Nearly Published ....

I just returned from a wonderful week in Key West, where I spent no small amount of time giving "Caretakers" a final read-through.

The verdict ... I like it! It's more of a mystery than my first novel. The writing is better. It's very Adirondack-y. I love the story and characters and pacing.

I made sure to take time to smell the tropical drinks, while looking as Hemingway-esque as I can manage (which is important when you're a writer in Key West).  The Hogsbreath Saloon is one of my favorite places to be when in KW.

We also like going to the Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, where we spent some time in a hammock, between trees, or walking on the beach, or visiting the fort, every day while down at the lower edge of the USA.


Deb Kreider, a friend of ours, recently helped one of her dogs have a litter of puppies, and one of them is named Tyler (presumably ... perhaps presumptuously ... named after Tyler Cunningham, the protagonist in my books). We're looking forward to meeting him, and his littermates on New Year's Day for some puppy-kisses and gentle gnawing.

The book is essentially ready, we're just waiting for our brilliant copy-editor to finish her final reading of the proof copy, and then we'll render it in both print and Kindle versions for your reading pleasure.


Thanks for all of your support and interest in the year since "Here Be Monsters" and my other books were published; I hope that you enjoy "Caretakers" when it comes out (and leave a review to that effect once you've finished it.



Cold, Quiet

Dark slunk into the woods,
but morning took a while to find us ... the dogs and me.

We walk back into the trees,
looking and listening and sniffing at the cold.

The snow creaks and squeaks beneath my boots,
the dogs make almost no sound (except in talking to each other, and to me) as they dash back and forth in front of me,
each eager to find 'it' first (whatever it is).

Our breaths puff outwards like cartoon thought-bubbles,
none of us apparently thinking much ....

Down and into the forest, where the frozen sphagnum and tamaracks tell stories about a summertime swamp.

We pick our way,
over and around and through branches that grab at us and shower us with powdery snow.

Puck and Miles tighten their orbits around me as we get further from the house, and home, and warm.

A shivery wind brings with it a whiff of musk, and they growl and quiver.

Black dots of deer poop (some still warmly steaming) litter the white ground like ellipses ...
suggesting more.

Having reached a thickening of windfalls and young trees and the thinning of the wild path we followed, our group turns around by tacit agreement.

Puck holds up a frozen paw, Miles pretends to hear something back by the house, I wonder idly if the boy will wake and worry at the silent and empty house (whether or not he finds my note).

The unspoken truth among us three is the quiet, cold, blue morning, and the frosted trees and noisy snow, is alien ...
or we are.

We're creatures of light and warmth and coffee and couches,
softened by summer, dulled by the green times.

Winter is the sharpening season,
the hard cold will peel and scrape and rub away the soft moss that's grown up on us three.

But for now, for this morning,
we're ready to curl up, warm up, and forget the death that winter threatens.


Thoughts About A Meeting With my Copy Editor To Talk About "Caretakers"

I'm meeting my copy editor this weekend to discuss "Caretakers", the next Tyler Cunningham novel.

It represents another in a long line of opportunities to "let go" of my latest creation, in anticipation of the big one ... publication (which I hope will happen before January first).

Writing is, for me, not just about stringing together ideas to tell a story (although it is that as well) ... it's an exploration of the nooks and crannies of my brain, resulting in a sharing of pieces of my self with the world (or as much of the world as can be convinced by me or Amazon to read them).

The sharing part is, in some ways, harder for me than the writing. I both love and hate all of my stories ... am at once proud and ashamed of the things that they say about me, my space/place in the world, and the way that my mind functions.

Sharing "Here Be Monsters" with my wife Gail (always my first beta reader) was terrifying and empowering. Writing the book scared me, and forced me to put my money where my dreams were ... taking the risk of sharing the first draft with someone outside of my skull exposed me to criticism and ridicule, and the risk that it was no good.

In the end, it was freeing. I found that I was able to dissociate myself from the mistakes and missteps in the words and characters and story, and work with her to prune and reshape and polish the story into a finished product that I'm proud of, even accepting the bumps in the road that come with a first novel.

The same was true with "Mickey Slips" and "Bound for Home". I enjoyed taking the rough work through the stages of renovation and revision to a pair of novellas that I enjoy reading, and think they said what I wanted them to say.

I feel that "Caretakers" is a more mature work, and I've been trying to insure that it is a more polished product when it hits the shelves (on Amazon, local bookstores, and kindles) sometime at the end of this month.

