Friday, May 31, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 31-May-2013 / Deadline looms!

The May 31st deadline to finish Shadowkill has come . . . and gone.  I am currently at almost 64K words, 312 pages, and I am nearing the end.

The major plot points are converging nicely, better than expected, and even tied an event in the end to the prologue.  I'm so close to getting it done that if you follow my Twitter feed (search MarkSRPeterson in Twitter if you have an account and follow me--more than likely I'll follow back) I will announce it on there.  It should happen this weekend--or possibly even tonight.

I have a bit of work to do on it, but it'll have to sit for a while as I work on other writing projects.  It's only a first draft, and even if I get close to 70K before the end, I still feel that is a bit light on the word count.

Then again, that's what editing and future drafts are for.

I am halfway through my final polish edits with Beholder's Eye.  By and large, it's good.  Just a few minor points I'm fixing.  I'm still brainstorming a cover.  I haven't quite found one that I'm just jumping for joy over.

Once Shadowkill is done I have the first draft of an inspirational piece I'm working on.  I'll hold back on the title at this time, but this one will probably be a novella.  I will also put it out on the Kindle and Smashwords, just like "Guest of Honor".

**Updated note: as of 11:30pm on May 31st, I finished Shadowkill.  It's over 67K words on a first draft.  Finished it right on schedule.**

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Back to school (sort of)

What if you had the opportunity to take a creative writing class taught by a bestselling novelist?

Never fear, the time is now.  Brandon Sanderson--bestselling fantasy novelist who finished out the late Robert Jordon's Wheel of Time series and is at work on his own fantasy series called the Stormlight Archives--is teaching a writing class this summer, starting June 3rd through the end of September 2013.

If you just felt your wallet get lighter, you might want to either check the man who just ran into you because this class is . . . FREE!

Well, free in terms of monetary cost.  What it will cost you is your own determination and time to learn the writing skills that he's learned from other bestselling authors.  If you have ever wanted to become a writer, check it out.

Here is a link to the class, which starts June 3rd.

All of the information regarding the class is on the link, so be sure to check it out.

I am.

I am already registered.

There will be work involved, so don't say I didn't warn you.  Then again, if you're already a writer, aspiring towards publication, you know what work is and is not put off by it.

For an added bonus, on the same site is Brandon's 2012 class.  The link to it is here.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Writing the "other"

I recently wrote a gay character.  My first one.  He wasn't a main character, by any means, but he wasn't entirely insignificant.

I didn't set out to write a gay character--and I certainly didn't set out not to write one either.  It just happened.  That's the way my stories seem to go.

I am not gay, so to write a character like that was a little challenging.  But no more challenging than writing women.  Or a Native American.  Or a lawyer.  Or a homeless man.  Anything that isn't an overweight white male in his early 40s.  The last thing I wanted to do with it was write the character as clique as possible.  I wanted to write them . . . er, normal.

Or as normal as possible.

The same could go for Blacks or Hispanics or Native Americans or Martians.  For me, I want to stretch my boundaries and write them as believable as possible.  I do seem to take it as a challenge to write them outside the stereotypical norm.

I hope I succeeded.

Lastly, what I don't want to do is "hang a lantern" on these differences.  I didn't write the gay character as if they were a flashing billboard for homosexuality.  They just happened to be attracted to the same sex.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 24-May-2013 / Lots in the oven

This week I put Shadowkill on temporary hold and edited a short story for submission into the "Writers of the Future Contest."  I know I don't stand much of a chance at winning, even honorable mention, but at least I'm trying.  At least I'm submitting.  I read it at this week's writers' group.  Evelyn and Jo liked it, despite the few corrections I had to make to it--even after so many edits, I can still find things to fix.

My deadline of next Friday, May 31st, for the first draft completion of Shadowkill is fast approaching.  I may not make it.  But I'm going to give it one heck of a shot.  I am currently on chapter 45, with over 56K words written.  Ideally, I'd like to see 75K, but the first draft will probably not see it because I am nearing the end--several plot points are converging, and one was even tied up.  I don't believe I can sustain another 19K worth of words.

