Posts Tagged ‘nonfiction’

I think step #1 is the most important. You can’t know where you’re going if you don’t have a map and a plan.

Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors

So I was gone for a while and then came across some stuff that’s been going on and realized I needed to come back.  🙂

I’m not sure where to start.  I have a lot of things on my mind, and it’s been (what feels to me) a long time.  Probably, the most pressing thing on my mind is what’s been happening to a few authors I know.  Some authors who did well in 2012 have seen a drop in income this year.  I’m not one of them, but I have noticed my new releases don’t sell as well as they used to.  The only thing that might be buffering me is the fact that I am able to write fast.  But that doesn’t mean writing fast will always mean that income will continue to go up, or even that income will stay steady.

Writing books is one of those…

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Don’t Wait to Write that Sequel

A recent BookDaily.com article on writing your sequel.

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It wasn’t the first dead body Derek Finley had seen.  He stepped carefully around the blood that pooled next to the corps lying face down on the throw rug with both hands out stretched, as if he tried to crawl away from the attack before taking his last breath.   The victim’s white silk shirt turned a dark crimson from the blood, showed six entry holes in the back.  Derek focused on the holes then clicked the button on the top of the camera causing the flash to fill the low-lit, posh hotel room.  Taking a step to his right, he snapped another picture of the wounds from a different angle.    A cold steel knot laid in the pit of his stomach, but not from the bullet-riddled body, as a patrol officer in Saint Cloud Minnesota, he had responded to several fatality accidents, some very gruesome, bullet holes did not compare to dismemberment.  Then later as a detective assigned to the drug task force, dealing with meth maggots, he had investigated shootings and knifings, it seemed where there were drugs, there was also murder.   No, the body on the floor was not what ate at him.  It was the little girl.   His jaw clinched again as his eyes moved to the photo on the coffee table.  Two jet-black pigtails stuck out from the sides of her little head.  Her face beamed with bright eyes, a large smile and cute dimples on her smooth brown skin.  She looked really happy, he thought.  Not that, smile for the camera cheesy smile but genuine joy, the joy of innocence that only a three-year-old little girl can know.   He felt his jaw clinch tighter as that knot twisted in his gut.  He brought his eyes back to the viewfinder on the camera, stepped to the right again and snapped another picture.   With his next step, now by the victim’s feet, he over exaggerated raising his foot up making sure to clear the empty brass 9mm shell on the glossy, marble tiled floor just off the edge of the rug.   Snap, another picture.

I haven’t written anything in months, I think it’s time to start writing again. “Rookie Case”, the novelette prequel to Rock Bottom, is about 1/3 done; “Warrior Dad”, my short story, is about 1/2 done; and the first few chapters of “Road of Revenge”, the sequel to “Rock Bottom”, have been written for almost a year. Trying to figure out what to get back on first. Any suggestions?

The old man’s head nodded as if agreeing with his own statement. His armor creaked again as he leaned back against the big chair, his eyes returning to the fire. I stared with intensity as he sat in silence, all the time pondering his words. Time passed slowly and he spoke not a word, nor uttered a sound for several minutes, he simply watched the fire burn down. Soon I found myself staring at the blaze, the large logs that lay in the hearth when I came in, now almost completely consumed and much of the flame replaced by orange glowing embers.

Suddenly I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and jerked my head to my right, a young man moving along the wall carrying three large logs. He looked to be no more than eighteen years old. His short brown hair capped his pale face and matched his tunic. His soft shoes made no sound on the stone floor and he went about his work without a word. I watched as he laid the logs on the stones then knelt down and grabbed an iron poker from the edge of the large fireplace. He stirred the coals piling them with precision where he wanted them then one at a time placed the new logs on the fire and adjusted them with the poker before returning it to its place. Once finished he stood, turned to the old man and bowed at the waist. The old man closed his eyes and gave one nod of his head. The servant moved back out across the room as quietly as he came in.

“Honor,” He finally broke the silence. “A warrior has honor.” He said matter of factually, keeping his attention focused on the fire as the newly added logs began to pop and hiss. “Men are born noble or common but their actions determine whether they are honorable or not. If a man is; honest in his dealings, fair to those both below and above him in status, shows integrity in his beliefs and actions then he has honor.”