I don't know what Randy will have to say about the novel when I see her on Saturday, but I'm excited to get to work, polishing my newest creation in the hopes that it will be the best thing that I've written yet.




Amazon Countdown Deals!

Amazon has just started a new program that I'll be giving a try next week (please feel free, even encouraged, to check it out).

The idea behind the promotional program is that the price of an ebook is lowered for a limited amount of time ... after a given period (a countdown), the price bumps up a bit. This pattern repeats until the price of the ebook is back to the regular/original price.

My book, "Here Be Monsters", will start at 99 cents on Monday morning (11/18/2013), and the price will increase incrementally during the week until it arrives back at the original price on Sunday (11/24/2013). Since I think it's a pretty good deal at $7.99, I'm hoping that people will jump all over the 99 cent price.

Please tell your friends, share the link and information, and at the least stop over at the Amazon Countdown Deals Page sometime next week to check out all of the books on sale, and support the authors.




The "Mickey Slips" Audiobook is Now Available!

It's been a long process, but the audiobook for "Mickey Slips" is finally available for sale at Audible.com, Amazon.com, and iTunes.

I worked with ACX.com (an Amazon platform) to produce the audiobook through a process that took about 4.5 months from beginning to end. ACX connects authors with narrators (and vice versa) by asking authors to upload a sample of their story for narrators to read for auditions. I got a number of auditions, picked my favorite, and made an offer to the actor, Douglas Thornton.

ACX allows authors to pay someone up front to produce their audiobook, or you can offer them a split of the eventual proceeds ... I chose the latter option.

The narrator/producer then needs to make the first 15 minutes of the story for your approval. I had some comments on accent and pacing and such, but in general I was very happy with what I heard. Eventually, I got the finished product to check out, and after a full run-through, had some comments and some corrections, all of which were made quickly.

It took longer than I had hoped, but in the end I have a finished product that I'm happy with (even proud of) ... I hope to get Douglas as the voice talent for the rest of my books.

The link below should allow you to download a short sample of the audiobook.




Progress Update

I've been working on multiple projects since completing the first draft of  Caretakers this summer, and several projects are coming to a head now, so I thought that I would share some information about what sort of things I'm working on ....

This is a working draft of the cover design for Caretakers that I'm reasonably happy with at the moment
 Work continues on Caretakers, I've been giving it another read-through for story and flow and characters, while my crack editing team is checking on changes that I made following the beta-reading. Sometime this month I'm hoping to hand the book off to my copy-editor to polish the book for publication by/for/around Christmas (it would be nice to have it available for sale for the holidays and break).

Untitled Novella
I've begun work on an (as yet) untitled Tyler Cunningham novella that takes a closer look at Tyler's relationship with Dorothy through the lens of an investigation into a mystery that they are both involved in, dealing with a common interest, dogs.

Serial Fiction
I've also begun writing the first few installments of a serial that I'm hoping to pitch to Amazon in the near future. It has nothing to do with Tyler Cunningham, and could best be described as a medical and zoological fiction delivered in a thriller and horror format.

Audio Book Version of "Mickey Slips"
The audio version of my first Tyler Cunningham Short, Mickey Slips, was approved by me a few weeks ago, and by Amazon & Audible shortly thereafter. It is now in the final stages (hopefully) of filtering through their system, and should be available by the end of the week.

Other Stuff
 I'm also working with Amazon to get my short works accepted into their Kindle Singles Program, and am trying out their new Kindle Countdown Deals promotional program ... we'll see how these things work out.




Femmes du Chaos Blog Tour, with Kristen Duvall

Today my blog is visited by Kristen Duvall and her new book, Femmes du Chaos. She's sharing some information about her new book, and also giving an information about her writing in general.

Book Description:
They messed with the wrong girl this time.

From heroes to villains, Femmes du Chaos sets out to show the world what the fairer sex is really made of. You’ll meet women of all ages and from many different walks of life... Warriors and schoolgirls, side-by-side in one place. One thing connects them all, and that is their ambition. Whether they use their ambition for good or evil, well that’s for them to decide. Gritty, fantastical and sometimes uncomfortable to read, Femmes du Chaos is a tour de force that holds nothing back. There will be violence and there will be blood.

Q: Tell me about your book.
A: Femmes du Chaos is a book of short stories all featuring strong female characters, some of them heroes and some of them villains. I mostly write science fiction, fantasy, horror and speculative fiction, so those genres are the most prevalent, and most are pretty dark.

Q: What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
A: That’s really hard to say... I wrote most of these stories in a span of three years for an online writing contest. There are some I prefer over others, of course, but I only picked the pieces I enjoyed the most for this collection. My favorite stories of the ones I did include? Bonnie and Clyde, a story about a female bounty hunter out for revenge and probably The Price You Pay featuring a dystopian world that is likely to become a novel at some point.

Q: What kind of research did you do for this book?
A: I didn’t have to do much research at all, really.   

Q: Do you work with an outline, or just write?
A: Most of the time, I just write. Though I have a rough outline in my head at all times, things change and I let the story take me in directions I might not have considered before.

Q: What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
A: I’m currently a full-time writer (I lost my day job a year ago), and currently my schedule is as follows... I wake up around 8am, I work out and eat breakfast and then start working around 10. I work until at least 5pm, stop for dinner and then work some more. I also own a small publishing company, so that takes up a lot of time as well, but usually I work well into the night on writing related projects.

Q: What do you do when you are not writing?
A: I have a few tv shows I like to watch with my boyfriend, so we make sure to schedule that time in together. I also like to work out, go on hikes, go to the dog beach with my Great Dane, Annabelle. I’d travel more if I could.

Q: What book(s) are you reading now?
A: I’m re-reading the Meredith Gentry series by Laurell K. Hamilton mainly so I can read them to my boyfriend. It’s a paranormal romance series, and generally speaking I don’t like romance, but I enjoy the world she created with this one and it takes place in both my hometown and the city I currently live in, so that’s pretty cool. It’s my third time reading the series. I’m also reading ‘Adrift” by indie author Dominica Malcolm, a time traveling pirate story that I’ve been waiting for!

Q: Is there any particular author or book that particularly influenced you?
A: Ray Bradbury. I am a huge fan of his and I love his style of writing. I’ve had ideas before and thought “wow, that almost sounds like a Bradbury story...” I’m also a huge Neil Gaiman and Stephen King fan.

Q: What do you think makes a good story?
A: Convincing characters, a unique plot, and just the right amount of description to tell me what I need to know and nothing more. I like characters that are neither good nor bad, but a mixture of the two. Villains that aren’t villains simply because they’re bad, but perhaps it’s all a matter of point of view. I like flawed heroes too, not a fan of the chosen one trope too much. If everyone adores them except the bad guys (and the only reason they don’t like him is because they’re bad), there’s a good chance I won’t care for them too much myself.

Q: What project are you working on now?
A: I have several projects going on at once, actually. I have a novella titled “The Devil’s in the Details” that I want to edit and get out to the world soon. It’s just a fun little horror story about a man who works for the devil, running errands and collecting souls, but it’s a little more lighthearted than it sounds, trust me! I’m also finishing up a science fiction novel for NaNoWriMo that I call The Princess and the Piper (that’s a cheesy pun, so the title will change once I can think of one). It’s a futuristic utopian piece that I like to describe as The Prince and the Pauper only with lesbians. And finally, I am editing the first book in a series I’ve created. This book is titled The Caged Girl and is YA, set in a dystopian world. I joke that it’s a romantic story about a boy, a girl and decapitation.

Q: What’s the best thing about being an author?
A: I love creating worlds. Seeing other people enjoy my creations means the world to me, but even if no one read my work, I’d have fun writing them. Ever since I was a child, I loved making up characters in my head and telling their stories. It’s a way I can live out other lives all from the safety of my living room.

Q: What is the hardest part of writing for you?
A: My inner critic. I am my own worst enemy when it comes to writing. I can be mega-harsh on myself and expect nothing but perfection. I have so many written works that I’ve hesitated to share with the world because to me, they don’t feel ready. They’ll never feel ready because I expect way too much from myself. I’m starting to see this and go a little easier on myself.

Q: How long does it take you to write a book?
A: Read above! I wrote The Caged Girl in a month for NaNoWriMo though it needs major editing and re-writes. I am a fast writer, but I always re-write and edit and re-write some more... So it takes me longer than it should to complete a project.

Q: What has been the toughest criticism (and the best compliment) given to you as an author?
A: I’ve gotten pretty good at handling criticism, so it’s hard to think of the toughest criticism I’ve received... My own brain is the harshest critic I’ve had, seriously.  The best compliments I’ve received are that people willing to buy my book. Not only that, I’ve had readers tell me that they want me to expand on my short stories and make them into books so they could buy them. To me, that is the best compliment of all.

Q: Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
A: Develop a thick skin. Find honest beta readers and learn how to accept criticism from them. Learn to take the useful input and discard the rest, sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference in those two things, but you have to learn to trust yourself and your abilities while also hearing insight from others. The only way to get better is to practice. The only way to get successful is to write.

About the Author:
Kristen Duvall is a writer of tales both real and make believe. Born and raised in the Midwest, she now resides in Southern California with her boyfriend, her Great Dane and her rescued calico kitty. She's been writing and sharing her work online for several years now, and has decided to take the plunge into publishing her work for the world to read. She dabbles in horror, science fiction, fantasy and speculative fiction. She enjoys both Adult and Young Adult fiction and loves to write strong female characters.

Buy Links for Femmes du Chaos:


Kristen Duvall's Social Media Links:



Exploring Serial Fiction

I'm working my way through the edit and revise and re-read and edit and revise and re-read loop with my second novel, "Caretakers" (my second novel, a follow-up to "Here Be Monsters", and my other works).

I'm also looking ahead to what's next ... in my case, I think it's an exploration of the world of serial fiction.

Serial fiction has been around for a long time, but Amazon is helping to bring it back to the main stream by specifically supporting works of serial fiction for sale via their Kindle platform. I am hoping to develop a serial work for them, for the Kindle, and for you ... and for fun, of course.

My idea is to write something different from the sort of writing that I've been doing for the last year and a bit. I'll be leaving the Adirondack Park, leaving the investigations of a consulting detective, and venturing into a more fantastic (in a literal sense of the word) world ....

The Fractal Nature of Serial Fiction:

Part of what draws me to serial fiction is the fractal nature of the writing, from both a reader's and a writer's perspective. A single episode must stand alone and relate to other episodes and the series as a whole; the nested/related episodes, and the entire series must likewise relate back to, and support each individual episode.

The X-files is a pretty good example of a serial work that is fractal in nature, working at the episode level, in clusters, and over the course of the whole series to pull the audience in for the storyline (and hopefully to make a point about characters and themes and the way things work, or should).

Monster of the week
Every episode needs to have a beginning, middle, and end; a conflict that can be resolved (at least partly) by the end of the episode. These will provide the building blocks for the serial, and be exciting, compelling, and motivate readers to return for subsequent installments.

 The X-files, at least for the first few seasons, had a new monster/challenge for Mulder and Scully to face each week.

Ongoing or recurring themes/characters/conflicts
To maintain reader interest, there should be characters and story elements that continue beyond a single episode. This could be done as sequential and related episodes, or via a recurring element connecting a few episodes spread throughout the series. These grouped/related episodes, or clusters, allow for greater development of characters and themes than individual episodes permit, and can link different parts of the series together in interesting ways.

Ongoing or recurring story elements in the X-files included "The Smoking Man", alien abduction (sometimes on its own, or via Scully or Mulder's sister), broader conspiracies, and so on.

Overarching story elements
 Looking at the series as a whole, from a distance, should inform the reader about something larger than the individual episodes. The way that the individual episodes and the grouped/related ones work together to shape the world of the serial in a way that the smaller pieces cannot.

The X-files was a serial that looked at secrets, the people who create and protect them, the people who work to uncover them, and how people outside of the loop are affected by them.

All of the parts moving in unison
For serial fiction to be effective, it needs to work for its audience at every level. Each installment must be interesting and complete, but must also relate to other episodes, and to the series as a whole. A weekly adventure that doesn't link to bigger or broader themes will soon grow stale, just as long term character development that doesn't keep readers motivated from week to week will lose their interest before the payoff at the end.

I found the X-files a fascinating serial (until it jumped the shark) because the individual stories drew me in, the clusters helped hold it together over the long term, and the series as a whole gave me an interesting look into the people on both sides of the secret business over the years.

A balance has to be planned and maintained through storyline planning and mapping at each level: episode, cluster, and series. This is my big challenge in planning the serial fiction that I want to write.

What I'm thinking about:

I'm currently imagining a story that follows my character through a medical crisis that cripples Manhattan (and likely the rest of the country, or the world), and follows the collapse of the supply chain, infrastructure, and civilized society in relatively short order. Two works that have informed my planning are "The Stand", by Stephen King, and "I am Legend", by Richard Matheson.

My plan is to take a different look at biological and zoological causes and effects of this type of catastrophe from the perspective of my protagonist, who works at a zoo before the troubles begin, and finds himself in a unique position to research/study the messy and changed world in which he finds himself trapped. His challenge is to survive day to day in a hostile environment, while studying and interacting with survivors and the ones the sickness altered.

I'm just starting to map things out for this project, looking at episodes and clusters and the series as a whole. It may not end up coming to anything, but it's a fun and interesting mental exercise, if nothing else.




5 Tips for Successfully Juggling Multiple Writing Projects

Finding time to manage and balance all of the activities in your life as well as maintaining a productive creative writing schedule is tough ... don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Mostly I work on one writing project at a time, but on occasion (like now, for instance) I am juggling a few different projects.

I'm currently working my way through a first edit of my next novel, "Caretakers", and while it's exacting and demanding work, it does not provide adequate venting for all of my creative impulses and urges and juices. To keep my brain working in a creative manner, and give the voices in my head an outlet, I am additionally working on two novellas and a piece of serial fiction (not to mention my ongoing commitments to blogging, Facebook, G+, and other flavors of social media that all indie authors need to be engaged in these days).

To keep everything working as smoothly as is possible, I have a couple of rules/guidelines/tips that I try to follow, and thought that I would share them with you.

#1 - Write it Down!
 Often, especially, during the times when I'm editing mostly completed work, I will get ideas for new projects. It never works to hope that I will remember the idea(s), so I write them down. I keep a notebook with me at work and at home, but will also send myself emails, and sometime leave messages on the answering machine at home.

#2 - Talk it Out!

I have a couple of people with whom I share my ideas, and often find that talking about the projects I've been thinking about will help me refine the good ones and discard the bad ones; having to explain a story that I haven't yet written allows me to test the waters without a big expenditure of time and effort ... and I get to drink coffee.

#3 - Map it!

Once I've had an idea (or a series of ideas), and talked about it/them with my creative writing support personnel (guru, therapist, minion, etc.), I like to map out the story. Mapping the story allows me to see how the characters and conflict and such will work together (sometimes I know everything about a story before I start writing, sometimes I only know the starting point and a couple of markers along the way ... it varies ... a lot!). My maps range from elaborate software driven things to circles and lines on the backs of barroom napkins (yes, really) ... do whatever works for you in the moment.

#4 - Start Writing!

I'm a big fan of the "write it fast and fix it slow" school of creative writing and storytelling. Once I take an idea through the preliminary planning stages, I want to get writing. When I have time to dedicate to writing, I like to aim for at least 2,000 words per day (I often write more like 3,000 to 4,000 words per day, but I like to set a baseline of 2,000).

I'm not interested in getting the story 100% right the first time around, and generally don't go back to fix the previous day's writing (unless I got a name or place wrong, which is a simple detail-oriented fix, which I don't count). I like to get the whole story down before I go back to clean things up, preferring to maintain the flow over getting it perfect (I understand that Kurt Vonnegut spent days on each page sometimes, but that one he was done with it, it was ready for the printing press).

#5 - Maintain Your Focus

In some instances, I've found that multitasking actually translated to everything being done poorly. I wasn't able to edit my work very well, and the other writing projects I was working on weren't flowing well ... nothing felt right.

Sometimes, even if you're doing everything according to a formula or pattern that you've used with success in the past, it just doesn't produce results that you're happy with ...there's probably no metric for divining this, but you'll know (if you listen to the critics living in the back of your head ... what, don't pretend you don't have them).

If you find that your main writing project and/or the other ones you're working on are suffering as a result of you juggling multiple projects at once, then just drop the least important one(s).

In my case, finishing the first edit of my next novel is the most important of my writing projects, so everything else has to share space on the back-burner if I'm having trouble with that project.

The exception might be if a story was burning a hole in my head, trying to get out. If the story is so exciting to me, and so eager to shoot out of my fingers and into my laptop, then I might take a week off from the novel to get a first draft of the story out.

You'll be the best judge of how best to maintain your focus when juggling multiple writing projects ... keep long term productivity in mind.

My current plan is to keep editing my novel, and start work on each of the other three projects sequentially ... we'll see how that plan stands the test of time and work and life.




A Trip to the Multiplex

I'm down in NYC for a couple of days, and as always, it has me thinking about the road(s) not taken...

A Trip to the Multiplex

Every life is the product of decisions.
Big one, small ones,
even (especially?) ones that we're not aware of at the time.

Left, right, up, down, coffee, bourbon, him, her, city, country, dogs, cats, Bach, Mozart ....
Each adjusts the trajectory of a life, my life, your life, changing everything, forever.

Sometimes I catch glimpses of other lives I missed,
or dodged, through my choices.
Flashes brought about by something I see or smell
or a song on the radio or a place that I visit.

My other lives are all real, just not to me.
They're real to other Jamies,
on other trajectories, in other realities.

In one, I work at a zoo in Syracuse,
others have me with two children (or none), 
or with different (less and/or more) friends and family
in my life.

There are lots of lives that ended years ago ... in a shallow grave by the side of a road near Lago Agrio,
gnawed bones outside of a small town in northern Manitoba,
drowned in a cold and dark and forgotten cistern near Tahawus.

Choices that I made, or didn't make.
Mistakes that I made, or didn't make.
Each one a turning point,
a fork in the road, a branching, a new reality.

Sometimes I see them all, and the weight of what I've done
(or left undone) staggers me.
Other times I wish that I'd gone that way, instead of this ... stupid, but hard (for me, at least) to avoid.

I picture alternate me doing this or that, living here or there ... sometimes with funny accents/hats/food/dogs.
On good days I'm proud of my choices,
on bad days I resent them,
wishing I could turn back the clock.

I like my actual life, an amalgam of choices,
good and bad, hasty and considered.
It's a fortunate thing too ... the other ones are all interesting, but we can't live in the multiplex.

In this version of my life, I'm hanging with my favorite, and only, sister, and we're going to see a crappy movie this afternoon that we'll both love.




First Draft of "Caretakers" COMPLETE!

I handed the finished first draft of my second novel, "Caretakers", to my beta-reader on Friday night.

This version of the book came in at just a hair under 95,000 words.

The beta-reader started reading Friday night, and finished the roughly 400 page novel Saturday evening; she spent Sunday compiling her notes and going over them with me.

In terms of major work, we've identified a scene that needs to be added, another that needs to be expanded upon, and a third chunk that will have to be cut from the book ... all of these should serve to enhance the flow and understandability of the novel. Minor things were identified throughout the draft, to increase clarity or flow.

This novel is more complete as a first draft than "Here Be Monsters" was, and the beta-readers promises me that it's a better book ... more complex, more of a mystery, more exciting (I'm still nervous, but hopeful).

My plan is to take a few days off from thinking about the book before I start revising and correcting and adding and subtracting from "Caretakers" ... I already cheated ... I've been doing some work on an idea for the cover, and will probably spend some time this afternoon noodling with some photos, to see how they look when jammed into the templates.

From here on out, there's some drudgery. I'll read the book about a half-dozen times, fixing as I go, shooting various drafts to various readers to get their feelings about bits and pieces, as well as the whole thing. Eventually, when none of us can see the words any longer, I'll send it to my copy editor, and she will polish it into a market-ready work. Then Gail and I will fiddle and format the book and front and back matter and cover into a finished product, which should be available early in the New Year (if everything goes to plan).




Final Days of Writing...Now Comes the Hard Part!

I was able to write my way through another tough chunk of my next novel this past weekend, and am within days (hours, maybe) of finishing.

I should be excited, manic, over-the-moon ... but in some ways I'm not.

When I finished writing the rough draft of my first novel, I was elated. multiple parts of me hadn't actually thought that I would be able to finish the thing, so when I typed the last period, I actually jumped up and did a jig.

This time though, I knew that I could write a novel. More than that, I really liked my first novel, "Here Be Monsters", as did lots of people who's opinions I value and care about ... the second novel has to measure up.

This time I'm terrified that I might have used up all of my writing mojo on the first book, and this world I've created will be boring or smell funny.

I've certainly bled for this novel, which at the moment I'm calling "Caretakers", but I'm have moments when I worry that my time and effort and sacrifice - and blood - may not be enough.

It's not the first novel rewritten; I took some chances. It's nearly 100 pages longer, and much more complex. I feel as though my writing is stronger this time around, but wish that I was more confident about my ability to write a second novel as good as (or better than) the first.

I feel that I've improved my writing in the time since I published my first novel, and felt better writing this one, but am scared about the comparative turnaround times as relates to the creative process: the first novel took me 40+ years to work out, the second - less than a year.

My understanding is that all authors feel these concerns when approaching and writing and completing a second novel, but that doesn't keep the fear from nipping at my heels as I run headlong towards the end of this first draft of "Caretakers".

Even with the fear-monsters chattering at me from the dark corners of my mind, I'm going to finish "Caretakers" in the next week or so, and put it in the hands of my beta-readers ... I hope that you'll be able to check it out sometime early in 2014.




7 Tips to Stay Sane(ish) When You Can't Write!

"Writing, at its best, is a lonely life"
- Ernest Hemingway
Yesterday I spent a part of the day at a book-signing. It's not an unpleasant way to wile away a few hours on a Saturday ... I sold some books, hung out with people who love books and writing and writers, and answered questions about my books and myself and writing.

The whole time though, I had this feeling of cheating, lazing about, almost of dishonesty ... writers write, and I wasn't writing during a perfectly good chunk of time when nothing absolutely necessary was getting done.

It's been said a million times, in a million different ways, by a million different people ... the best way to be a writer is to write.

I agree, but have found that despite my best efforts there are days (sometimes even weeks!) in which I am unable to write ... for various reasons.

My 'other' job, as a teacher, takes a tremendous amount of time and energy and focus (hereafter referred to as TEF), especially at the beginning of the school year.

My responsibilities as a father and husband and son and brother and friend also take a slice of my TEF.

A seemingly huge portion of my leftover TEF ends up being devoted to marketing and promotion of my writing, which translates into time that cannot be spent ... actually writing.

I'd love for my life as a writer to be more (in Ernest's words) lonely, but that's not likely to happen in the short term.

I'm reasonably comfortable with the fact that I cannot devote as much TEF to writing as I'd like to (I dream of the day when I don't have to jealously guard and hoard it to get my writing done ... who doesn't?), but I've come up with some ways to let my writing brain get some work done even when I can't actually be writing.

7 Tips for Writers ... When They Don't Have Time to Write!
  1. Send yourself emails - I know, it sounds stupid, but I send myself emails about writing every day while I'm at work, and dump them into an ideas folder.
  2. Keep some business cards in your pocket - I don't like to carry pens/pencils around, and everyone else always does (so I can borrow theirs); a business card is the perfect size to fit in any pocket and I jot down a few ideas whenever I can't send myself an email.
  3. Tell a friend - I tell my wife or co-workers or son a few keywords pertaining to an idea that I've had, and that they need to tell me about it later ... their memory is often better than mine with this sort of thing.
  4. Keep a pen handy - I know this sounds like a refutation of tip#2, but it's not ... keep a pen by the bed, by your favored reading chair, in the bathroom, and in the car (along with some business cards or post-it notes) ... you never know when an idea will come, and you shouldn't count on holding on to it all day without help.
  5. Google - when I don't have time to write, but have a minute or seven between classes or lunch or family stuff, I google for maps, research, names, news ... anything and everything that might help, or be useful, later when I can write (then I save/email the good stuff).
  6. Take a walk - it may not seem like writing, but taking a walk gets moves me around the planet a bit (and you too, I assume, unless you walk on a treadmill), and gets oxygen flowing, and sometimes I'll see something, or think of something, that can help advance my current work in progress.
  7. Read - you should always have a book (or a bunch of books) with you for anticipated/unanticipated downtime ... not only do writers write, but they must also read!
These seven tips should help you keep the ball rolling (and your sanity mostly intact) even when you don't have the necessary TEF to write.

Good Luck!



75K! I can see the end from here!

As my month of intensive writing draws to a close, and the new school year looms large, I am taking a minute to examine what I've done with "Caretakers" (still not 100% on the name), and what still needs to be done.

I plotted and planned most of the book during the month of July using a workbook that I created based on my experience writing "Here Be Monsters" last year. I worked to balance new story with backstory, including details from HBM, "Mickey Slips", and "Bound for Home", woven in with the storyline of "Caretakers".

I've written about 75,000 words, which is about the finished length of my first draft of HBM last summer; "Caretakers" is shaping up to be more like 90, 000 (or a bit more) when all is said and done.

