Friday, June 28, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 28-Jun-2013 / Moving forward

I'm crossing my fingers.  I've never submitted anything to a small press before, but a few days ago I did.  Beholder's Eye (well, the first two chapters and a synopsis) are in the hands of a great small press, one that publishes a lot of horror and thriller novels.

It's a long shot, I know.  But at least I'm giving it a shot.  If it doesn't work out, I'll just self-publish it like I did with Guest of Honor.

No, I will not share the name of the small press.

I'm also participating in Brandon Sanderson's 2013 Summer writing class, to be seen online at Write About  Originally, I had an idea for a new series of stories, but at the last minute decided against it because the idea needs a lot more brainstorming.  Instead, I'm taking the prologue to a fantasy epic novel I wrote years ago and am writing the story behind it.  It's something I've always wanted to tackle, and felt that at this time I should do so.

I'm also nearing the end of my inspirational novelette--oh, I am so close word-count wise to being a novelette.

I have a lot going on.  I'm moving forward.

What are you doing to move yourself forward in your life?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Where will you be 20 years from now?

Twenty years.  Two freaking decades.  Seems like a long time, doesn't it?

Where were you 20 years ago?  I was in college, Bemidji State University, and was probably at work on my very first novel--a deer hunting horror story that was a pure homage to Stephen King.

How about you?

Over the past week or so, I've been listening to podcasts where people are marking 20 years (or more) for something.  Dave Ramsey has been on the radio, teaching financial independence and debt freedom for a little over two decades.  Andy Andrews recently published a book he started as an audio book 20 years ago.

Then it got me thinking: what have I done in the past 20 years?  I met my wife, got married, raised a family, and have battled both type 1 diabetes (in two of our three children) and leukemia (my wife).  Now I look at what the next 20 will bring.

Are you planning for your next 20 years?

What will you accomplish?  Don't wait to start.  Do it now.  The world needs you.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tales of a diabetic father: the dangers of sugar tabs

A few years ago, someone we know had a devastating experience.  They had a counselor come into their home to help with their young child, as they thought the child may have a learning disability.  In the counseling period, the counselor noticed some of the supplies for their older diabetic child was in easy reach of the younger child.

The counselor--although I'm sure who meant well, even though they were ignorant of the situation and could've been explained it with a simple conversation with the parents--contacted social services as she felt it posed a threat to the younger child.  Social services, in turn, immediately stormed the family's home as if they were a S.W.A.T. team.

The supplies in question were sugar tabs.

In other words, in the hands of someone who is not diabetic, candy.  Honestly, I've never tasted them but my children who are diabetic say it tastes like candy.  Sugar tabs are used when diabetics have low blood glucose levels.

Do you need to be put them up and lock them away as if they were syringes or "finger poker" needles?  No, that's absurd.  When you need them the most is during low blood sugar times, which are stressful enough without having to question the location of these little buggers.  I can see if it's a very young child and they're afraid of swallowing them.  Yes, they could pose a danger then.

But the child in question was not.

Keep in mind the ignorance of others who do not have to deal with diabetes on a daily basis.  Don't yell at them or put them down.  They simply do not know.

Educate them.  Repeatedly, if you have to.

Because ignorance is rampant when it comes to diabetes.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Help! I have stories in my head that need to get out!

Last week, I saw a Facebook post where the person said something like, "Help!  I have stories in my head and I have a full-time job!  How do I get started?"

I sometimes forget that there are other people who are not as far ahead in their writing process as I.  Some have never started--or worse, don't even know where to start.

Let's start with the notion you have lots of stories and don't know which one to pick.  Here's what I suggest: sit down with a blank piece of paper and write down as many of the ideas as you can.  Some will be more fully-formed than others.  If this takes more than one day, so be it.

When you've exhausted your list, you'll also find that you're creating room for even more.  This is the fun part of writing: coming up with new ideas.  Be a magnet for new ideas.  Also, find an easy way to collect those ideas, be it a notebook or "Stickie" or Smartphone.  Trust me, you'll want to write these down.