“Sire, again I am simply a farmer. My status was determined for me at birth and I simply do what is instructed of me, at times I even wonder if I have freewill.” The words slipped from my lips before I could stop them. His eyes snapped back to mine and in an instant, I knew I had made a mistake.  His eyes widened, lips pursed and his face flushed but I watched as he held in his frustration allowing his temper settle before speaking.

“Is my manager there every time you take in your harvest or when each calf or lamb is born?”

“No Sire, He simply comes to collect your share when it is time.”

“So, you could steal from me without getting caught then?” His eyebrow arched again. “So, have you stolen from me?”

“NO, Sire!” My back stiffened and my eyes widened. A moment of panic spread over me as my mind raced back through the years, had I taken too much or held back even the slightest? No, my conscience was clear, not so much as a fleck of grain had I taken or withheld from my master. “No, I have not taken anything that was not due me and have given everything that has been required of me.”

“Why have you done this when you could have taken more than you deserved.  Were you afraid of getting caught?” That quick smile flashed for the briefest of seconds again then vanished, leaving just the raised brow again.

“I have given what was due, because it was the right thing to do.”

“So you did what was right when no one was watching, simply because it was right? That shows honor. Anyone does what is right when it benefits him to do so, but a man of honor does what is right because it is right. Do you pay the men you hire for your harvest what they deserve or do you short them a little, giving you more in your pocket?”

“No Sire, the harvest is hard work. They put in a full day of work and for that, I pay them a fair day’s wage. Growing up helping my father in your fields, I know all too well the sweat that goes into the harvest. I would never expect a man to work like that without being compensated properly for it.”

“You are not a rich man, yet I hear you give to the poor. I heard that you not only gave the old widow that lives near my orchard one of your milk cows, but that you went to her house, patched her roof and put in wood for her fire for the winter.”

“Yes, she lives alone and has no family.” I shrugged off his comments as if it were nothing that any man would not do. “At her age she is not able to do those things on her own, so I help as I can.”

“I was right!” His brow furrowed and his eyes drilled into me as he continued. “You have honor and courage. I believe you are a warrior!”

That question- why -I wanted answered more than anything, but now feared asking. I had chewed on it since receiving his summons, turning it over and again in my mind during the daylong trek across the estate. Had I done something wrong or failed him in some way? In all my years of faithful service, I had never met my employer.  My father, who worked the land before me, only met him once and rarely spoke of it. The image of him I created in my ignorance had been of a fat and lazy lord living in posh comfort while his subjects sweated to produce for him. Now being here in his presence, my impression changed. The hard lines and scars on his face displayed the years of toil and effort. My gaze turned to his strong, weathered hands. They looked as hard and worked as a blacksmiths hands. My eyes traveled back met his examining gaze. The stone look in his eyes caused me to shudder and search my mind again for anything I could have done wrong and still came up blank.

“No sire, I don’t know.” I relented.

His armor creaked as he leaned back against the heavy oak chair, steepling his fingers in front of his face and resting his elbows on the arms of the chair. His brow furrowed and his lips pursed as he sat in silence –for what seemed like an eternity to me– eyes staring at the fire and I could see its orange reflection lapping in them. I leaned forward watching him, waiting for him. I could feel my heartbeat quicken. What had I done?

He drew in a deep breath. “I want to know if you are a warrior.” He said with his eyes still glued to the blaze.

My jaw dropped and I felt my eyes widen.  A what? I would have laughed at the question, had it come from anyone else, such an absurd question. I did my best to wipe the astonished look from my face. “Sire, I have never been trained in the arts of war. I am simply a farmer.”

“I didn’t ask if you were a soldier!” He huffed, dismissing my statement with a swat of his hand in the air as if shooing off a mosquito. “Soldiers are trained. They take an ordinary man and drill into him the necessary Lessons to make him affective on a battlefield.” His right hand reached across his chest and grabbed the hilt of the sword leaning against the left arm of the chair and with one smooth effortless motion swung it up in front of him, tip to the ceiling. The mirror finish reflected the fire and I watched his eyes admire it, they took it all in from hilt to tip and back. “They become a weapon to be wielded, not unlike this sword.” Then with a quick snap, he spun the sword around driving the tip to the floor between us with a solid thud that startled me back into my seat and echoed off the stonewalls. “A warrior cannot be made, you are one or you’re not, simple as that. So are you a warrior?”

