Friday, March 22, 2019

Are you ready for success? / Happenings In The Outhouse 22-March-2019

As the first quarter of 2019 winds down and the weather starts to get warmer here in northwestern Minnesota, I'm reflecting on my writing goals for the year.

First, I am currently around the 25,000 word mark on my epic fantasy and I'm quite a distance away from completing the first part--there are four parts to the book; the original plan was to write one part per quarter.  That may not happen now.  I'm still writing everyday but the story is taking longer to tell.  Not a bad thing.  The story will get done.  Will it be done by the end of the year?  Who knows . . .

Reviewing my 5 goals for the quarter, I have completed 2 of them.  Yeah!  What they are, that is between me and the Almighty.

I've written before about success and how success is different for each person.  Here's one post from 2011.  It still holds true, in my opinion.

But how ready are for you for success?  What is the huge "pie in the sky" goal was to land on your lap?  Let's say your goal is to have a book made into a movie.  What if a big movie studio not only gave you a fat contract for your book but it also was speeding along to be made right away?  What if, all of a sudden, a book of yours sudden flew off the shelves and you made five and six figures a month?

How ready are you for it?  There's a mindset that needs to be firm in place.  It's a rarity for someone to come into massive amounts of money (there are other metrics to success, but I'm focusing on money as an example) and not have troubles.  Whether it's starting to do drugs and drink, or run around partying, or spending like money has no end, most who come into it aren't ready.  But if you mentally prepare for what you're going to do, it will help guide you.

What are you preparing for today?  What is your success metric?

Friday, March 15, 2019

Perspectives and paradigms / Happenings In The Outhouse 15-March-2019

How do you view the world?  What lens do you look at things around you?  Take an honest look at it.  Take a step back, if you have to.  Are you able to view events from varying perspectives, from another person's shoes?  Or are you narrow in how you view the world, that your way is the only way?

Given the current political climate, those who lean toward the liberal (left) side may view everything that Trump does is bad and should be criticized accordingly AND that everything they view on their side is for the greater good.  One may also say the same thing about the previous Obama administration in regards to conservatives/GOP.

But how much of it is true?

Two events happened last week, one personally on Friday and another more public fiasco on Saturday that spurned this post on perspectives/paradigms and how others view the world.

Friday, I saw a FB post from a science fiction author (no, I will not share who it is) who was criticizing the current President for signing Bibles while visiting the recent havoc caused by tornadoes in Alabama.  Now, my first instinct was to ignore it, hide it, and move on with my life.  But I was curious.  I inquired as to why they saw it as a problem.  In their opinion, people shouldn't be signing books they didn't write.  And since he didn't write the Bible, he shouldn't sign it.

Okay . . .

So, I poked the bear a little more--grin.  A gentle poke, mind you.  Writers may be asked to sign other things, like part of someone's body or their Kindle/iPad.  What did I get back?  The same rehashing, that it was odd he was asked to sign a Bible, clearly a book he didn't write, this author said.

In viewing the other comments, it didn't take a genius to figure out how politically-slated the author's "friends" were, not to mention the pure hatred toward a single member of our society.

Keep in mind, with my gentle poke, I reminded them that if the President handed out copies of his books, signed and all, how would the media portray it?  The response from said SF author?  Same old rehash from before.  The author didn't answer my question at all (I wanted to remind this author of how a certain president with the last name of Obama gave a gift of a iPod with all of his speeches on it, but thought better of it.)

In the end, I just deleted the comment, "snoozed" the author for 30 days, and went on with my life.  This author clearly was too narrow-minded and hypocritical to expand their thinking, even to have a civil dialogue.  Because a civil dialogue was my only intention.

The other event took the true crime podcast community by storm.  Again, I'm not mentioning names, but a popular true crime podcast was removed from a network (a podcast network, not a media network like CNN or Fox; again, no names here) for posting a meme on Twitter.  Looking at it from both sides, I saw people who were clear supporters of the podcast and those who hated it.  There was much blaming on both sides.

I'll end this post quickly, as I see that it's rambling on for quite a length, but the true lesson learned from the true crime podcast fiasco is this: when dealing with something, be it a meme or a post, before responding, take a pause.  Ask yourself: do I want to do this?  What are the consequences, if I do?

