacefully in their secluded backwoods sanctuary, and have a strong desire to keep as much of the government away from their family's farming legacy. Hence the reason they sought the impecable skills of Bart Simms, who has a deep reputation for saving many family farms from unwanted death and estate taxes.

But Megan has a problem with the Engels. She has never heard of them, and she's lived in the area all of her life. When she explores their home, she finds more that is out of sorts. She discovers a picture of a teenage girl. A girl who resembles that of a recent murder victim from Minneapolis.

Is there more to this backwoods family than meets the eye?

After picking up Guest Of Honor, be sure to also pick up my latest thriller Beholder's Eye. It is only $2.99 in the Amazon Kindle store.

Link to Guest Of Honor
Link to Beholder's Eye

Saturday, October 5, 2013

FREE this weekend! Guest of Honor ebook! Plus $2.99 thriller!

For 2 days only!  My ebook Guest Of Honor is free this weekend.  Normally a whopping $.99, it is now FREE.

18-year old MEGAN DUST lives the wild life. Parties, booze, boys--you name it, she does it.  Her parents don't care what she does, and when she is home they ignore her. Their attitude started over a year ago when Megan's older brother was tragically killed in a car accident.

Then, when her parents die on the same road that took her brother, Megan decides to start over and move far away. She auctions off her parents' property, a country home in northwestern Minnesota, and heads down to the Twin Cities.

Megan knows hitchhiking is dangerous, but lately has become a way of life. And this time is no different. She gets picked up by Bart Simms, an attorney from Minneapolis, who agrees to take her where she needs to go. But only after he conducts a bit of estate planning business.

The Engels are a farming family who live not far from Megan's old place. They revel peacefully in their secluded backwoods sanctuary, and have a strong desire to keep as much of the government away from their family's farming legacy. Hence the reason they sought the impecable skills of Bart Simms, who has a deep reputation for saving many family farms from unwanted death and estate taxes.

But Megan has a problem with the Engels. She has never heard of them, and she's lived in the area all of her life.  When she explores their home, she finds more that is out of sorts. She discovers a picture of a teenage girl. A girl who resembles that of a recent murder victim from Minneapolis.

Is there more to this backwoods family than meets the eye?

After picking up Guest Of Honor, be sure to also pick up my latest thriller Beholder's Eye.  It is only $2.99 in the Amazon Kindle store.

Link to Guest Of Honor
Link to Beholder's Eye

Friday, October 4, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 04-Oct-2013 / Hope

I started writing this blog post late Wednesday night, for my wife and I had just returned from a recent trip to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.  With the raging debate over debt ceilings and affordable healthcare and government shutdowns, I just shook my head and concentrated on our own little world.

To make a long story short, my wife has been having eye problems and in the middle of this summer she had a cornea transplant.  Her eyes started healing until close to a month ago when the doctor discovered some residual problems.  She was scheduled for an appointment Tuesday morning.  After the initial exam, my wife Melissa asked if her eyes were getting better.

"No," the doctor said.

Not what we wanted to hear.  However, we already knew it to be true.

That night, she had an emergency cornea transplant--her second one in a little over 2 months.  Because of it, we had to spend an extra day at the Mayo.  I didn't mind.  I'll do anything for the love of my life, the reason I write.

Gabriel's Hope is getting closer to publication.  I'm in the middle of the final edits, then I have to finalize the cover art.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Is there a statute of limitations on spoilers?

**Warning, this post does NOT contain any spoilers**

Spoilers, in layman's terms, are the revealed conclusions to works of art, such as books or movies.  It's hard to read a review that doesn't say, "Warning, this review contains spoilers."  And in today's social media climate, it's hard not to tweet or post about the shocking ending to Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, or Breaking Bad with everyone.

But do spoilers have a statute of limitations?  I mean, if one hasn't by now read the conclusion to A Christmas Carol or seen all six Star Wars movies, are they to blame?  Should they be subject to every criticism of the book or movie?  Should they sit through every rant about the characters just because the movie or book came out "so long ago!"