I'm also in the process of putting together Beholder's Eye for self-publishing.  I'm still trying to nail down just the right cover, and I'm doing a final, final, final edit.  I've made a few minor changes.  Nothing drastic.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Live as if it's your last

Tragedies can befall us.

As we speak, tornadoes have ravaged Oklahoma.  Do you think they're worried about the rising gas prices?  Or some recent acts in Congress?

Probably not.

What about the recent victims of the Boston Marathon?  What do you think is on their mind?

There's a guy I know who's not only in his mid-20's, he's also battling leukemia . . . for the fourth time!  His wife and he met my wife two years ago when they were down at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.

Some things seem trivial in light of other tragic events.  For the past 3-4 days, much of Minnesota and North Dakota were rained pretty heavily upon.  I got a small amount of water in my basement, but I'm not complaining.  Things could be worse.  My wife, despite a constant battle with her eyes, is still in remission from her leukemia.

Things could be worse.

Tornadoes.  Floods.  Cancer.  Murder.  Suicide.

Yup.  It could be a lot worse.  I may not be happy about paying more at the gas pump, but life could be worse.  If everyone was to live as if it's their last, what kind of day would they serve?

What could they accomplish?

And for the writers and artists out there, what kind of art could we make?

Monday, May 20, 2013

If I met Joe Hill at a party

I could really name any number of people on this post instead of author Joe Hill (son of mega-bestselling author Stephen King) but one of the reasons I chose Joe Hill at this point was because of a recent interview he gave on's Geek's Guide to the Galaxy.  Joe gave a gracious, insightful interview, and I was amazed at how humble he was.  I was impressed.  Joe spoke for over an hour, so click on this link and listen.

Back to the issue at hand, if I met Joe Hill at a party, one of the things I would ask is about his newest book release.  Why?  Because I knew he had one just recently launched.

A few weeks ago, I was at a large family event and there was family from as far away as Seattle.  Some were relatives I never met, and there were a few aunts and uncles I hadn't seen for a few years--I will note that one such cousin who I hoped would be attending but was unable to has a successful blog called Inside the Oldwolf Workshop.  He does woodwork unplugged, meaning without power and using hand tools.  His work is amazing, so you should definitely check out his blog.

Anyway, if I met this cousin Derek, I'd ask him about his latest projects.  Why?  Because I follow his blog regularly.  Not just once every six months.  I read every single blog post, so I know what projects he's working on.

Here's what I heard from a few relatives at this gathering: "Oh, I just love your blog.  I read it."

Great!  But there's just one thing missing . . . not one single person mentioned my latest published book Guest of Honor.  Not one.

I'm fine they don't read it on a regular basis.  Frankly, this blog isn't for them.  It's for writers, fans of mine, and basically anyone who wants to be successful.  I don't take offense at it.  I just found it odd.

Amazon link to novelette "Guest of Honor"

Kobo link to "Guest of Honor"

Friday, May 17, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 17-May-2013 / A strange thing happened at work

"I bought your book."

Those four words floored me.  Not that the person who spoke it was a complete stranger, because she wasn't.  I work with her at my full-time job.  But as we are in two different departments, this statement took me by surprise.

Ironically, I happened to be working on the hard copy of a future novel--possibly my four published work this year, with two others slated before it--at the time.  She had a few kind words to say about it, and how she read it while recently on a plane.

Aside from family and my writers' group, this is probably the first encounter I've had from someone who wasn't in one of those categerories.

I was jazzed!

I am currently over 52K words into Shadowkill, and I'm slating this novel to be done by May 31st.  It's coming along nicely, the plots and subplots emerging in a nice little tangle.  A subplot will soon be tied up, and others will follow.  At this point, I'm almost certain I will not make the 75K word count, and I'm okay with it.  Besides, I already know where I can strengthen it in the editing stage.

