Posts Tagged ‘writing


A word about giving support

We live in a day and age where a lot of content creators put their work — some, if not all — online, often for free. We do this to build an audience. We do this to create a community. We do this because we have ideas that we want to share, and social media has given us a chance to reach to a larger potential audience than ever before. And it often works. There are several people who are fans of this page who I’ve never met or interacted with in person, so they almost certainly found me online in one way or another. And that’s great.

People don’t always get how to support a creator whose work they enjoy. Not just writers, but filmmakers, musicians, artists, etc. They see them and they see their material, but for a lot of people, they don’t conceive of what the next step would be to help this person make more of what they enjoy. And let’s face it, creators – especially those who aren’t tied to a major studio, publisher, or media empire – need that support to survive. So I’m here today to tell you the three things you need to do to thank the people whose work you enjoy.

First, and you’d think the most obvious, is to pay for their work. Buy that book you want to read, buy the Blu-Ray or digital download, buy their album, buy their poster, buy their toys. You’d think this would be a no-brainer, but it’s astonishing to me how many people don’t get it. And I’m not just talking about piracy here. (I’m talking a LITTLE about piracy, but not a lot. One quick anecdote then I’ll drop that subject: a while back someone on my Facebook page casually mentioned that she torrents all the books she reads, in such a way as to indicate she thought she was clever. I bit my tongue at the time, but it was all I could do not to ask her which writers weren’t going to receive any payments for their books that she’d read, and how many of them had to work a day job because their books hadn’t made enough money.)

I’m talking about seeking out the work of people you appreciate in order to support them. Scott Sigler gives away all of his books as audio podcasts for free, but I still buy them when they come out. I became a fan of directors Adam Green and Joe Lynch not through their films, but when I discovered their podcast The Movie Crypt. So when their movies Digging Up the Marrow and Everly were released, I made it a point to seek them out.

And if a creator’s main work is free, such as a podcast, what ancillary merchandise do they offer? T-shirts? Special edition downloads? Just a Patreon account? Look for it. Not only does spending money on these works help the people involved, but by purchasing these things, you also help improve their sales ranks on sites like Amazon and iTunes, which helps other people find them. Which brings me to point two…

Spread the word. If you like something, tell people about it. Got a blog? Got a podcast of your own? Got a Twitter account? Use it to talk about the stuff you like and tell people where to find it. Word of mouth is still a terribly powerful thing, and it’s directly related to the third and, perhaps, most important thing you can do…

Rate and review. I don’t think most people understand just how important this is. When you buy something on Amazon, that influences its ranking in their wacky algorithm. But when you post a review or give it a five-star ranking, that influences it as well. Those things help items rise in internet searches and make it more likely that somebody who’s just browsing will run across these items. This goes right back to spreading the word. A creator may love their audience, but if that audience never grows, then it feels like you’re just treading water.

I apologize if this sounds self-indulgent in any way, but this is something that I’ve been rolling over in my mind for a while now, and I don’t know if most people understand it, so I think it’s worth talking about. I’m talking about my own work, of course, but not just my work. If you like a movie, a book, a comic book, a song, a podcast – whatever – then take these steps. Even if you can’t afford to buy anything else, the other two steps cost nothing but a little bit of time, but can make an enormous difference to the people you want to support.

For what it’s worth.


Thanks for reading “Everything You Need to Know to Survive English Class!”

Everything You Need to Know to Survive English Class

Thanks to everyone who has bought a copy of my new book “Everything You Need to Know to Survive English Class,” in its first month of release. As the summer begins and the school year ends, I’m setting an eye towards which books to cover in the sequel. (Come on, you didn’t think one book was really going to tell you EVERYTHING you needed to know, did you?)

But that’s a while off yet. In the meantime, I hear there are still a few of you out there who haven’t bought the book yet. I know, right? MADNESS!

And there are still some of you who’ve got the book, but who haven’t posted a review at Amazon or Goodreads. Come on, guys! I’m telling you, when school starts again next fall, if you haven’t posted your review, you’re not going to get to sit at the cool kids’ table at lunch. Fix it now, guys. While there’s still time.