Look over your list.  Pick a half-dozen (or less) that really jump out at you.  There will be at least one.  Once you've narrowed the list down, ask yourself which one is the most fully-formed.  If there are none, just pick one.  I don't care how: flip a coin or draw straws or the old eenie-meanie-miney-moe.

Now that you have your story chosen, sit down and write.  Set a daily goal or x amount of words or pages.  Write your accomplishments down on a calendar so you can track your progress.  I don't care if you have a full-time job and three kids.  At one time, when my now fourteen-year-old son was born, I worked three jobs: one full-time and two part-time.  I don't recommend it, for there were days I worked literally twenty-four hours straight.

And yet I still wrote.

You can do it.  Write for fifteen minutes to start with.  Then expand it to more.

Yes, you can do it.  It doesn't matter what it looks like.  The craft of writing will get better with practice over time.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 21-Jun-2013 / Anniversary!

For over sixteen years, I've had a reason to write.  Prior to having met "the reason" I wrote because I wanted to make money.  It was for selfish reasons, but everything clicked into place once I met this person.  Let me share:

Cute, isn't she?  Yes, I mean the one on the left--not the doofus on the right.

Today is our sixteenth wedding anniversary.  Two years ago, I almost lost her to AML: Acute Myeloid Leukemia.  We're still not out of the water, even though she's still in remission.  It's at least a five year wait before we know for certain.  This week has been extremely difficult because she's been having problems with her eyes and had surgery on one of them.  I won't go into detail quite yet.

Just a quick recap, I'm over 11K on a new inspirational novella.  At least I'm hoping it gets past the 17,500-word novella mark.  As of now, it's in novelette length.  It's going much better than I hoped.

I'm also going to be sending off Beholder's Eye shortly to a small press who is open for submissions.  This small press does quite a bit of horror and thriller novels, so I'm going to at least give it a shot.

I also got my rejection letter from the Writers Of The Future contest for the quarter ending on April 1st.  It was the first time I entered the contest.  I wasn't expecting to even place.  I submitted another one a few weeks ago for this next quarter's contest ending July 1st.

I'm also contemplating what to do next.  I have a writing workshop led by Brandon Sanderson: Write About  It starts July 1st, and I have to do a little prep work prior to starting it.  I'm also brainstorming what to work on next.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

If you could have dinner with a writer (living or dead), who would it be?

Copyblogger has a great segment of articles they call The Writer Files.  They've interviewed many writers, from Seth Godin to Jeff Goins.

One of the more interesting questions they ask is: what writers, living or dead, would they like to have dinner with?

Who would yours be?

Here's mine: it's a small list, with various pros and cons tied to it.

First and foremost at the top of my mind is Stephen King.  That's a no-brainer.  The King of Horror himself.  As long as we talk "shop" - i.e. writing.

Next would be Brandon Sanderson--fantasy author.  I've listened to enough podcasts and watched enough videos to give me a good sense of what he can teach, and then again he's teaching an upcoming class over at Write About next month.

That's all for the living authors--I know, it's a short list and I didn't even mention others such as J. K. Rowling or John Grisham.  Or even Dean Koontz.

The deceased authors, on the other hand, are a bit more interesting.

One such fellow is J. R. R. Tolkien.  Nothing more needs to be said there, do I?  Next would be John Gardner--his novel On Becoming A Novelist is a classic in my book, and a must-read for any author.

In the end, if I had to choose one, it would be the recluse J. D. Salinger.  Why?  He doesn't even write genre fiction, so why Salinger?

He is a master of dialogue, for one.  And his method of storytelling far exceeds most writers.  I'd just like to know how he approaches the craft of writing and even dialogue in general.  There's one such story he wrote--it wasn't Catcher--where we meet two characters conversing for over fifty pages, while one is in the bathtub.  And I was enthralled by it!  How in the world did he pull it off?

Ancient mysteries I'd like to know.