Even though our natural response to a stimulus is to quickly respond, take a moment . . . and ask if you really should respond the way you want.
I could go on and on, but this post is long enough.  I may revisit this topic at another time.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Appeal to your niche / Happenings In The Outhouse 08-March-2019

Who is your target audience?

And please do not say the world.  Even though books like Harry Potter seem to be read by most people on planet Earth, it was still written as a young adult book.  That is the intended audience.

Find out who the niche audience is for what you're working on.  Keep it as simple as possible.

Thriller readers that lean toward the political side.

Cozy mysteries with a bit of grit.

Fast-paced fantasies.

Romance with a flair of mystery, intrigue, and thrillers.

Serial killer thrillers.

Hard science fiction with a dash of romance.

Humorous thrillers that ride on the edge of satire.

You may not be able to narrow it down like I listed above.  And (honestly) I just tossed these together in a matter of minutes.

Keep in mind, your niche is also . . . drum roll please . . . anything you write.  Believe it or not, there are those who love what you write, no matter what it is.  I have a handful of authors that I love to read, no matter the genre.

Speaking on genres, even though it is traditionally-minded not to mix them up, if that's your thing, if that's what you love to read . . . do it!  Mix it up!

Friday, March 1, 2019

The (false) cost of stupidity / Happenings In The Outhouse 01-March-2019

"Beware of what you do online, as it may come back to haunt you."

"If I post this, someone may say bad things about me and offend me."

"My life is over because I used to be in pornography."  Or the equivalent: "If I start acting in adult films (porn) everyone from my hometown will know what I'm doing for a living."

Attention.  People crave it--not all, but it seems like a growing number of people do.  I can't prove that it truly is a growing number.  If you're on any social media network or if you watch any of the 24/7 news networks, there are people vying for attention.

Take a certain actor who recently decided to fake an attack on himself.  Why?  He wanted the attention.  He felt he deserved more and wanted to do something drastic about it.

Stupid?  Yup.

Did he get attention?  Unfortunately, yes.  He may end up in jail for a while because of it, but he may have wanted to risk it in order to garner attention.

Now, I'm not saying that one should act like an ever-increasing idiot to garner attention.  Keep in mind, the attention is short-lived by and large--although for some, the attention may last much, much longer.  Remember the childhood bully who tormented you?  Everyone has one.  What if that bully, now grown up, was a new employee where you work or a politician who wants your vote or a new business owner who wants your business.  I don't know about you, but most people would lean toward not welcoming said bully.

"But, Mark, why is attention always bad?"

Sorry, I never said attention was always bad.  The way one does it may be.  Then again, go back to the quoted statements at the top of this post.  Because so many people are garnering for attention, it makes one a very small fish in a large ocean.  The first quote is a warning many older people give to younger people.  If they do something stupid online, will it really haunt them forever?  Chances are, it won't.  The next quote may also be true, but ask yourself this: do you really care?  I've tested the waters on this (not very often, as I don't post very many controversial things) with no comments or repercussions.

And last two statements about the adult film industry is interesting.  I watched an interview of a previous adult film star who had converted their life to Christ, and those two statements were what she said about her life.  I applaud her for making the right choice in her life, but viewing the statements, I lean toward the fact that unless the said adult star actually said something, no one would ever know what they did for a living.

Just saying.

The solution?  Keep working on what you were meant to do.  Treat people with respect.  On your work, keep honing your skills and look to the future.  Where will you be in five years?  Ten years?  Twenty?

Friday, February 22, 2019

Changing things up / Happenings In The Outhouse 22-Feb-2019

A few weeks ago, I was irritated at the slow pace I've been writing my new fantasy epic.  At the rate it's going, and the actual scope of this immense project, I don't feel I'll have it completed before the end of 2019.

Don't get me wrong.  I've been writing quite a bit.  500 words here, 750 there.  And at a fairly steady pace.  But I knew something had to change.

You see, I've been using the previous written pages as an outline.  Well, I had two tabs open on the screen.  One with the new pages, the other with the old.  Going back and forth was getting a bit daunting.

I knew where the story was heading.  So, I sat down with a tablet and read ahead a half-dozen scenes.  I scribbled notes on what I read.
Then, I closed the other tab, set the tablet off to the side, and wrote.  I referred to the notes from time to time, but after a while even the story took on a slightly different direction.  It was better.

