Friday, April 21, 2017

Expanding On Publish A Lot / Happenings In The Outhouse 21-Apr-2017

Lastly, for the third week in a row, my simple advice for writers:
Read a lot.
Write a lot.
Publish a lot.

Let's dive into the third axiom: publish a lot.

I need to clarify and expand on "publish."  It should really be publish/submit.  If you send a story off to an anthology, a contest, a small or medium press, or one of the big publishing houses--or in any case where you are passing along your story for publishing consideration, then you are moving the story along the path of publication.  That is submitting.

If you decide to indie publish, it's a matter of uploading the document and hitting publish--okay, okay, there's a bit more to it than that, but in a nutshell that's all there is to it.

Where is the editing process?  The cover art?  The formatting?  For now, don't worry about it.  We're keeping it simple.  One can find themselves stuck in the weeds when it comes to writing/publishing advice.  Now, I'm not a major bestselling author (so what do I know, right?), but I have been indie publishing since April 2012.  If you take into accounts the other aspects of publishing, from writing (and finishing) novels/short stories and sending them off to agents, we're talking a timeline of 1994 when I completed my first novel.  I studied query letters and agents, and did that whole ball of wax.

The bottom line is that I kept the stories moving.  Not all of them, mind you.  There are stories that have sat in the virtual trunk, and even novels that hadn't been looked at for decades.  But, by and large, I kept working.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Expanding On Write A Lot / Happenings In The Outhouse 14-Apr-2017

Again, here's my simple advice for writers:
Read a lot.
Write a lot.
Publish a lot.

Let's dive into the second axiom: write a lot.

How much is a lot?  That depends largely on the writer themselves.  Five hundred words for you in a day may be the max, while someone like Brandon Sanderson or Dean Wesley Smith can crank out several thousand.  Even Stephen King had, in his definitive book On Writing, said he wrote two thousand words a day, everyday.

Do you have to write two thousand words?  Can it be less?  Or more?

Again, it depends on you.

My suggestion is to keep track.  Either on a piece of paper or on a spreadsheet, write down the number of words you write in a day.  One can even use a calendar, then at the end of the week add up the total words in the week.

Keep in mind, each writer is different.  Are there days you'll write zero?  Of course.  Will there be days where you'll crank out two . . . three . . . or even four thousand?  Or more?  Yes.  For me, when I'm on a roll, the words gush out like a tidal wave.

The key to all this is to write as much as you can.  I'm a father of three and a husband to a former cancer patient.  A lot is on my shoulders.  But I still carve out a few minutes here and there to write.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Expanding On Read A Lot / Happenings In The Outhouse 07-Apr-2017

First, let's begin with the full text of my simple advice for writers:
Read a lot.
Write a lot.
Publish a lot.

Let's dive into the first axiom: read a lot.

What do I mean by it?

Well, as writers, we must read.  Musicians listen to music and architects study buildings.  Now, I remember listening to a podcast once with Brandon Sanderson, who said that his reading time goes down when he's in the middle of working on a big project, but that doesn't mean that prior to his publishing success that he didn't read.  He read a ton.  Hence his great success.

I'm at a point in my life where I feel like I'm behind the eight ball when it comes to reading certain books, be it classics of science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, etc.  But I read.  I do read a lot.  I sometimes read multiple books at once.  But I'm a slow reader.  I had purchased the five-ebook box set of George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series years ago, and it honestly took me roughly a year and a half to get through it.  Now, I was reading other books between, but it still took me a while.  I also read across various genres and story lengths.

But one could expand the "read a lot" into movies and TV shows as well.  As a writer, I can watch a TV show (or series) and figure out what the story is doing at any given point in time.  I then incorporate it into my own writing.

The point of all this is to simply state that one can absorb the elements of storytelling in ways other than reading (or listening to) a book.  TV shows and movies can also fill this role.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Freedom - A Huge Plus As An Indie Author / Happenings In The Outhouse 31-Mar-2017

The other day, I contemplated how much freedom I had as an indie author.  I could write what I want, when I want.  Everything is self-imposed.  Deadlines are typically what I set for myself, to push myself along.

This can be scary for some, as they navigate the publishing waters.  There is more than enough information to make one's head spin over and over again like Regan from The Exorcist.

Last week, Dean Wesley Smith posted the following two articles, in regards to freedom--as you may note, I commented on the first one.  Now, I can't say that my comment led to his writing the second one, but it wouldn't surprise me.

The Normal Nature of Being Behind In This New World.

Freedom In This New Publishing World

As a side note, if you aren't reading Dean's blog--he blogs daily, and has been for one heck of a long time--you should.

This past weekend, I was messaging with another indie author who was asking for my advice.  She had a completed suspense romance book (cool, huh?) with a summer release, and she had information overload when it came to indie publishing.