In the end, I'd set aside King (although if I really had to pick a living author, it might be his son Joe Hill) and Sanderson for the mighty Salinger.

Yeah, that's who I'd pick.

Who's yours?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tales of a diabetic father: the importance of camps, for both the children and the parents

Last week, my fourteen-year-old son attended Camp Sioux--an American Diabetes Association sponsored camp just west of Park River, North Dakota.  My six-year-old daughter also attended a day camp on Tuesday.

At this day camp, two other families were in attendance, and I was struck by the notion--which both they and the camp counselor told me--that we've been battling type 1 diabetes with our children for a long time.  My son was diagnosed in August 2001 (one month before the dreaded 9/11) and my daughter in November 2009.

Yes, a long time.

I was also struck by the notion that children with diabetes are alone in their battle.  Typically, unless they live in a larger city, they may be the only one in school who has it.  Hence the reason why diabetes camps, like Camp Sioux or Camp Needlepoint near the Twin Cities, is very important.  The children not only bond with other diabetes children, they learn to be more independent in their diabetes care.

The two families I met both had children who were just recently diagnosed.  They held some of the same fears as my wife and I had in the beginning--not that we still don't have fears, because the minute we let our guard down, life throws us a curve ball.  As you can see, the camp is important for the parents too.  I only wish there was more of a bonding time with the other parents who dropped their children off.

I'm sure they all have lessons to teach as well.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Hit a rough patch in your writing? Here are 2 simple solutions.

You've been slaving over your giant epic novel for months or years, and then you get to a point where you don't know what's next.

The diehard outliners out there will probably shout from the hilltops: "That's why you need to outline!"  However, my friend, even outliners can have this problem, because they can get to a point in their story where they simply don't know what's going to happen next.

To remedy this, you can do one of two things:

First, start something new.  It could be you're just thinking about a new idea, a short story or a new novel.  I believe it was Chuck Wendig who said (paraphrasing!) to keep working on your current project until it's done.  Great advice, for sure.  But if it's gnawing at your mind, take an hour or so and write the darn thing.

Also, it could be that your story needs a little spice.  I'm not talking a sex scene or blatant erotica.  I'm talking a change of pace.  On my first novel--a deer hunting horror story I wrote back in college--I hit a rough patch near the beginning, when the four characters were going out into the woods, because I didn't want the story to be a "Guide to Deer Hunting Techniques."  I then had a vision of a boy, out for a bike ride one final time before winter, getting into a fatal accident and all of the events leading up to that one moment.  Bingo!  I wrote the scene as I envisioned, which jarred the story in a slightly different direction.  Looking back on it now, I don't know if I'll ever keep it in but it did change the pace.

I have written stories where I change point-of-view for a chapter here and there, just to change things up.

Second, if you can't think of something, walk away from your computer or typewriter and think.  Brainstorm.  Force yourself to come up with twenty different ideas.  Don't go with your first or even your second, no matter how well you think it is.  Come up with twenty ideas.

What have you done when you've hit a rough patch in your writing?  Please comment on it.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Tales of a diabetic father: a new segment of the blog

I've been meaning to write about this for a long time, and after this last week when my two diabetic children (type 1) attended Camp Sioux, up near Park River, North Dakota, I felt the strong need to start this segment of the blog to devote to our tales of dealing with diabetes in our children.

My fourteen-year-old son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was two, in August 2001.  Our soon-to-be seven-year-old daughter was diagnosed in November 2009 when she was three.

Neither my wife nor myself have diabetes.

Neither my wife nor myself went to school to learn about diabetes.

What I'm sharing in this segment is what we've learned in our many years of caring for our children.  Take what is said only as a guideline.  Make sure to get the opinion of a doctor and/or trained diabetes educator if you are unsure of how to care for your child or if you suspect they have diabetes.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 14-Jun-2013 / I see dead people

A few weeks ago, my wife and I subscribed to Netflix.  We're not sure why we kept putting it off.  It's not like we rent a lot of movies, but sometimes the current television programs just stink.