It's okay to change things up.  If what you're doing isn't working as efficiently as you'd like, brainstorm on what could be done differently.  Experiment if you have to.

And if one thing doesn't work, try something else.  Find the most efficient way to create.  You'll thank yourself in the end.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Independence / Happenings In The Outhouse 15-Feb-2019

I want to thank all of those who reached out to me to express their gratitude concerning my grandfather.  The heartfelt outpouring has been humbling.

I went to visit with my grandfather Ray on Groundhog Day.  Prior to this visit, I was on the fence about even seeing him.  I was one of a few grandchildren who helped to celebrate his 95th birthday last April, and we always see him when we celebrate Christmas and Thanksgiving at my parents' house.  Between my wife and my sister, they convinced me to visit.  And I am both glad and blessed that I did.

Seeing him in such a vulnerable position was difficult to witness.  A hospital bed was situated in the living room, and pictures from his entire family (including his late wife Adelyne, who passed away close to 15 years or so ago) lining the walls.  He slept for a bit, but when he was awake, boy did he love to talk.

At one point, he looked over at me and said something profound.  "Mark, all my life, I've been very independent.  I've always done stuff myself.  This," he said, indicating the current living arrangements, with his children giving him literally 24/7 care (two of his children had come from Lacrosse, Wisconsin, and Bremerton, Washington while the rest live nearby), "I don't like people having to wait on me, hand and foot.  Even the most simple things, I can't do without help."


I cherish my independence and have instilled that notion in my three children.
Being independent is another reason why I have chosen to be an indie author when compared to a traditionally published one.  Bookbub recently published a post about each of these paths.  Very interesting read . . .

Friday, February 8, 2019

If a project doesn't work, do something else / Happenings In The Outhouse 08-Feb-2019

For the latter half of 2018, I struggled to write.  It wasn't that I didn't have something to write--I was working on my second romance novel written under a pen name--but, for whatever reason, I wasn't satisfied with it.  Each word was like walking through a thick pile of sludge.

Looking back on it now, I know where I went wrong.  There were parts of the story that didn't fit.

So, I put it on the back burner and wrote a novella titled Garbage Day.  Then, I decided to work on what I had wanted to work on all along: my epic fantasy novel.  I am currently around the 12,000 word mark and it's going very well.

When you find yourself struggling with your current writing project, stop.  Do something else.  Then, when you finish that "something else" look back at the other project.  It's okay to put it on the back burner and work on another project, one you really want to do.

Friday, February 1, 2019

A life, well-lived / Happenings In The Outhouse 01-Feb-2019

Have you ever read an obituary?

I have--I know, morbid huh?  Most obituaries are nothing more than a cold recitation of facts about one's life, a list of living relatives, and who preceded in death before them.  But every once and a while I come across ones that make me pause.  It could be the same listing of facts, but written in such a way--with a bit of humorous flair, perhaps--that make me smile.  It could also be that their list of accomplishments seem vast when compared to mine.  In fact, those are the times when I feel like such a loser when compared to them.

But I shouldn't though.  Everyone's life is different, no matter what age they leave this earth.

Today's post was originally going to have a different slant on a completely different topic--reviews.  But I will save that for another day.  The reason is my grandfather (my mother's Dad) is on, what my Mom she calls, his final journey in this life.  He is 95 and, up to this point, has been the product of good health.  Sure, he's had some bad spells here and there, but overall he was doing fine.  Lately, however, he has taken a turn for the worse.

Reflecting on his life (at this point, he is still alive and kicking, but all of his children are around him, caring for him 24/7) he is the epitome of a well-lived life.  One does not have to cure cancer or invent some doohickey that changed the world in order to have a well-lived life.  I will obviously be sad once my grandpa passes away.

But at the same time I will rejoice.  Rejoice at his life, well-lived.

Reflect on your own life.  Live a full life, starting at no matter what age.  So many wish for retirement days to be right around the corner, then kick the bucket with nothing to show for it.  Find your purpose.

Find what defines your life, well-lived.  Not a well-lived life.  But life, well-lived.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Please don't write down to readers / Happenings In The Outhouse 25-Jan-2019

Writers, by and large, don't seem to write down to readers.  Movies, on the other hand, seem to do so.  Whether this is the fault of the director, the movie studio, the producers, the screenwriters, or a combination of them all.