I'm also currently editing a short story to be submitted in this quarter's "Writers of the Future" contest.  I submitted one last quarter.  I have a little time before the July 1st deadline, but I'd like to get it off my plate soon.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Time to get back to business

Something happened in Minnesota this week.  No matter what side of the issue you're on (withholding my opinion) I witnessed a whole lot of people either cheering or booing.

What boggles my mind is that these are the same people who seem to do absolutely nothing with their life.  They just go right back to their normal routine of getting up, going to work, watching 4-5 hours of mindless TV, and then hitting the bars until closing.  Then, the next day, the routine begins again.


I completely understand that there are issues we'd like dealt with, but no matter what I do, the polticians are going to vote any way they want.  Regardless of what I think.  Quite frankly, I don't care.

What I care about is my own life.  My own family.  I had a niece experience a horrible accident over the weekend.  She fractured three vertebrae in her neck, yet miraculously didn't sever any nerves that would render her ability to walk or use her arms.  I am so thankful.  Her parents, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, are the ones that help us out whenever we've asked.  Now it was our turn to return the favor.  My focus is on that, and what I do every single day.  Which is to write.

I am a writer.

That's what I do.

Are there issues Washington DC or the state of Minnesota are dealing with that I have an interest in?  Of course.  But I don't lie awake at night worrying about them.

I focus on my own success.  A success I'm building one brick at a time.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The 50K milestone (plus the title of the new book)

I hit a milestone this morning.  I hit 50K as a word count on my new book.

Saturday morning, I was 600 words shy of 50K.  I posted it on Facebook, proclaiming my productive morning, and then someone asked me what it was about.

First, let me share the title: Shadowkill.

What is it about?  I'm calling it Pacific Rim meets Zero Dark Thirty, with a dash of Iron Man.  Interesting huh?

Why wasn't I able to finish the remaining 600 words until Monday morning, you may ask?  Well, I probably would have, but life seems to throw a curve ball or two from time to time.  First, with my wife still recovering from her battle with leukemia, a lot of the housework and child-raising is set on my shoulders.  I'm asking for no pity from anyone--and do not feel one bit sorry for me.  I schedule my writing time between all this, and the bulk of it is done during the week anyway.  Weekends are usually set aside for blog posts.

The second event that happened was my niece had a bad accident while practicing gynmatics (with my 9-year-old daughter) and hit her head.  She hit it so hard she was immediately taken to the emergency room, and then airlifted from the hospital in Grand Forks, ND, down to Minneapolis.  As of Sunday night, she's back at home.  She has three fractures in her vertebrae and has to wear a neck brace for 12 weeks.  It could've been a lot worse, and we're thankful that it wasn't.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 10-May-2013 / My deadline

I have given myself a goal for finishing the first draft of my alternative history military novel: May 31st.

It's a doable goal, and one that can be obtained by writing roughly 1200 words a day (everyday, including weekends).  I figure it'll be roughly 75K words, so that is the finish line I'm shooting for, and right now I am almost at 48K.  If it'll be more, that's even better.  If it's not, I don't mind.  I've already thought of a lot I'll be fixing in the editing process.

What's next?

I have an inspirational novella I'm brainstorming, then in early June I'll be formatting Beholder's Eye and self-publishing it (unless an agent contacts me in the meantime and asks to see it).  After that, I'll be putting the finishing touches on a short story for the next "Writers of the Future" writing contest as well as starting to edit another novel.

The latter novel I just mentioned I'll be doing while on breaks and lunches at my day job.  Right now I'm about three-quarters into George R. R. Martin's A Storm of Swords, so I vowed once I finished that I'm going to work on that book.

My goal for the year is to publish 3-4 books.  I already have one, with Beholder's Eye and the inspirational novella being the next two.  I'd like this last book to be #4.

I'll cross my fingers.

And I'm doing this while also taking care of three children and a wife who's recovering from Acute Myeloid Leukemia--she's doing good, except her eyes hurt her on occasion (and that's for another day).

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The mystery of the missing italics

I downloaded my preview copies of Guest of Honor, my new ebook (links to both the Amazon site and Smashwords are to the right), and discovered something.

There were no italics.