The first thing I watched was The Walking Dead.  I blew through Season 1 in about 3 days--holy crap!  I am hooked.  I finished Season 2 Wednesday night and cannot wait for Season 3 to come out (I believe I may be waiting a little while).  I don't watch an enormous amount of television.  I usually watch a little while I relax for bed.

Last Saturday, I watched an episode in Season 2 (right near the middle) which really tugged at my heartstrings--yes, I admit, I was shocked and even shed a tear (for those who have seen the show know what I'm talking about so I won't spoil it).

Then, of course, there's the upcoming movie starring Brad Pitt: World War Z, based on the amazing book by Max Brooks.

Zombies, zombies, zombies.

A thought occurred to me that I, in fact, had already written a zombie novel.  It's not your typical zombie apocalypse novel, but rather more like The Walking Dead than World War Z, as it focuses on a small group of people.

It is this book that I will be editing next . . . once I complete my final edits of Beholder's Eye--for the brief moment, I am putting off self-publishing because there's a small press I know that has opened submissions for the month of June, so I'm going to try them first.  It may be a long shot (isn't everything in a publishing world a long shot?), but at least I'm going to do it and submit.  If it doesn't pan out, then it's on to self-publishing.

I have over 6,500 words written in my inspirational novelette.  I know, I know, I haven't written much this week, but it's been a busy week.  I typically write in the mornings for 1-2 hours, and this week most mornings have been filled with diabetes camps and doctors appointments.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Are artists allowed to publicly share their opinions? Or, better yet, should they?

The short answer to the first question is yes.  It's a Constitutional right--for those who live in the United States, that is.

The long answer, on the other hand, leads to the second question.

The answer to that one . . . I'm not so sure on.  We should be able to share our opinions, but at what cost?  If you publicly criticize the way your government is being run, you may be praised or you may be outcast--this depends largely on what political party is in power.

Does this mean I don't believe artists should be able to share their opinions on social views or poltics?  For me, it depends largely on what it accomplishes.  Also, some people are really good about expressing their opinions, and it is even a part of their platform (i.e. Sean Hannity or Ed Schultz).

Is it safer to take the neutral ground on such hot topics?

Take the issue on gay marriage.  There are strong supporters of it as well as strong opponents.  But if one takes a side, are you alienating the other?  If you are a strong opponent, are you seen as simply homophobic?

Something to think about.  I'm not sharing my opinions, and for the most part I keep an open mind about such things--I have this uncanny ability to view things from various points of view.  There are a number of artists who are also in this camp.

So at least I'll have company.

Monday, June 10, 2013

What if you discovered your favorite artist holds values far different than yours?

Last year, I read and published a blog post on Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game and how I thought it was so far ahead of its time, especially for being published in the mid-80's.  I've read a few other books by Card and have liked them just as much.

Then, with the release of the Ender's Game movie, there are people planning to boycott the movie because of the author's views on gay marriage.  In fact, I've been hearing tremors for a while that people have simply stopped reading his books based on this.

Yesterday, I was listening to a podcast on Stitcher and they were reading a story by Rudyard Kipling.  In the introduction, they said that Neil Gaiman was asked once who his favorite authors were and named Kipling as one.  Afterwards, he received scathing letters regarding Kipling as being a racist.

Then again, so was Lovecraft.

Yet, millions of people still read their books and both Kipling and Lovecraft are forever named in the classics.

Stephen King, by his own account, is a true blue Democrat.  How many Republican readers has he alienated by sharing his hatred towards George W. Bush?

Larry Correia, a bestselling science fiction/fantasy author, came out very strongly against gun control--an minority view when compared with many of his colleagues.  Has he been alienated at all or shunned by not including him in the industry's awards?

This doesn't include the number of actors who have stepped forward to support one political candidate or another.  Do they alienate the "other side" when they do so?