I think not.

New fans are coming to our works all the time.  New fans that get to experience the truth behind Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker or what happens to Ned Stark in Game of Thrones should be free to do so in their own time.

They should be free to experience the anticipation we all felt when we watched these movies or read those books.  I didn't read Lord of the Rings until the Peter Jackson movies came out--it was when Fellowship first came to video that I watched it and then had to read the books.  I'm glad the movies weren't exactly like the books, but I still got to read the rest of it before Towers and Return came to the theaters.

At work, some of my co-workers are watching Breaking Bad for the first time.  I am currently in season five--waiting patiently for the rest to come out on Netflix.  It's fun to listen to them talk about the episodes that I watched a month ago.

And I'm careful not to read anything on how it actually ends.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The sauerkraut lesson

Growing up, I hated sauerkraut.  There weren't too many things I wouldn't eat, and sauerkraut was one of them.  Liver was probably another, along with brussel spouts.  But sauerkraut--yuck!

Then, not long after my wife and I got married, she made a recipe that involved sauerkraut--the basics is to take frozen bread dough, let it thaw, flatten it out, and fill it with cooked hamburger, 1000 island dressing, and sauerkraut.  I loved it!  And guess what I order sometimes at restaurants?  Reuben sandwiches!

The point is I tried it and liked it.  The same goes with various aspects of your writing.  Are you a discovery writer or an outliner?  Try both.  Do you write better in the mornings or at night or both?  Try all.  I used to be a night writer.  Now, as age catches up to me, I find that mornings are a better fit for me.

When you come across something that may improve your writing, give it a try.  Try as much as you can, and if it honestly doesn't work for you, at least you know you gave it an honest try.  You can't try everything, but if something is intriguing enough, you owe it to yourself to see how it works for you.

Because I could have hated sauerkraut after my wife cooked up that one dish.  But I didn't.  Still not a fan of liver or brussel spouts--yes, I have tried both.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 27-Sept-2013 / 691 words

691 words.  That's all the separates my latest story from novelette to novella.  According to SFWA, a novella is at least 17,500 words (up to the proverbial 40K which is the low end for novels).

Gabriel's Hope.

That's the title for this inspirational little piece.  The plan is within the next 1-2 weeks it will be uploaded onto the Kindle along with Beholder's Eye and Guest of Honor.  That brings the number of self-published works this year to three.

Goal achieved.

I also received my rejection letter from Writers Of The Future on last quarters submission--an expected rejection, of course, as the contest is highly competitive.  Now, I will glance at it and send it out to some of the other SF markets.

Keeping it short today.  Got a lot of irons in the fire, and another trip to Rochester/Mayo for my wife is coming up.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Learn the publishing business from a bestselling author

I'm sure we've all read Stephen King's On Writing and have also read numerous books on the craft.  But what if you could watch a bestselling author actually teach the nuts-and-bolts of writing AND the publishing side from a business perspective.

Have no fear!  Brandon Sanderson is here!

For those few who may not know, Brandon finished off Robert Jordan's Wheel Of Time series after Mr. Jordan's untimely death years ago.  He is also an accomplished fantasy author on his own series, starting with the Stormlight Archives Book 1: The Way of Kings--I highly recommend it for those fantasy lovers out there.

Brandon is also a college professor, and on a video series at Write About, you get to see him in action.  There are two such video series, one from 2012 and one from 2013.  There are 13 lessons on each, and he covers a variety of topics.

Check out the YouTube channel: Write About Dragons.  I can't recommend it enough.  For help with brainstorming ideas, writing first drafts, editing, and even various aspects of the publishing business, you get it all here.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The last week of the third quarter

It is the last week of the third quarter.  As we prepare our goals for 2014, we should at least pay homage to our 2013 goals and ask ourselves how we are doing.

Have you achieved at least half of them?