RevolvingDoorFor lots of years now, I’ve spent every Christmas putting together an original short story to share with anybody who cared to read it. It’s a little tradition of mine that I love doing, and I’d feel pretty crummy if I ever stopped it. This year, I’ve done it again. But this year’s story is going to be different in several ways.

Making Santa: Advent is — to begin with — not a short story. It’s just a hair too long to give that title, tipping into the “novella” range. So there’s that, first of all.

Second, it’s not quite a self-contained story. Oh, it can be read in and of itself. It doesn’t end with a big cliffhanger or anything, and if these characters never appeared again, I don’t think anybody would feel particularly cheated. However, that’s not the intention. Advent is the first book in what I’m planning as a quartet. Next Christmas (God willing) should bring you the second volume, Christmas Eve. That will be followed by Twelve Days and, finally Epiphany. Now those three novellas have not been written yet, but I’ve actually got them mapped out (and not just in my head) in far greater detail than I usually do my stories, so I’m feeling pretty confidant that they’re going to happen.

The third thing that’s different is that, for now at least, the book is going to be exclusive to the Amazon Kindle device. I mentioned a few months ago that I was considering doing some Kindle-exclusive volumes to take advantage of their promotional machine, and I’ve decided this is the time to do it. For those of you who don’t have a Kindle or a device with a Kindle App, I’m genuinely sorry. If it helps, I fully intend to release the quartet as a combined print volume once all four of them are written.

Then there’s one last thing — the price. I’ve always given my Christmas stories away, initially at least, for free. And I intended to do that with this one too. But on Christmas Eve, once I finally had it up and in the Kindle Store, I went to the section of website where I could set the book as being free for a promotional period and — lo and behold — it didn’t work. I kept getting an error, “this service unavailable at this time, we are trying to fix this problem, please try again later,” blah blah blah. And like someone who didn’t have health insurance, I spent the next three hours meticulously punching in the information on the website in a desperate attempt to set the two-day “free” window I intended for Christmas Day and the day after. And finally, it came through! Finally, it worked!

At 12:10 a.m. Christmas Day had already begun, and it was too late to start a promotion on that day.

If you’ll allow me a brief moment bereft of Christmas cheer, I definitely wanted to find someone at Amazon and make them use that universal health coverage at that instant.

So instead, guys, today the book is carrying its usual price. It’s still just a measly $1.99, nothing to fine folks such as yourselves. But — but if you want to wait a little bit and pick it up after Christmas, the book will be available totally for free on Dec. 26 and 27. I also intend to run another free promotion on this one next Christmas, just before Christmas Eve is released.

Oh geez, I guess I should tell you a little about the book, shouldn’t I? Well, obviously, it’s a Christmas story, and it’s a weird one even for me. Nicholas Grace and 199 other men abducted by a group of allegedly-benevolent aliens. These advanced lifeforms, having achieved perfect harmony on their own planet, now travel the universe hoping to help younger worlds evolve by supplying them with something they lack, something that’s missing. An icon, for example, a symbol of hope, a character for the world to latch on to.

Nick Grace is one of 200 candidates to become Santa Claus.

Making Santa: Advent is now available for the Amazon Kindle and on any device with a Kindle App.

Hope you enjoy it, guys. Merry Christmas!

(And thanks, as always, to the awesome Jacob Bascle for the cover art!)


I assure you, I’m still alive

IMG_3213Hey, everyone. I know I’ve been quiet lately — it seems I’ve entered one of my periodic “quiet but working” phases. I’ve got nothing huge to report at the moment, I’m afraid, but I am splitting time between three projects: the revision of The Pyrite War and the expansion of Reel to Reel: Lunatics and Laughter are the ones I’ve talked to you about.