When I write and my character thinks, I use italics.  There were none.  Where did they go?  I then went searching . . .

I Googled my inquiry, which brought me a slug of complicated processes for fixing it.  I thought, There has to be a better way.  There was.

I found the Smashwords Style Guide.  It's free on the Smashwords site, and within the text I discovered that after I formatted my book, I would need to go back and add back the italics.  Presto!  Shazam!

I will be uploading the newly updated files shortly.  If you bought a copy and wish to have a new one, please write a review of the story on whatever site you bought it (all I ask is that you review it on the merit of the story, not my screw-up) and then e-mail me at and I will send you a new copy.

Monday, May 6, 2013

How your success can be like SimCity

If you've played SimCity or SimCity 2000 (or any other version of it(, then I'm sure this will be familiar to you: in deciding to maximize your success in the video game, you hit pause on your world and build everything that you can.

But wait!  I don't have the money!

Yes you do, if you know the "cheats."

Okay, with several million dollars in your account, you build the biggest, baddest world you can.  Then, you unpause it.  What happens?

Your world turns ugly in a hurry.

A 2011 Smart Money article showed statistics that lottery winners go backrupt twice as often as the rest of the general population.  The reason I bring this last part up is because doing the "cheats" in SimCity are like winning the lottery.  The most successful people did it . . . by working hard.

Rewind the tape and begin your SimCity city again.  Start it slow, building up roads and power plants and electricity and water pipes and . . . okay, you get it.  Your chances of success are much higher there.  Why?  Because you worked at it and prepared yourself mentally for it.  You built a better foundation.

Take my recent publication, my novelette Guest of Honor on Amazon.  Am I out there, pushing and pushing people to buy it?  Not yet--but you better believe it that I want people to buy it though.  I'm waiting to build my arsenal . . . to build my "long tail" as Chris Anderson puts it.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 03-May-2013 / "Guest of Honor" gets a facelift

Earlier this week, my novelette "Guest of Honor" got a facelift.  Click on this link to view it (and purchase, if you already haven't--heck, it's only $.99)

Why did I decide to change covers?

Let me be honest, I liked the first design with the sexy girl on the cover.  But it didn't portrait the essence of what the book was about.  So, I changed it.

As I march closer and closer to the publication of my thriller Beholder's Eye, I've been thinking a lot about covers lately.  For my two published works so far, I've created them myself--I know, I know, they're still not up to the highest standards, but they're better than the boilerplate Amazon puts on their books.  In my research, I found two companies I've been considering to design the cover for Beholder's Eye.

Graphicz X Designs

I'm sure there are others out there, but right now these are two interesting ones I found.  If you know of any others out there, or if you are a book cover designer, please feel free to add yourself to the comments section below.

I have a lot cooking on the writing stove.  For the first draft of my alternative military history novel, I am currently on chapter 37 with close to 44K words.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Being a father of two diabetic children

Being of father of three, life can be hectic.

But when two of those three are type 1 diabetics, life takes on a whole new meaning.

You could say at this point, my wife and I have unofficial Ph.D's in Type 1 Diabetes.  When our oldest son was diagnosed in August 2001 when he was just shy of three years old, dealing with the daily tasks of diabetes controls much of our life.  Daily tasks not only include how we feed and care for them, we also have to educate others.

This past weekend, our youngest daughter--a spunky six-year-old who was diagnosed when she was roughly two and a half--was invited to a classmate's birthday.  Now, most parents would be able to drop their kid off and pick them up a few hours later.  As a parent of diabetes children, dropping them off also includes inquiring what they're going to eat, figuring out how many carbs to "punch into her pump", educating them that yes my daughter can eat everything that the other kids can eat except she has to enter the carbs into her insulin pump, setting aside her "diabetes kit", and giving the parents a number where we can be reached at all times.

This same ritual goes when our diabetic kids start school in the fall with a new teacher.  A little more time is spent educating them, giving them the "tools of the trade", and giving them a long list of numbers where we can be reached--at all times!

For parents of diabetics out there, what are some challenges you've faced?