I cleared my throat, still staring at the glimmering blade that now separated us. His words echoed through the hall and hung in my mind as an icy chill ran down my spine. I have always been a farmer, why would he suspect me of being a warrior? The chill ran its course and settled in the pit of my stomach as a cold knot. I brought my eyes up off the sword to find his furrowed brow and eyes burning into me as he now leaned forward in his chair.

“I’m not sure what you are asking sire. I have worked for you all my life. You know I am just a farmer.” My shoulders slumped and I dropped my eyes to the floor in embarrassment. He called me here for nothing. Surely, I have disappointed him. I could count on one hand how many times I held a sword and I never learned how to use it properly. Give me a hoe or a rake, I know how to use those but a sword I have not a clue.

“Do wolves ever threaten my flocks?” He asked in a calm and steady voice.

“Yes Sire.”

“And when those wolves come, do you let them ravish my flocks?” Before I could answer, his voice boomed the answer. “No, you don’t. You fight off the wolves,” He shook a clenched fist in the air, “sometimes putting yourself between the wolves and the flock.” He nodded his head and took in a breath. “Could the wolves harm you?”

“Yes, they could. I can’t tell you how many times I have looked in the eyes of a snarling wolf bearing it’s teeth at me.” I lifted my head and felt my back straighten as I answered, my embarrassment gone for the moment.

“So you don’t fear the wolf?” He asked arching one eyebrow and I thought for a moment that I could see the beginnings of sly grin forming on his face but as quick as it appeared it vanished leaving just his icy gaze.

“Oh yes Sire, they are viscous animals. I have seen them tear a young calf apart. They are unpredictable you never know quite what they might do.” Images of the different encounters passed through my head sending a shiver through me.

“So you stand up to the wolf despite your fear?” He arched his eyebrow again. “That shows courage.” His brow furrowed again and his eyes showed a new intensity. “Courage is not the lack of fear but rather the ability to act in spite of the fear.” He lowered his voice and spoke with pure conviction. “Men who go into battle and do not fear their own death are fools or disturbed, but a man who fears his own demise and still does his duty, now that is a man I want next to me in battle” He paused and slammed the tip of the sword on the floor again punctuating his point. “A warrior has courage.”

I had this conversation with my son the other day. His mind is full of great story ideas, they seem to just flow from him like a well spring of fiction water. He has started several stories, but as of yet not finished any. He works on one for awhile then comes up with a new story line, setting the first one aside to work on the new one. He works on that one for a bit then another new one pops in that talented head of his and the process repeats itself. Truth be told, he comes by it naturally. I tend to do the same thing. While writing “Rock Bottom”, I had the idea for a sequel and wrote the first few pages. I had to force myself to set it aside so I could finish the first book. Now I have three stories started including the sequel and am finding it hard to work on any of them.

When writing, my mind becomes fully immersed in the world of my story to the point I find it hard to participate in real life. I have to set time aside to spend in that world or I wont accomplish anything. Switching between that world and reality becomes frustrating add in multiple worlds of different stories and I’m the literary equivalent of a vegetable.

Let’s face it. We all like to tell stories, that’s why we write after all, but putting that story down on paper in a way that other people will read and enjoy, is the hard part. It takes work to gut out the middle of story. Writing the beginning is exciting. Exploring a new world or new idea, building the foundation. As I journey into that story I become impatient, I want to get to my destination, I want to get to the end. The finale is what we are all after. Our good guy won, our bad guy lost and the world is a better place because of it. The tough part is building all the roads in the middle to get your reader, and your characters, from that great beginning to your fabulous ending. Human nature is to avoid what is hard. I think that is why it is so tempting to jump to a new project in the middle of another.

I have made the commitment this week to set two of the stories aside and focus on one until it’s finished. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying to ignore new story ideas. By all means write them down, make good notes to come back to at a later date, but don’t start a new project until you finish the last one. I understand that every writer is different and I will concede that there could be some writers out there that can multitask well enough to be able to write more than one story at a time, but for the majority of us it just isn’t possible.

If you are like me and have more than one project started, pick one and finish it. I’m choosing to finish the shortest one first, then move on to the second shortest. That way I can see progress and keep myself motivated.