The third is a little more personal but, hopefully, something you guys will like when it’s ready. As you may know, Erin and I are getting married next year. As you may also know, we’re broke-ass poor and the economy is craptacular. So rather than sitting on a sidewalk with my hand out, I’m working on something else that may help us out a little. I’m composing a series of (hopefully funny) essays about our relationship, the wedding planning process, wedding planning in general, and so forth. Once I’ve got enough of them done, I’m going to start releasing them in short eBooks, 99 cents each, about the same length as the Obligatory Everything But Imaginary collections. I’ve got four essays finished so far, not quite sure how many I want to put in each volume. I intend to get two volumes finished and release them both at the same time, hopefully with one of them for free to gin up interest (I’m gonna try to navigate’s intriguing rules about what you can release for free in the hopes of getting it into the hands of more people). Then, I’ll continue on with these essays for… well, as long as possible, and as long as people want to read them. Up to the wedding and maybe beyond.

So yes, I’m here. Yes, I’m working.

Just bear with us, because eventually, all will be well.


In 2013…

I will not be posting a list of New Year’s Resolutions. Resolutions are vague and half remembered and frequently destined to fail. But 2012, in most of the ways that matter, was a good year for me. And I want 2013 to be good as well. So rather than Resolutions, I’m going to tell you my goals for 2013.

• Keep writing. I have twice as many items in the ebook market today than I did on January 1, 2012. I don’t expect to double again, but by 2014 I want you to have THE PYRITE WAR, OTHER PEOPLE’S HEROES 2 (title TBD), REEL TO REEL: LUNATICS AND LAUGHTER and an undetermined number of short pieces in the market.
• Get better at marketing. Having stuff available is great, but if nobody knows who I am or what I’ve done, what does it matter? I need to get my name out there.
• Get more involved in the creator community. I’ve been really lucky to be involved with my frequent cover artist Jacob Bascle and the fine folks of the New Orleans comic scene, and I find those relationships to be satisfying personally and inspiring creatively. I love that. I want more of it.
• Along with Erin, plan a wedding that rides the line between being affordable and sane and giving her the fairy tale she deserves. Prepare myself for the inevitability that I will never again complete a meal, snack, or beverage without her stealing some unless it has nuts in it.

There are other things I would like, of course, other things I want, but these are the things over which I have the most direct control, so for now, I’ll leave it at that… And wish you all a wonderful, Happy New Year.


Approaching the finish line

Okay, my friends. There is a chance — a CHANCE — that I can finish the first draft of THE PYRITE WAR by the end of my spring break. I’ll be off from April 21-29. I do have things to do (set builds on both Saturdays, rehearsals at night, etc.) but looking at how much story is left… I think I can do it.

So I’m asking you guys to please, from now until the end of the month, NAG THE HELL OUT OF ME. Ask me if I wrote anything today. Ask me how MUCH I wrote. Ask me how much I have left. And the shame of potentially having to answer this question in the negative, God willing, just may be enough to push me across the finish line.


Why writing stinks

I hate writing.

This confession will be astonishing to most people, as the sole overriding desire of my entire life, the one constant from about the time I was ten years old until today, is a burning desire to be a writer. This, of course, requires me to write. But as anybody who has ever tried to do it will tell you, writing isn’t easy. Many people (who have never written a complete paragraph and think it’s perfectly acceptable to use “U” when you mean “YOU”) assume that it’s a terribly simple process that any Tom, Dick, or Harriet could accomplish if only they had the time in their ever-so-busy schedules to sit down and do it, because really, you’re just making stuff up. How hard could that be?

The truth is, when someone says they want to be “a writer,” what we really mean is we want to have written something. Because that’s a great feeling. Looking down at a story that feels complete, that feels finished, that draws a little praise and (if you’re extremely lucky) a little money is a feeling that doesn’t compare to anything else I’ve ever experienced. And the act of coming up with an idea, similarly, is wonderful. When a good one hits you like a bolt from the blue, or when a thought that’s been mucking about in your head for a long time finally breaks free and takes a life of its own, it comes with an intense feeling of power. You’ve become a creator of worlds, and that’s awesome.