Some of the fault may also lie in the movie-goer themselves.  I was listening to a recent podcast where they analyzed Fantastic Beasts 2: Crimes of Grindelwald.  Those on the podcast irritated me to no end.  Not because they completely trashed the movie--hmm, it grossed $650+ million and was one of the top ten movies of 2018--but because they didn't see the big picture.  They wanted all of the mystery spelled out for them--no, I will not share what the podcast is nor share a link, so please do not ask me.

First, let me express my deep distain for reboots of old movies.  I've been noticing a trend the past decade or two that there are very few original movies--okay, there are, but they get overshadowed by reboots.  I am a child of the 1980's, which, in my opinion, is the hallmark of original movies.  Many of the classic movies that topped the charts in those days were original.

Then, in the past few decades, there are reboots upon reboots--Ghostbusters, anyone?

Back to the Fantastic Beasts discussion, what they mostly complained about was the lack of clarity for the future.  They didn't see the mystery behind it.  They also kept comparing it to both the original Harry Potter movies as well as the canon behind it.

I read a lot of various series.  Years ago, I made a study on it, to compare first novels in series.  All seem to do it differently.  Some series are written where one can read any book in the series and not get lost.  Others, you do need to start at book one.  But there seems to be an underlying fact: the writer still leaves an air of mystery by not telling all in the first book.  They also don't dumb down their stories.  One must assume a reader is smart enough to know what you're talking about.  And if they don't, they'll still keep reading until they do understand it.

I think this is a topic I'll tackle more later.  As you can tell from the length of this post, I have much to say on this subject.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Why am I publishing so many old stories? / Happenings In The Outhouse 18-Jan-2019

I've been reflecting on the stories I've published in the past few years and some have noticed a trend.  Whether the trend is good or bad is all in the eye of the beholder.  In the "Afterword" of each story, I comment on the story itself--in much the same way Stephen King does in his books.  Lately, I've noticed where either the story was written a few decades ago or the idea was conceived a few decades ago and I'm just now starting to write them.

Let me address something here.  I have published a fair number of brand new stories.  But when I've looked at the stories I've also written and never published, I noticed they were . . . you guessed it . . . never published.  Hence the reason for the trickle of publishing those stories.  I want them out in the world, I have the freedom to do so, and I want to entertain others as much as they entertain myself.

I am currently around the 6,500 word mark on my new fantasy epic.  I will hold off sharing the title at this point.

Friday, January 11, 2019

I, hypocrite / Happenings In The Outhouse 11-Jan-2019

I realized something the other day.  I'm a hypocrite.

I dislike outlining with a passion--in fact, I consider it a colossal waste of time.  Want proof?  Here's a series of blog posts I have done on the subject.

However, with the epic fantasy novel I'm currently writing, I am using the old manuscript as . . . yes, you guessed it . . . an outline.

Oh, the horror!

Anyway, I do admit I'm a hypocrite in that respect, but keep in mind the original book was written sans outline and I'm taking great liberties with the new project.  I am currently 5,000 words into it and it's going great.

In the meantime, I will be publishing three short stories within the first quarter of 2019.  These short stories have already been written, but never published.

Stay tuned . . .

Friday, January 4, 2019

An epic beginning / Happenings In The Outhouse 04-Jan-2019

Welcome to 2019!

I am in the throws of writing (or, rather, re-writing, using the original manuscript as an outline) the first book in my epic fantasy series.

This book was written close to ten years ago (honestly) and has sat on the proverbial shelf ever since.  It has gone through a few re-writes, but since the original novel was close to 1,000 pages long, this was a daunting task.

One thing I had to consider now was the prologue.  It had one, but was largely written in the telling, not showing vein.  It was written, in part, much like the introduction to Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, with an omniscient narrator.  Looking at it now, I was planning to scrap it.  I will write a shorter novel, documenting how my epic fantasy world came into being, but not now.  Keep in mind, this was my thought a week or so ago.

Then, as I contemplated many of my favorite epic fantasy started, I remembered that many have prologues.  Now, I'm not against prologues, per se.  In fact, I love writing them.  Here's a blog post where I touched on that subject.

So, I put it back in.  I cut it down, starting at a crucial scene, but I'm having a blast with it.  2019 is going to be grand.

As the epic fantasy may take a while to get written and published, I may publish a few short stories in the meantime.

Stay tuned . . .