This debate is surely not over, but let's get the conversation going, shall we?  How much does an artist's view on a political or social topic cloud your judgement as to whether or not you'll ever purchase another work of art from them?  Because, in your view, buying one of their books or watching one of their movies is supporting a cause far different than yours--yes, I know you think this way.

Let me ask this: do you know the political leanings of Wal-Mart?  McDonald's?  KFC?  Ford?  GM?  You don't?  Yet you'll still buy from them.  Just because Card had a certain view on gay marriage (which, I might add, he has changed his view) doesn't mean you can't enjoy his work.  I'm sure there are plenty of Republicans who still buy books from Stephen King

Or are there?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 07-Jun-2013 / Progress

This week has seen good progress on a new inspirational piece I'm working on--probably novella length when it's all done.  I have almost 4700 words written since Monday morning, and it's turning out better than I first anticipated.

My thriller Beholder's Eye is taking a slight detour.  I have a beta reader going through it, and tonight she advised me I made a minor mistake--yet a stupid one to boot.  It seems that I have a Dodge Durango near the later fourth of the book . . . and I called it a Chevy Durango.  Stupid mistake, and one that I hate to make because I'm usually very careful.

Especially when I think of how many times I've read through it, it's a mistake I should've avoided.

I'm also putting the finishing touches on a short story to be submitted to the "Writers of the Future" contest.  I'll get it uploaded to their site sometime this weekend.

Progress, my man.  I'm doing, instead of just trying.

What are you doing?  How are you progressing towards your goals?

Take a step forward today.

You can do it.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Best way to improve your writing productivity

You've been slaving away for weeks, months, and in some cases years.  And now you've finally done it.  Your novel is done.  Complete.  The End.

Time for a grand celebration!  Fireworks galore!

Now what?  All of the experts say to put the book away for a while--the time may vary per writer.  Trust me, each one is different.  Some can start right back at chapter one, page one, and begin editing.  Others may let it sit in a drawer and marinate for 2-3 months.

If you're one of those waiters (raise your hand . . . go on, I know you're out there, lurking in the shadows.  Peek-a-boo, I see you.) then what should you work on next?

Another project.


Right away.

Last week, on Friday May 31st, I finished the first draft of Shadowkill.  I took the weekend off from physically writing, except I did do a little outlining for my next project--an inspirational novelette or novella.

It's refreshing working on a smaller project between big ones.  Also, since this one is in a completely different genre than what I'm used to, it's challenging me just the same.  I currently have close to 3,500 words written, and I started it Monday.

Not bad.

The best way I know how to keep your writing productivity high is to write and keep writing.  When I'm nearing the end of one project, have the next one planned out.  There will be plenty of time for editing.

(yes, I did say I outlined my next project a little.  There's a reason behind it--David Farland and his ebook Million Dollar Outlines.  I highly suggest subscribing to his blog, where he gives daily writing tips that are absolutely invaluable.  I will cover more on my style of outlining in a future post.  I'm still not a have-to-put-every-single-detail-down-on-paper outliner, but I've discovered that I do a little.  I do have a novel that was completely written with no idea on the end, and I believe it turned out wonderful.)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Where do you keep your ideas?

For the second time this summer, I mowed the lawn.  At least three times during my forays around the yard--I only got about halfway done before darkness ensued and I had to quit--I stopped and pulled out my phone.

To the average person walking by, they'd probably think I was texting something.  I wasn't.  I was jotting down notes.

I love my Motorola Android.  I have a few note-taking features and even a task manager for keeping track of ideas: brand new story ideas, blog post ideas, story development ideas.

If I'm driving, however, I use the Easy Voice Recorder App to record my ideas--I'm sure jotting them down is just as dangerous as texting while driving, so I'm not going there.

If I'm at work and cannot pull out my phone to jot a note, I e-mail it to myself from my work address to my gmail account.  Then, later, I'll transfer it to wherever it needs to go.

I also love using Stickies to jot notes.

What are your tips for handling/keeping track of ideas?  Or even just plain jotting them down?  Please comment below on any new ideas I didn't cover to share with others.