Everything in between those two stages sucks the big one.

Those moments when you stare at the blank page, trying to figure out where to go next (or even worse, where to go first). You don’t know this story well enough, you don’t know these characters, you don’t know this place. You’re not black/a woman/short/Methodist/a six-tentacled alien from Grimbullax XII… how can you possibly get across in your writing of what it’s like to be any of those people? You’re conjuring it all up and it’s all horribly inauthentic and nobody will ever want to read it and you wish you could just lie down behind the sofa and die before anybody calls you out on it.

Then there are those times when you begin to realize you’re a worthless hack. Okay, this sounds pretty good, but didn’t they do that same joke on an episode of Seinfeld once? This concept is brilliant, but c’mon, Isaac Asimov must have written virtually the same thing. These are the times when you’re certain, at any moment, the Literature Police are going to break down your door with a battering ram and someone will point at you and scream, “HIM! THAT’S HIM! EVERYTHING HE’S EVER WRITTEN WAS ALREADY DONE BY SHAKESPEARE AND EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS AND J.R.R. TOLKIEN AND THE SIMPSONS! GET HIM!” And you will calmly hold up your wrists and allow them to cart you away.

These feelings are awful, most of all, because you know on some level that they’re justified. Every creator in the world is influenced by their experiences — either by what they’ve lived through, which makes you question how you can convey the feeling of being marooned on a desert island since you’ve never done it yourself for any extended period of time, or what media they have consumed, which means that every book you have ever read and every movie you have ever watched is in your subconscious somewhere, and it may well crawl out onto the page without you even realizing it.

Several years ago, a friend of mine read an early draft of a story that eventually turned into Lost in Silver. Upon finishing, she asked me if I’d been reading a lot of C.S. Lewis lately. I had no idea what she was talking about, until she directed me to the penultimate book in the Chronicles of Narnia, The Magician’s Nephew, where Lewis described a “Woods Between Worlds” that sounded a hell of a lot like my description of Evertime. Not having read that book in about 15 years at that point, I rushed out and found a copy, read it, and immediately began bashing my head against the wall. Clearly, although virtually everything else about the story had leaked through my brain like a sieve, the Woods stayed there and, lacking context, my brain started to adapt it to the story I was trying to tell. T.S. Eliot once said that “mediocre writers borrow; great writers steal.” Eliot forgot to mention that theft is sometimes like robbing a bank in your sleep, waking up surrounded by piles of money, and deciding you must have won the lottery.

Ultimately, I kept most of that original Evertime concept, after doing what writers have been doing ever since there was a second one: I rationalized the hell out of it. It was, after all, only a small part of the grand Narnia mythos, while it was a vital part of the story I was trying to tell. And I couldn’t come up with a way to accomplish the same thing that I liked nearly as much. And it wasn’t exactly the same, it was my take on the idea. And part of the main theme of the Evertime stories is that there are enough worlds in creation for everything ever imagined to co-exist, so naturally there will be elements that seem derivative of classic creations. And they’re never going to get around to making that book into a movie anyway.

All writers do this. We have to. Because when the brain creates it needs building blocks, and it gets those blocks from every bit of information you’ve ever fed into it. Every writer is influenced by every other writer whose work they have ever experienced. And this is true whether you’re blatantly copying somebody else by moving Kevin Costner to another planet and turning the Indians blue or whether you’re intentionally throwing away every element that made vampires threatening, entertaining, or interesting to read about and replacing all that with sparkle paint. In both cases — and in every case in between — you’re still reacting to an earlier work. It’s impossible to escape.

So the hard thing about writing, you see, is trying to think of something to say that hasn’t been said before. And when you realize that’s impossible, trying to think of a way to say it that hasn’t been done.

It’s just not easy.

But if you honestly want to be a writer, you eventually shove all that crap out of your brain, sit down in front of the computer, and start hitting keys until you’ve got something that may be worth showing to someone.

Which, if you’ll excuse me, is really what I should be doing right now.

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