I won't dispense what advise I gave her here, because it was a private conversation and the circumstances were largely based on one's personal situation.

My advise to all would be: read a lot, write a lot, publish a lot.  I may expand on these in the future, but this is the axiom that I live by.

The best writing advise--keeping it simple, in other words--can be summed up nicely in what is called Heinlein's rules of writingHere is another link of the same rules, summarized by another author.

Remember, through it all, as indie authors, we have freedom.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Stats on 2nd Book in Shadowkill Trilogy / Happenings In The Outhouse 24-Mar-2017

On Sunday March 19th, 2017, I finished Homeland Defense, the second novel in the Shadowkill trilogy.

Also on March 19th, I started the third book, Storming The Hill.  This will close out the trilogy.  Will there be future books in the universe I had created?  I honestly do not know.  There are so many other books/series I want to write, but one never knows when I get a spark of a new idea that I can use in the Shadowkill universe.

I started writing Homeland Defense on 1/9/2017, which brings the total days I worked on it at 70.  This is just the first draft.  When I finish Storming The Hill, I will go back and edit both at the same time.  I'm still shooting for a summer release of both novels, which will include a box set of all three, so I'll be a busy beaver.

Homeland Defense runs at 59,543 words.  I averaged 851 words a day, but when I factor in the 11 days that had zero writing--I even had a day I wrote only 25 words, but that still counted as a writing day--the average jumps up to 1,009 in the 59 actual writing days.

I am currently around the 5,000 word mark in Storming The Hill.  It's a good click so far, and it's been fun.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Worst Critics Are Writers (AKA What's Wrong With Prim's Goat?) / Happenings In The Outhouse 17-Mar-2017

For a number of years, I've been listening to writing podcasts where other writers would criticize The Hunger Games and the scene often referred to as "Prim's goat."

Last year, my oldest daughter, who was thirteen at the time, read the book and I made a comment about the scene to her.  I was under the impression this scene of Prim's goat was an entire chapter and stuck out like a sore thumb.  She frowned and told me she couldn't even remember that scene.  So she looked it up.  She eventually found it, shrugged, and asked, "And?  What's wrong with it?"

I didn't know.

Recently, I listened to the entire Hunger Games trilogy on audiobook.  When I got to the scene where Katniss talked about Prim's goat . . . I was disappointed that other writers would take it to heart with such vileness.  In audio form, it was not even five minutes--in page form, um, maybe 2-3 pages tops.

What the hell!  I thought the scene was perfect and fit in the story nicely.

The worst critics seem to be, in fact, other writers.  We are taught to write in a certain way and to do things in a certain way, and when other stories fly in the face of it, writers (not all, mind you, but they are vocal) get their panties up in a bunch.

Honestly, I think they're jealous of others' success when theirs isn't as . . . successful.

I am probably the least panty buncher of them all.  It doesn't take much to entertain me--yes, I was a cheap date during my "dating" years (thank God I don't have to deal with that crap now, as I've been married almost nineteen years).  This past weekend, I rented the new Ghostbusters movie from the library--yes, the one that got all the negative reviews from die hard Ghostbusters fans.  Guess what?  I loved it.  Oh, sure, there were spots that I criticized and thought they could've done a better job or if they didn't work at being clever, but by and large it was a good movie.  My youngest daughter, who is ten, laughed all the way through it.

If you have a beta readers, it may be best for them NOT to be a writer.  Not to say that writers can't offer tips on your story, but find someone who loves to read.  You may be surprised at what you'll hear.  Aside from my writers' group, none of my beta readers are writers.  All are avid readers, and do a wonderful job of pointing out any mistakes I make.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Where you can be found - investing in your career - making it easy to find you / Happenings In The Outhouse 10-Mar-2017

Last week, a guy I work with had just returned from vacation.  He knew I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy, and asked me if I knew a certain author.  Apparently, while on vacation, he met the family of this particular author.

The name sounded familiar, but, after a while, names tend to blend.  So I did what anyone nowadays would do: I Googled the author.

I didn't find much.  Oh, sure, this author had a Wordpress website (with wordpress in the web address, which means it's the free version--come on, people, if you're gonna do that, just pay for the darn thing; otherwise, just go with a BlogSpot blog).  The author had a Facebook page, which hadn't been updated since 2013.  This author may or may not have even been on Twitter.

I will call the author a "he" since a saw a picture of him.  He had a smattering of short stories, and even had novels published by Tor--okay, I'm impressed by that bit.

Honestly, though, it still wasn't much.  I was surprised.  He had been publishing for quite a number of years.

Google my name: Mark S. R. Peterson.  Since I have a common enough name, you get other hits too, but for the most part it all leads back to me.

And, again, I suck at marketing.