Are you getting close to achieving them?

Now, I understand not everyone is motivated by writing down and achieving meaningful goals.  A study of the world's most successful people, however, show that they are indeed goal-setters.  But certainly not every single one of them.  If you get nothing from goals and have at least tried, then find out what does motivate you.

For those goal-setters out there, keep your goals in plain view where you can see them and ask yourself what you need to do in order to achieve them.

Good luck!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 20-Sept-2013 / Some projects coming to a close, others starting

Yesterday I submitted another short story to the Writers Of The Future contest.  I think it's pretty good, but I have some very stiff competition.  No matter the outcome, I am at least doing something and submitting instead of not doing anything.

Because that is what one needs to do in order to become successful.  Do.  Do something.  Do something to further your work--your art--into the world.

It makes no sense for all of your stories to sit in a drawer with no one to enjoy them--I truly wish J. D. Salinger would've published more stories than the few he did; the rumors of all the stories regarding the Glass family have been rampant.

Your work needs to be out for others to enjoy.

I am also putting the finishing touches on an inspirational novella titled Gabriel's Hope.  My goal is to get it done by the end of the month.

I am also editing a previously submitted short story from Writers Of The Future--that didn't win, of course--to be sent out to the traditional SF market.  If I get no luck there, I'll end up adding it to a collection to be self-published later.

I am starting to work on the sequel to Beholder's Eye, in the Central Division Series thriller novels.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

When marketing your work, play to your strengths (psst, you don't have to do everything!)

We've heard all of the advice:

"You must have a blog"

"You must be on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, The Erector Set Social Media Machine" (okay, I made up that last one)

"For every hour you spend writing, you need to spend at least that long marketing yourself"

"You must be on TV"

"You need to call Oprah!"

"You need to be on Google+"

"You need to be on LinkedIn and Pinterest"

"You need to do a podcast and video blog"

"Give a bunch of books away for free"

Okay, let's cut to the chase.  As much as there is writing advice, there is advice when it comes to marketing.  If your head is spinning as mine is, rest assured there are successful authors out there who aren't on social media and don't have a blog.  They don't do any of the stuff I listed above.

What do you do?

Do what you love.  If you love Twitter and not Facebook, go for it.  If you love public speaking, do it.

I love blogging.  I am also on Facebook and Twitter, but there's a distinction between the two.  My writing side is more on Twitter and personal stuff is on Facebook.  I don't do much self-promotion on Facebook (although I probably should), but I engage more with fellow writers and readers on Twitter.

I am NOT on Pinterest, LinkedIn, Tumblr, or even the Erector Set Social Media Machine (yup, still made it up).  I thought about doing a podcast, but have since abandoned the idea due to time constraints.  The same goes with video blogging.  I love it, but the time it takes I need to put into writing.

And writing is what I love to do best.

(For ideas on marketing, check out Seth Godin's blog.  He is the ultimate resource when it comes to marketing)

Monday, September 16, 2013

What to do with those old manuscripts

Don't be embarrassed.  We all have them.  Yet we cling to them like an old T-shirt we got back in our college years when we went away on spring break.  In your heart, you know they should be thrown away.  But you just can't do it.

What am I talking about?  Your old manuscripts.  Stories written years ago, when you were learning the craft of writing.  You know the stories are good--goddamn it, of course they are, gotta just give 'em a chance!

You can.


Yes, you heard me right.  You can still give 'em a chance.  There's just one thing: they need to be rewritten.  Big time.  From scratch.  Not just edited using your old words.  Completely rewrite it from scratch.

These past few months, I've been digging out some manuscripts I wrote close to ten years ago.  The stories themselves are good, however . . . they just need to be completely rewritten.  Over the course of a month, I took one of these stories and started editing it.  In the end, I only completed the first 40-50 pages before I realized I just need to completely start over if I was going to get anything else done.

