Reading in the Great Outdoors Contest!

Happy Monday!

Would you like to be mentioned in the next Tyler Cunningham book?

Send me a picture of you or a friend or family-member reading outside (in a woodsy setting like you might find Tyler reading in), and you'll make acknowledgments section in my next book.




KDP Select or not?

I published my book, "Here Be Monsters" through Amazon's CreateSpace, which dovetails into Kindle Desktop Publishing, which in turn dovetails into KDP Select?  In general, I couldn't be happier with CreateSpace, and also with KDP, both of which work together with me and each other very well...the question in my mind is about the KDP Select program, which I signed up for when I initially published (and goes until March 31st of this year).

My book's inclusion in the KDP Select program allows Amazon Prime members to borrow my book for free (and I still get paid some amount), or for me to make the book free to everyone to download as a promotion.  The "cost" to me for being associated with this program is that I have to list the electronic version of my book exclusively with Amazon while I'm in the program.

In practical terms, this means that I cannot make "Here Be Monsters" available to people with Nook or Kobo or iBooks users, or sell it in PDF format on my website.  I need to balance that with the roughly 20 people who have borrowed my book through the KDP Select program.

My current thinking is that when the initial agreement period is up in about 9 weeks, that I won't continue my participation in the KDP Select program, and will make "Here Be Monsters" available in other formats, and through other venues.

That being said, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter...based on your experience with, or simply your opinion on, the matter.




Looking at novels from both sides

I still haven't gotten used to the idea that I actually wrote "Here Be Monsters", nor that people have read and enjoyed it.  It still freaks me out a bit when I get emails about the book, or read reviews on Amazon or GoodReads, or get stopped by someone who has read the book and wants to talk about Tyler or camping or bad eating habits or murder (as it relates to the book). 

It's gratifying to share the enjoyment for the story and character and place with people, but I've noticed something else...something that maybe only other writer's would know about...the disparity between reader and writer immersion in the novel.

People who read my book spend a couple of days (or hours...or weeks) reading, and enjoying, "Here Be Monsters"; I spent 6-8 months planning and writing and editing the same collection of words.  One draft of the novel was 68k words, another was nearly 80k, and the final was almost 75k; each of those versions was quite different. 

I tried to write fast, and fix it slow, and to maintain a stable of characters and action sequences within the general framework of a storyline arc...readers want a fun story that transports them to another world for the time that they're reading. 

Both of these experiences are valid and interesting aspects of the same book, but are totally different.

I love reading the work of my favorite authors, Lawrence Block and John Sandford; I have re-read some of their best stuff to relive the experience, and look forward to their new books eagerly.  I read their books in a few days, and now am aware that the book/adventure that I enjoyed swimming around in for around a week took them months to put together.

Maybe it's something that everyone else was already aware of. but it's new to me, and has changed the way that I think about the books that I read.

Just a morning book thought on a chilly Thursday in the Adirondacks (-30F this morning in Tyler Cunningham Country).




Writing a New Short Piece

I had some time, and have had some ideas kicking around in my head relating to Tyler Cunningham, the protagonist in the novel that I wrote, so I started writing a short piece of fiction today. 

I already have some plans for a follow-up novel, to be written this summer, and this story is much less complex, so I'm thinking that it will be in the neighborhood of 15,000 words when all is said and done...a novelette according to a word count page that I found on Wikipedia.

Writing a shorter piece seems very different after working on a novel.  Everything needs to be more tightly planned and measured, and development of story/plot/characters has to happen much more quickly.  It'll be interesting to see what I end up with at the end of this process, but even if it's nothing much, it's still fun to play with words and see where the story goes.

In this short piece (short story or novelette, who knows?), Tyler gets a call from a lesser-developed character from the novel who is nevertheless important to Tyler...Mickey.  Mickey is in Tyler's kind of trouble, and Tyler is currently in the process of taking an unconventional path from trouble to clear, with a potential mess on order for anyone who picks the wrong team.  From here it seems as though things will work out for Tyler and Mickey as long as nothing goes wrong, but that seems unlikely to happen.

I'll post updates on the piece as it progresses...it's fun and interesting in the meantime.




Press Release in the ADK Daily Enterprise!

(Adirondack Daily Enterprise, Weekender, 1/17/2013)

I was surprised when a few friends sent me emails this morning to let me know that there was a short piece about "Here Be Monsters" in the local paper, but am excited by the idea of more Adirondackers getting a chance to hear about my book.



Winter Hammock Camping!

The book has been launched, copies are selling, good reviews are coming, I've started working on the sequel novel (as well as a couple of Tyler-related short stories), so I'm getting ready to run away from the whole thing for a bit.

I'm meeting some equally crazy friends for a 4-day winter camping trip out in the winter wonderland that the Adirondacks has become.  A number of us will be sleeping in our hammocks.  We may get snow (one year we had an overnight storm dump a foot of the white stuff on us) it may get cold (a couple of years ago, it hit -36F when a few of us were camping), but regardless, a good time will be had by all.

I'll post some pictures of the fun and games afterwards, and hope to come back inspired and rested and ready to get cracking on my new writing projects.

Thanks for all of the support and reviews and enthusiasm to date!



"Here Be Monsters" Contest (Twinkie Prizes!)

Sales of "Here Be Monsters" are going pretty well, and I'm happy with the reviews (although to tell the truth I'd love for a couple more to go up on Amazon), and I've been hearing from friends and strangers about how they feel as though they know Tyler(and/or know someone like Tyler).  Two things that people mention are Tyler's numbered smiles, and his appreciation for junk food, so I thought I'd run a book-related contest that brought those two together.

Contest Guidelines:
Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to catalog all of Tyler's number fake (and actual smiles), into a list (including the undiscussed ones).  Prizes will be awarded in the two categories: most accurate/detailed, and most imaginative.  Most accurate/detailed will be decided based on attention to detail in the story.  Most imaginative will be decided based on how creatively the entrant guesses at the unexplained gaps in Tyler's numbered smiles.  In the case of multiple entries of similar quality, SmartPig minons will select a winner for each category by cage-wrestling match.

Contest Dates:
Submissions will be accepted from January 14 through February 14.

Contest Prizes:
The winner of each category will receive a vintage package of (still edible) Twinkies. 

Good Luck!



Signed Copies for Sale

Signed copies of "Here Be Monsters" are now available for sale through my website, through the cleverly named "Buy Stuff!" page.

If you already got a copy and want it signed, just come and find me, and I'll happily sign it and then talk your ear off about the writing process, and my favorite parts of the book.



Sunrise at my "day job"

{click on the picture to see it full-sized}

When I'm not writing, I work at the Lake Placid Middle/High School, in Lake Placid, NY.  This is the view outside of my classroom window this morning, at a few minutes after 7am.  My school is just behind/above the outside speed-skating oval that Eric Heiden won 5 gold medals on in the 1980 Olympics.

It was a gorgeous morning!

I woke up this morning with a nest of ideas for a short story prequel to "Here Be Monsters" that I want to try and dig around in, and write this week and/or next.



Bits and Bobs About the Book

I've been a published author for a week, and some of the fear and awe has rubbed off, only to be replaced by a mix of fun and little oddities of the process.

It took Amazon most of the week to view/list the Kindle and paperback version as the same book.  They have assigned parenthetical subtitles to the book that are still different, but neither bother me, and in talking with CreateSpace, it sounds as though it would be a hassle, and might even take the book offline to merge or dump the subtitles.

I've had some fun talks and email exchanges and discussion in various online forums about the book and the writing process, and am looking forward to more in the future.  I understand that a bookclub up here in the Adirondacks is going to read my book for their next month's selection, which is both an honor and a bit scary.  Goodreads has my book showing up on peoples' "to read" lists...people that I don't know (lots of the early adapters have been friends and family, but now the book seems to be spreading beyond that circle).  I'm ecstatic that the book seems to be establishing its own momentum, and a life of its own.

One "clever" thing that I threw into the book during the design process appears (when taken from outside of the slightly myopic view of myself and my editorial team) to not work out as well as I had hoped in the final cost/benefit analysis.  I assume that I'll be hearing about errata and perhaps some minor details in the months to come (75k words, there are likely to be a few issues, even with multiple read-throughs and readers).  At some point in the process, I'll likely dive in and make some changes and then re-upload the files for the paperback and Kindle copies of the book. 

Reader's Challenge:
If you can find/identify the thing that I'm referring to in the paragraph above in the text of my book, and email (or comment here) what it is, I'll send you a Twinkie from Tyler's secret stash of the heavenly pastry treats!




Where do you write?

I wrote the majority of "Here Be Monsters" at our kitchen table.  It has a nice view of some clutter and a tiny saltwater tank and pictures of dogs and other family/friends and the woods outside of our house and provides plenty of space for me to spread out.  I like drinking some form of liquid caffeine (Coke or coffee) while writing, and often cover the table with notebooks and maps and miscellaneous scraps of paper.

Writing at the table means that the dogs (currently two, Miles and Puck) are at my feet or waiting on one side of the door leading to the woods behind our home.  They don't bug me nearly as much as Kiwi, the mantis shrimp living in the saltwater tank on the table, does...she comes out to watch me type (which is creepy), whacks on the snails cleaning her tank to let m know that she's hungry (which is noisy and annoying), and redecorates her tank constantly (throwing stuff around, which is visually distracting). 

I sometimes listen to music, but nothing too busy or with words...it generally comes down to Mozart or JSB's Goldberg Variations or Segovia.  I don't turn off the phone, but I do screen callers, and almost nobody makes the cut.  I keep a browser open in the background, because I find that I look stuff up all the time, but stick pretty much to google and wikipedia (avoiding gmail and FB during writing time helps it work).

Most of my writing sessions during the writing of HBM resulted in the production of "chunks" of book between 1500-2500 words in length.  I tried not to focus on the wordcount as much as completing a segment of the story before stopping for the day; so some days I ran long and some days were shorter (my NaNoWriMo day wordcounts varied from 800 to 4500).

I don't know that this is the best way to write, it's just how I wrote while working on HBM.  I'd love to hear about where and how you write...thanks for sharing!



A New Year, with New Opportunities!

My book is now available in both paperback and Kindle formats on Amazon.com, and I'm floating on a cloud of pride and contentedness and closure and joy.  The work isn't done, I have marketing and the like to deal with, but a process that had been consuming lots of brainspace for the last 6 months has shifted off to one side...somewhat.

While I'm interested and excited about connecting with potential readers through a brilliant local and distributed marketing campaign, I'm also looking ahead to what it next for me.

The most important part of this whole process has been taking a handful of related ideas from floating around in my head through a drafting and writing and editing process, to produce a story that both expresses my original thoughts and grips a reader by the throat until they've finished the last page.

I have some ideas about what's next for Tyler Cunningham, the protagonist in my novel, "Here Be Monsters", and am debating which way to go in the short term: begin planning the next novel while the excitement is there, or explore some short format projects (both short stories and a novella) that have suggested themselves to me. 

I already know the direction in which the next novel will be going, and have some of the story worked out already, but need to do some research to strengthen characters and the environment in which they'll exist.  I've been collecting random thoughts, doing some reading, talking to subject matter experts, and making lists...and so on.

I have some fun ideas for less lengthy pieces of work as well.  A few short stories and maybe a longer piece (in the 30k word range), designed around the further exploration of Tyler and the people in his life, set against the backdrop of the Adirondack Park and smaller-scale investigations, have surfaced at various points over the last few months (when finishing "Here Be Monsters" started seeming like a reality rather than a dream); I've been holding these off with promises to let them out to play once the book was done, and they're ready.

I'd love to hear what you've got planned for the New Year, in terms of writing projects (or other creative outlets, as my sister has just begun some brilliant work with watercolors).  Please share your thoughts about your work, my work, or somebody else's work, and the direction that you think it should go in 2013.



Amazon Author Page!

I have an Amazon Author page!


From this page, you can get to the kindle or print version of "Here Be Monsters", which can be borrowed and/or shipped for FREE is you are an Amazon Prime member.



"Here Be Monsters" in Kindle format!

My novel, "Here Be Monsters" has now become available on Amazon for Kindle readers.


There is an extended free sample to give you more of a feeling for the book before buying it, but the title is also FREE for all Amazon Prime members!

Thanks, and Happy New Year to everyone!