It doesn't take much to start building an online presence.  A blog post here and there, even publishing here and there, it doesn't take much.  And this particular author had been publishing for years.  Much longer than me.

The point is that if you find someone who wants to know more about you or your books, be mindful of what many people will do nowadays.  Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither will your career.  But if you treat your career like an investment, adding to it bit by bit over time, your presence will grow.

Friday, March 3, 2017

111 months / Happenings In The Outhouse 03-Mar-2017

A few weeks ago, an area newspaper had a front page headline in regards to a young man who was sentenced to 111 months for a string of burglaries.

Then, I thought about the scope of 111 months.  Nine years and four months, to be exact--not including any time served or time off for good behavior, of course.

Imagine how much the world has changed in the last nine-plus years.

Imagine what life will be like after those 111 months.

The future is bright, no matter how you look at it.

What will you do?  Will you wait, procrastinating, eating up time with mindless events, waiting for just the right moment?

Or will you do something, today?

Friday, February 24, 2017

Stress, life happens, and writing / Happenings In The Outhouse 24-Feb-2017

Last week, Dean Wesley Smith wrote an excellent blog post, titled Protecting Choice, where he explored the reasons behind not writing--the good reasons, not the "oh I just don't feel like it" reason.  It's well worth reading it, as well as pretty much everything else he writes.

I am currently at the 35,000 word mark in the second novel in the Shadowkill trilogy.  When I've looked at the past few weeks on my daily word count spreadsheet, I noticed a number of days lately where I wrote nothing.

Yes, you read that correctly.  Nothing.

Last week, my son had a medical emergency, which required me to spend a night in the hospital with him while the doctors figured out what was wrong with him.  He has type one diabetes, but it appeared not to be related to it.

A few weeks before that, I had vehicle problems--both of my vehicles were down, oddly enough with almost the same problem.

A few years ago, if you recall, I had my own personal medical emergency.  I am taking medication, but one of the side effects are . . . well, some I won't mention, for reasons I won't make clear here, but one of the main side effects are mood swings.  Meaning, bad ones.  Quick to anger, and stuff like that.  I recognize when my stress goes through the roof and feel my anger building up, so I work hard at not snapping at my family.  Some times I succeed.  Other times, I hate to say, I do not.

Life happens to us all.  Find ways to get yourself through it.  Find remedies, be it exercise, relaxation, hobbies.



Friday, February 17, 2017

Fight the fear - what's the worst that could happen? / Happenings In The Outhouse 17-Feb-2017

Writers (and most artists/creative types in general) are fickle creatures.  We are fearful.

We have the fear of failure.

The fear of success.

The fear of the "oh, my gosh, look what you did!" reaction from others.

We have a fear of putting our work out there, even when we know in our heart of hearts, that it's not quite perfect.

Fight the fear.  What's the worst that will happen?
My first indie published book was a nonfiction book called Debt Free I Do: 99 Ways Of Having A Memorable Wedding On A Shoestring Budget.



When family and friends found out about this, they laughed.  "What in the world do you know about weddings?"

But I didn't care.  I published it anyway.

Now, almost five years later, I have over 20 published works (some for free on my website, even), from short stories to full-length novels.  Who's laughing now?

Friday, February 10, 2017

Write, Don't Preach / Happenings In The Outhouse 10-Feb-2017

I was listening to a webinar a few weeks ago when they were discussing social change through our writing.

The first book that came to mind was The Chamber by John Grisham.  I saw the movie before I read the book, but the one thing that stood out in my mind (in the book version) was that John Grisham didn't preach about capital punishment.

In fact, by the end of the novel, he set the moral implications of capital punishment on a silver platter, as if presenting both sides of the coin.

The novel gave us a choice.  Both sides seemed plausible, no matter what side you stood on.  He didn't preach one side over the other, even if he did hold a certain view.  The reader just never saw that side of him.

I've read books where the authors preached their social views on issues to the absolute extreme.  Whether I believed in the issue or found that side completely absurd, preaching has always grated me the wrong way.  Even if I believed it.

If you have a story, tell it.  If there are issues you want to address, do it through story.  You may actually sway a reader to your side if you tell your story, through the actions of your characters, well enough.  Take as an example: The Hunger Games.  Suzanne Collins did a wonderful job of portraying the grim realities of a post-apocalyptic life and the greed of a totalitarian system.  Not once did she preach that the big bad government was horrible and should be stopped.  She told it through the story--and through the other two novels in the series.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Setting the big rocks in place / Happenings In The Outhouse 03-Feb-2017

A few weeks ago, I finally came up with "the big rocks" to plot out books two and three of the Shadowkill Trilogy.

What do I mean by big rocks?

Think of ideas as various sized rocks.  Big rocks are the main plot points that are the meat of the story.  This would be the equivalent to the Rebel Alliance stealing the plans for the Death Star in Star Wars: A New Hope.  For example, that is.  There are other big rocks in Star Wars, but for simplicity purposes let's stick with this.