Start with a blank screen or piece of paper.  And write it.  Just like the first time.  Only this time it'll be with your current skill set, which has to be better than before.

A word of caution though: don't dwell on the past and think that you can't write any more good stories.  Nonsense.  You'll be amazed at what you can accomplish.  If you really want to rewrite an old story, by all means do it.  But don't forget to try your hand at something new too.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 13-Sept-2013 / Starting over (AKA Writing Bad)

I know the feeling--and so do you.  You wrote something nine, twelve months ago and you look at it again because it either didn't sell to whom you were submitting or it didn't win the contest.  Then, you cringe at how awful it was written.

No wonder it didn't sell/win.

But now you are determined to make it better.  You start slicing and dicing the paragraphs and sentences until you realize it would be better if you started over.  Because you were . . . writing bad.

I will admit, I'm watching Breaking Bad on Netflix and I'm in the middle of season 3.  It's a fantastic plot series--one all centered around a high school chemistry teacher who "breaks bad" and starts cooking meth.

Earlier this year, I submitted a short story to Writers Of The Future.  I thought, at the time, it was deemed worthy, even though the competition is fierce.  I didn't win.  I'm planning on submitting it to some traditional markets, but when I read it over I discovered . . . it was written poorly.  I've learned a lot about writing in the past six months alone, and in looking over this story, I decided to just start over from scratch.

I've barely started, but I'm confident it will be better.
My inspirational novella titled Gabriel's Hope (yes it has a title now) is nearing completion and I have another short story ready to submit to this quarter's Writers Of The Future.  Then, I'll start work on the first draft to the 2nd novel in the Central Division thriller series, set to be finished by the end of this year.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What is your writing strength?

In several interviews I've read or listened to from Brandon Sanderson, he says his writing strength are epic novels--not short stories.  He has a new novellas out in the market, but that's about as short as he likes to get.  He doesn't even try short stories because he knows he's not good at them.

Last week during our tri-weekly writers group meeting, the other member told me her strength is in writing short pieces--250-300 word shorts.  This is great for her to realize, and now she's on a plan to start down the path towards collecting these pieces and self-publishing them.

Are short stories your thing?

How about 75K word novels?

Epic novels that topple 200K easily?

Flash fiction?

If you're unsure, try writing in as many veins as possible to find out where your niche lies.  Maybe it's all of the above.   Whatever it is, write to your strength.

Monday, September 9, 2013

10 Rules Of Writing

Last week, I posted about so much writing advice can bog one down, almost to the point where you don't know where to start.

Here are my 10 rules of writing:

1) Write

2) Edit

3) Submit/Publish

4) Write more

5) Edit

6) Submit/Publish

7) Again, let's write

8) Edit

9) Submit/Publish

10) Take rejected stories and submit again

Tongue-in-cheek, one can go a long way following this advice.  I could just break it down into three:

1) Write

2) Send that writing out (either submit to a traditional market or self-publish)

3) Don't quit

Oh, and I'll add this as well: do it today.  Not tomorrow.  Today.  The world needs your art.  Badly.

My favorite writing advice is simple:

1) Read a lot

2) Write a lot

Get it done today.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 06=Sept-2013 / writing advice vs. writing

This past Wednesday was our tri-weekly writers group meeting.  Present were myself and the other co-founder of the group.  After I read my piece--an inspirational soon-to-be novella--we discussed possible titles (because I'm not happy with the one I chose).

Then the conversation took a turn towards writing advice in general.

Type "writing advice" in Google or Bing or Yahoo! and you'll find yourself shoulder-deep in so much writing advice--this person's 10 rules of writing or that person's 5 must-do rules in order to become published--that you may actually not do any writing at all.

And that's wrong.

Over the past month or so, I've cut down the number of podcasts I listen to as well as the number of blogs I read--trust me, I still get quite a number, but the actual number is down from what it once was.  Why?  Because I kept seeing the same stuff printed over and over again.  Also, I didn't quite agree with much of the advice.  Again, why?  Because I could find books that broke those rules big time.

Here's the best piece of writing advice: write.  Not sit down and write.  Write.  That's it.  You can do it standing up.   You need to put words down somewhere.  I don't care where.  It can be on a piece of paper or a computer document or even on a napkin.

Just write.

I'm finalizing my next short story submission to the Writers Of The Future contest, due on October 1st.  I'm also working on the inspirational piece I shared in this week's writers group.  Don't forget, I still have my first full-length thriller novel Beholder's Eye on sale at the Amazon Kindle store (the link is along the side) as well as my novelette Guest of Honor, which not only has gotten a new cover, I also lowered the price to $.99.  I'd be "honored" if you'd pick it up and review it.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The one goal I'm neglecting (and you may be too)

I look over my list of goals for 2013, and out of 20 items, I have accomplished 11.  Not bad.  But I'm not patting myself on the back just yet, because there's one goal that I seem to be neglecting.


Yup, the good ol' gotta-lose-weight goal.

This isn't my actual goal.  The goal is a weight I'd like to accomplish.  And I'm far from it.  In fact, I haven't really done a thing about it.  Oh, sure, earlier in the year, when we had snow outside, I'd spend 30 minutes every other day on the Gazelle watching a movie downstairs.  Somehow, that only lasted about two months when the weather started getting nicer and I was starting to make headway on some of my more urgent writing goals.

Now, as my ever-growing gut is  . . . well, ever-growing, I know I need to do something about it.

Like writing, start out exercing small.  Do some walking.  Or bike riding.  Also, start eating better.  Cut out more sugar and eat healthier.

I am no health nut nor am I an expert in weight management, but honestly it all comes down to intake.  The more sweets and fatty foods I take in, unless I exercise it'll grow into a larger gut.  Not good.

I will NOT be posting my current weight nor even my 2013 goal weight.  What I will be sharing on occasion is what I'm doing about it.

Because I still have time.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tales of a diabetic father: the importance of having extra supplies

This past Saturday, we helped another diabetic family--whom we didn't know--because they were in a crisis.

Long story short, their son's insulin pump broke and Medtronics was overnighting a pump to them.  In the meantime, they had to inject insulin the old-fashioned way (at least for us who happen to rely on pumps to do everything): with a syringe.  They were also out of town, far from home, and didn't know anyone nearby to help out.

Luckily, the EMT worker who assisted them was a friend of ours and called us up.  We had extra supplies we were able to provide for them, to get them through their crisis.

As a father who deals with diabetic children all the time, the amount of supplies we have on hand can be daunting.  There are times when you wonder why in the world you even have it all.  Once again, the events this past Saturday proved why we do.

We were able to pay it forward.

Because so many people have helped us out in a pinch along the way.

Monday, September 2, 2013

When to start planning for 2014

Today is Labor Day 2013.  The final month of the third quarter.  Have you accomplished much on your 2013 goals list?

When should one start planning for 2014?

I don't believe one should start planning for 2014 on New Year's Eve.  You should be planning well ahead of time.  Why not start now, right this moment, brainstorming what you'd like to accomplish in the next year.

Don't worry, this doesn't have to be a concrete list.  Start by brainstorming all of the possible things you'd like to accomplish.  On Kickstarter campaigns, they have stretch goals--goals that are at the higher levels once the main goal has been achieved.  For your yearly goals, I call them "pie in the sky" goals.  Put a few goals in there that are "pie in the sky."  Meaning, with a lot of effort, you can accomplish it.  And I mean a lot.

Run a marathon

Become debt-free

Pay off your house

These are just three examples of what "pie in the sky" goals could be, but don't limit them to just these.  Let's say you want to write a book.  Great!  How about 2? Or 3?  Or even publish them?

How about saving enough to have a professional do a cover for your book?

Save enough to go on a bigger vacation?

Take a blank piece of paper or a blank document and write down everything you'd like to accomplish.  I ask that you start now because you may not think of everything all at once.  It may take a month or two to think of new things.

And don't worry, you can always change it.

Start by planning for the next year now, and it will cause the new year to start with a bang.  You can do it.  Your life--and the world--depends on it.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 30-Aug-2013 / Last day of summer (for those with school kids)

I love the summer months, but as it gets closer and closer to the day after Labor Day--when school starts here in Minnesota--I'm loving the proverbial end of summer.

During the summer, the kids get to bed later, which means Dad--me, in other words--doesn't get to his writing until much later.  This wouldn't be a problem normally, but the city-run pool in our town closes at 8pm.  Which means the kids are usually swimming until the eight o'clock hour.  Then, it's a bit of unwinding before taking baths/showers and going to bed.

Many nights, it's after ten when this happens.

The upside to my morning routine is as such: the kids don't normally get up before eight--unless my son has football practice or weightlifting, which he does for most of the summer--so this means extra morning writing for me.

You need to find the time for writing wherever you can.  If you need to go to bed earlier and get up earlier, do it.  If you need to cut your night short a little, do it.  Be aware of your body telling you if you're overdoing it.  I used to be a nightowl.  Many nights I'd be up until 1 or 2 in the morning hunched over my computer.  Nowadays, I'm finding the morning to be a better fit for me.

If you need to make a change to your routine, do it.  How much time do you need for your writing?  That's up to you.  Even if 15-30 minutes is all you can spare out of your busy day, you'll be amazed at what you can accomplish when you devote those precious minutes entirely to your writing.

What's cooking for me?

I finished a round of editing for inspirational novella titled (temporarily) Obituary of a Loser.  I am also working on editing my next short story submission to Writers Of The Future.  Things are going well, and sales for Beholder's Eye are trickling in--if you haven't picked up your copy on the Kindle, the link for it is along the side.  You can even borrow it if you're an Amazon Prime member.

I also have the first five chapters up for free on this site too--the link is next to the Amazon link.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Do you have an Amazon author page?

Do you have an Amazon author page?

Yes or no.  You either do or you don't.  There's no sort of here.

This is my Amazon author page: Mark S. R. Peterson

Having this link in all of your books, blogs, and correspondence is a great landing page for someone who wants to know what you publish.  You can list blogs you write, have a schedule of guest appearances, videos, even your Twitter posts.

How do you set it up?  Easy, if you have an Amazon account.  Click this link for Amazon's Author Central to get started.

Then, with each published book, make sure you add it to your author page.  Somehow Amazon does not do this for you.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The importance of book descriptions

I recently revamped the book descriptions for both Beholder's Eye and Guest of Honor.  Check them out:

Beholder's Eye: A Thriller Novel (Central Division Series, Book 1)

Guest of Honor: A Novelette

When you self-publish on the Amazon Kindle, you have roughly 4,000 characters (the equivalent of 28+ full tweets) to use.  You don't have to use them all, but you should use quite a bit--unless you're Dan Brown or Stephen King, in which case they can just get by on their name; you can't.  Now, there's nothing wrong with using the full allotment of characters--an estimated 700 words, based on popular belief.  But overkill on a description may be too much.

If you have testimonials, put them in.  Awards?  By all means, add them.  Brag upon yourself, if you must.  Not only flowery and don't let yourself sound like a used car salesman.

I'm no expert in book descriptions, but I will quickly lay out the method I used for both of mine.  If you find another way, use that.  There is no one way to do so.

For Guest of Honor, I start with an overall view of the main character's world, then get into the story.  Originally, I had a chronological view of the story--it didn't work.  For Beholder's Eye, I go with the huge "what if" surrounding the genesis of the story.  Whatever works for you, do it.  Read an assortment of book descriptions in the same genre to get a sense of what they sound like.

Some say to make it sound like a movie trailer.  I agree--to a point.

Do whatever works for you.  Give it to a few people and ask what they think, if it will get them to buy the book.  Ask for honest feedback.  Because, as a self-published author, you can change it.

You can always change it.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 23-Aug-2013 / New "Guest of Honor" ebook cover

Guest of Honor recently got a face-lift.  Here was the old cover:

Now, I have a new professional cover.  Check it out:

Pretty cool, huh?
You can purchase it through the Amazon Kindle store for near the same cost as a cup of coffee.  Cheap coffee, that is.

What else is going on?  First, I'm going through and cleaning up the book description for Beholder's Eye.  I'm also working on editing my inspirational novella titled Obituary of a Loser.  I'm about 75% done with it, and I need to add another 1500 words to get it to the 17.5K word novella mark.

Maybe by next week it will be done.  Not sure if it will be ready for publishing yet . . . but it will be close.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A caregiver's guide to writing

For those people who care for the needs of others, I know how it feels to have your time sucked away.  This is beyond the normal needs of children and loved ones.  This is for those caring for people dealing with debilitating diseases like cancer and even Alzheimer's, but not just limited to those.

How does one find time to write?

The short answer: very carefully, and if it's only in short bursts, then do it.

It's how I write.  Now, as my wife has been cancer-free from her leukemia for the past 2 years, she still deals with many of the side effects, such as tiredness.  She's been going through severe eye problems these last few months too--she did back in October 2011, and things have progressively gotten worse this summer.  And because of this, I end up doing the majority of the daily chores along with the kids.  Keep in mind, I don't want pity from people nor do I want anyone to feel sorry for me.  That's not the point of this post.  What I want is to encourage those caregivers out there that you can do it, you can still realize your dream while at the same time care for the needs of others.

Are there times when I get frustrated and so tired from the long hours that I don't feel like writing?  Yes.  Do I still put words down on the digital paper.  Sometimes.  Depending on the day, most days I do, but mostly on the weekends I do not.

Your writing time may be limited as a caregiver, but even five minutes here and ten minutes there can add up over time.  Be deliberate about your "free time."  Commit to writing even 100-200 words a day if needed.  A typical 75K novel at 200 words a day will be completed in 375 days--just a little over a year.  Increase that amount of 250 even, and that number drops to 300 days.  If you can't write daily, set weekly goals.  Write those goals down, and track your progress.

You can do it.  Don't be discouraged.  Be deliberate with your time.  Commit to doing the work you were meant to do.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Books are like kids

For a disclaimer, I have three kids--all of which are still at home.  My oldest is a 9th grader and the other two are in elementary school (we have no middle school in our district, and if we did, one would be there).

So, how are books like kids?

Prior to sending it out into the world, either traditional publishing or self-publishing, you pour over the first draft, then edit it so many times, getting it just right.  The same with children.  You give them all they need (shelter, food, clothing, guidance), and then, when they reach that age, you send them out into the world.  Maybe, as teenagers, we give them a bit more freedom.  The same with a book.  We let a few choice readers go over it and give an honest critique.

Depending on the type of parents you have, most don't interfere too much in your life nor do they contact you several times a day.  They give you immense freedom.  I mean, how often should parents be in contact with their middle-aged children anyways?

The same with book publishing.  Once they're out on book shelves or in electronic readers (i.e. Amazon Kindle, iPad, Nook), how often do you see how much progress they're making?  Depends on what type of author you are.  How often do you check the Amazon ranking?  How often do you read the reviews?

Me?  There was a time where I was checking the Amazon ranking for Beholder's Eye every few hours.  I was excited when, after being out for two days, I started getting sales.

But I need to move on.  I need to continue writing.  And so do you.  Obsessing every single hour about where the ranking is will only distract you from doing what you need to do: write.  Write another story.  Put it out there.  Then write another.

Like a parent, you need to trust that the story is written well-enough and will handle itself.  Now, you do need to be marketing the book--I will not deny that--but make that part of your writing process.  Take the time to market it.

Then write.