I reread HBM before starting this project, and still love the book. It turned out exactly the way that I wanted it to...for better or worse, that's my novel. "Caretakers" is a bit more ambitious in some ways: there's more mystery, less blood & more chilling/nasty, some different character perspectives, and some complex plot twists.

I've been enjoying writing it, and can't wait to get it into the hands of some beta readers, so that together we can begin the long, sometimes painful process, of tweaking and polishing the story.

I anticipate needing about ten more chunks of writing time, which I should be able to get in during the month of September.

Thanks for all of the support, and for making this month my best month of sales ever (over 700 copies of my books sold online and in local bookstores!).



Hoss's 28th Annual Author's Night

Yesterday afternoon my wife and I drove down from Lake Clear to Long Lake. It's a lovely drive, and reason enough to take my Honda for a spin, but we had plans: I'd been invited to attend the 28th Annual Author's Night at Hoss's Country Corner, a Northcountry institution for almost 40 years.

{for those interested, my name is second from the top in the column to the right}
Author's night is an event that Hoss's hosts to bring together writers whose subject matter is the Adirondacks. We initially got together for a nice cookout dinner at the Long Lake Pavilion, which is up the side of a hill over the Hamlet of Long Lake, offering a pretty view of this lovely little town. When Gail and I arrived, there was a pair of deer watching the setup with interest, but by the time all 82 Adirondack Authors (and their minions) had arrived, the deer had melted back into the woods. During and after dinner, writers mixed and mingled a bit, talking about...books (and writing, and reading).

We got down to the big tent set up behind the main building of Hoss's around 5:45, and set up my space on the table, with copies of "Here Be Monsters" from Hoss's shelves, and some info-cards about "Mickey Slips" and "Bound for Home" flanking the print books.

By six, people were starting to show up (although the event was scheduled to run from 7-9pm), but Gail managed to take a picture that shows off my new table sign (with some info about the books and me).

 By the time things really got moving, the tent was packed with readers and writers, all talking about, and looking at, books...it was a blast talking with everyone there, and selling books to boot. I think there must have been 500 (or more) people in town last night for the event at Hoss's!

Gail, my talented minion, managed to catch this moment, when I was talking with a reader who was so enthusiastic about the local nature of my book (see her new and signed copy under her right arm), that the woman next to her snatched up a copy as if they might disappear)...it was my only double sale of the night, but I had a lot of nice talks about books and writing and storytelling during the course of the evening.

I look forward to going again next year, by then I should have three print books to sell...HBM, "Caretakers". and the collection of Tyler Cunningham shorts. 

Thanks Hoss's!



3 Tips to Sell More Copies of Your Ebooks, and Why Reviews Matter

August is eleven days old, and it is already far and away my best month of sales as a writer...EVER!

I've sold over 600 copies of my three ebooks and feel that it's directly attributable to three decisions that I made...

  1. Drop the price of your ebook to 99 cents. My novel, "Here Be Monsters" had been $7.99. My two novellas, "Mickey Slips" and Bound for Home", had been $2.99. There's a significant psychological barrier/difference, and if your aim is to get your book in front of the maximum number of eyes, garner reviews, and make a bit of money, then 99 cents is a great place to set your pricepoint.
  2. Use your network. I made up an ad and shared it with my author's network through Facebook and Twitter and Google+ and this blog. That alone was enough to sell about 30 copies of each book in the first few days of the month.
  3. Use a promotion service like ereadernewstoday.com (ENT). They are able to reach out to hundreds of thousands of members and suggest your book to them. The next one on my list to try (at some point) is bookbub.com, which requires an initial outlay of money, but has proven/respected results in the indie author community.

Now, what the next thing that I need is to find a way to translate some of those 600 sales into reviews for my work.  Independent authors like me rely on reviews to increase the visibility of our books, and help people see and buy and read them (there are lots of books out there, and if nobody sees it, nobody reads it).

If you are one of the people who took advantage of the 99 cent pricing to buy one or more of my books, first off ... Thank you!

Second, I would ask that after you have read the book(s) you follow the link on the back page of the ebook back to my author page at Amazon.com, and leave a review. 

A review does not need 5-stars (although we authors do like those ones). It should have a description of what you liked about the book, what sort of readers would likely enjoy the book in your opinion, and what you hope to see from the author in the future.

I particularly need reviews for my latest ebook, "Bound for Home", as it only has 4 reviews so far, and needs at least 10 before I can promote it via ENT. If you have read it, and could leave a review, I'd be very grateful.