Next to the big rocks are smaller-sized rocks.  Imagine the big rocks being placed in a large bucket.  The remaining space fits the rest of the rocks, and eventually down to sand.  Coming up with the big rocks for the rest of this trilogy has changed the scope of these books--honestly, I know what's going to happen in book three, but didn't figure out how to marry the two.

Now I have.

I am currently around the 21,000 word mark in the second book.  I'm shooting for around 75,000 words, as a guideline, but wherever it ends is fine by me.

Friday, January 27, 2017

The anatomy of a jerk / Happenings In The Outhouse 27-Jan-2017

The harsh title of this post may give some pause, but go with me for a bit.

A few weeks ago, I felt like my entire childhood was torn into shreds.  An actor, who played in prominent role in a series of movies that came out when I was young, came out very publically and trashed someone, even going so far as to call him a "loser."

I apologize ahead of time as I will be very cryptic on who the actor was and who the other person he trashed was.  The point of this piece is simply: don't be a jerk.

I find it distressing when (some) people become more and more popular, they feel like they can spread their message values to everyone, despite whom it may hurt or if it aligns with the values of their fans.  Now, if your entertainment platform has always been of a certain nature, I'm not speaking of them.  For example, for those who like the liberal nature of Ed Schultz or the conservative nature of Rush Limbaugh, Ed and Rush will not change as their entire platform is based on their political views.

Now, some of my favorite authors and actors do hold different values than myself, which I am okay with (not everyone should think alike), but the emergence of social media has made their views more and more public.  Especially the vile comments.

I honestly don't have a solution, except this: no matter how famous or public your life is, remember that not everyone thinks the way you do.  In fact, others may have a different set of values, but still love the work you produce.

In other words, don't be a jerk to them.  Or anyone.  Period.

Okay, rant over.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Two novels written back-to-back / Happenings In The Outhouse 20-Jan-2017

As the headline states, I am writing two novels back-to-back.  These would be books two and three in the Shadowkill Trilogy.

As an aside, I am also working on a nonfiction book--okay, writing three books at once, but the nonfiction book won't take that long to complete and I will work on this in the off-hours.
I am currently around the 10,000 word mark in book 2 (I have the title, but I'm holding off on sharing it for the moment in case it may change).  It's going great.
To prepare myself for these final two books, I re-read book 1: KillzoneIt's a fun read (and I'm not just saying that because I wrote the damn thing), and it was a great landing point to start headlong into the next two books.


Why two books back-to-back, you may ask?  I had written Killzone in 2014 and it has steadily grown in sales month by month.  My original plan was to write more in the Central Division thriller series, but I want to close out the trilogy first and even put together a box set of all three.
Also, there is a new form of fiction out there called LitRPG.  For those who have read Ready Player One, it blends gaming into the fiction writing element.  Now, the Shadowkill trilogy isn't technically LitRPG, but rather a technothriller with a flavor of LitRPG.  Instead of the characters living through an online MMO world, the gamers are powering real-life robotic soldiers through virtual reality (VR) helmets.
Now, back to writing the last two novels back-to-back.  How am I doing this?  Well, instead of finishing one book and then editing it, when I complete book 2, I'm jumping in right with book 3.  When the two books are done, then I'll start the editing process.  The plan is to have them published by summer 2017, and that is a goal I'm positive to hit.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Christmas in January / Happenings In The Outhouse 13-Jan-2017

On December 30th, 2016, I finally published The Christmas Letters.


What legacy do you want to leave behind?

Meet the Wilkins. The typical busy American family.
But when Grandma Wilkins passes away, they discover her old Christmas letters in a shoebox. Molly, the youngest grandchild, soon decides to start where her grandmother’s legacy left off, writing about future events, no matter how unrealistic they may seem at the time.

The Christmas Letters can be found at the following e-retailers:






Friday, January 6, 2017

Why 2016 did NOT suck / Happenings In The Outhouse 06-Jan-2017

I've noticed a trend as 2016 wound down about how the year sucked.  Whenever a celebrity, be it singer or actor or whomever famous, died, people would get enamored by how much the year sucked big time.

If you look at Wikipedia, there is a recent deaths section.  Every single day, someone dies.  It's natural, all part of life.

How one looks at the year, and how one treats it, is based largely on one's attitude--and I have a feeling that the majority of the noisy people who are shouting from the mountaintop that 2016 just sucked, had more to do with the results of the 2016 US election than deaths.

Get over it.

Move on with your life.

Do something to improve your life.

2016 was a spectacular year for me.  I published 3 full-length novels, a short story, and a novelette.  Two were books 3 and 4 in the Central Division Series:






The last novel published was The Christmas Letters: