99 Cent Summer Sale on All of My Books, August 1st through 8th!

As July comes to a close, my serious writing season is just beginning! I'm hoping to finish writing the first draft of my second novel, "Caretakers", by the end of next month.

To celebrate the reading and writing that we all enjoy, especially during summertime, I'm dropping the prices of all of my books to 99 cents for the first week of August.  That represents a savings of between 67% and 88%, depending which book(s) you select.

These books have all received great reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads, and make for some great reading, especially at 99 cents!

This is a great opportunity to support an independent author; you can buy my entire collection for less than you would spend on a Big Mac or a Venti Latte...buy them for yourself or for a friend who loves mysteries!

"Here Be Monsters", my first novel, is regularly available for $7.99, but during the first week of August you can get it for 99 cents, an 88% savings!

"Mickey Slips" takes a look at Tyler's relationship to Mickey Schwarz, a father figure who finds himself in trouble of the sort that only Tyler can help him get with.  It regularly sells for $2.99, so at 99 cents, you're saving 67%.

"Bound for Home" is an ebook detailing Tyler Cunningham's first case as a consulting detective. It is regularly available for $2.99, so the 99 cent sale represents a savings of 67%.

I hope that if you choose to take advantage of this sale, that you will also be good enough to write a review for either Amazon or Goodreads (or both?).

These ebooks are in Kindle format, and you can read and enjoy and share them even if you don't own a Kindle ereader...you simply download the FREE software which allows you to read them on your computer or phone or tablet, and then you can loan the book to a friend when you're done with it (just like you would with a printed book that you've enjoyed). 




My 7 Ingredient Recipe for Productive Writing

I'm writing my second novel, and feeling pretty good about it.  Establishing a writing routine for the first novel, "Here Be Monsters", was interesting as I'd never done anything like it before.  Having successfully been through it, as well as having written an additional pair of novellas, "Mickey Slips" and "Bound for Home" in the intervening year, I feel confident and comfortable with my process.

I'm sharing my 7 ingredient recipe for productive writing not as the best or only way to write, but simply as one possible way that has worked for me.  Feel free to ignore or modify any or all of the recipe as suits your needs; my only hope is that it will be helpful to someone looking for a way to start (and hopefully finish) their writing project.

Productive Writing Recipe


  • Coffee
  • Food
  • Water
  • Plan
  • Quiet
  • Time
  • Permission


Coffee is an integral part of my writing process, I'm drinking my third cup of the morning right now.  That being said, I understand that not everyone likes to prime their pump with coffee...that's fine.  Coffee, besides being a tasty caffeine delivery system, is also, in this case, a metaphor; I use it to mean anything that helps you reach a state of wakefulness and synaptic function that writing is possible.  Other means that I use to "get in the zone" include playing with my dogs, reading, splashing my face or showering, and going for a swim.  Whatever it takes to get you going can stand in for, or bolster, the coffee that is the first part of my writing ritual.

It's important to note that too much coffee can disrupt your writing process...so be careful out there folks!

I try to maintain the correct balance of caffeine to other vital nutrients throughout my writing periods, and after months of arduous experimentation, generally manage to find that happy and productive and slightly wired knife's edge

A good rule of thumb is to drink at least as much water as coffee over the course of a writing session (yes, I fail at this sometimes also).

If coffee is what gets your engine started, food it the fuel that keeps your brain and hands going during the hours of writing you hope to get done each day.  Without adequate, and adequately nutritious, food, your writing sessions, and writing, will suffer.

I try to eat a good meal with a mix of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats before I begin writing for the day, and follow that up with snacks either as I go along or during the breaks that I try to remember to take.

Junk food is easy and yummy, but can be hard on the laptop keyboard and also lead to energy spikes and dips.  I work to keep my writing foods simple and plain and a little bland...I'm looking for fuel, not a gastronomic experience.
I always have a glass of water beside me while writing.  To painfully extend the engine metaphor I've been beating you over the head with so far (and thankfully plan to abandon from this point onwards), it is the lubricant that keeps all of your systems running smoothly, and allows you to take full advantage of the writing productivity boost granted your hands and brain by the aforementioned coffee and food.

I work to drink about a gallon of water every day, more when it's hot or I'm physically active.  If you start with a full glass, and refill it every time you take a break in your writing, you'll be doing yourself, and your writing, a big favor.

(Yes, it's a cheesy graphic, but it fit what I wanted to talk about perfectly...make of that what you will)

I spend the weeks, and sometimes months, before I start writing a novel planning and thinking about what I will be writing.  I get to know the setting and characters and story-arc pretty well before I begin writing.  This is not to say that I know everything about the story before I write it; I'm often surprised by developments that come up (out?) during the course of a writing session.

I think of my planning as a quite general roadmap, with my starting point, the planned end, and a few waypoints along the route.  A big part of the fun of writing for me is to see where the story takes me from day to day.  I like having a general idea of the shape of my novel before I begin, but don't want to be a slave to a rigid outline; the compromise works well for me.

Strangely, I find that when writing my shorter works, I'm perfectly happy and able to jump in with nothing more than an idea...a starting place.  From there, I just let the story tell itself to me, and see how it turns out.
I like to write in a quiet and peaceful place...no jackhammers pounding or people talking to me.  I have a few "writing" playlists that I will sometime listen to (they tend towards mellow instrumental classical compositions), but most often just write to the ambient noise of the Adirondacks, where I live: wind, birds, trees, insect, etc.

I hear that Stephen King writes to hard rock, and know some authors who unplug their phones and sever Internet connections, but I find that I'm happier somewhere in the middle.  I avoid music with words, because of a suspicion that it will interfere with my words.  I like being able to use the WWW for just-in-time fact checking and research (and also for email and facebook check-ins, to see how the world is getting along without me).

You will undoubtedly find the proper balance of peace and quiet for your writing, but my advice would be that when in doubt, choose the more quiet and less distraction-filled option.

I can't settle down to writing productively on a novel with a period of time of less than two to five hours.  With smaller chunks of time, I can happily do marketing stuff on FB or twitter or G+, or mess around with edits on a story or novel, but I'm just not wired to work on my novel in short periods of time.

That being the case, I work hard at finding and then jealously guarding those bigger chunks of time from the minutiae of everyday life that can erode a workable piece of writing time into a fragmented day of errands and chores and such.  

There are always perfectly good reasons to do things other than write your novel...don't give up your writing time, or your novel will become something you wish you had done!

The final ingredient in my recipe for productive writing is permission. You need to grant yourself permission to dream big and write badly and not get it right the first (or fifth) time.  Give yourself permission to indulge your imagination and your characters and your fantasies.  

I'm giving you permission to write foolishly and recklessly and heedless of conventions.  Write the book you want to write...not the book that will sell, or the book that will please your family and friends.

If you give yourself permission to scoop the story out of your brain, and write with your heart, then I guarantee that your hands will know what to do, and the writing will go well...except when it doesn't.

Sometimes the writing sucks.  It drags, it's stale, it hurts to read the crap you're spent hours (or days...or weeks) writing. It happens to every single writer, me, you, Stephen King, Leo Tolstoy, and Harper Lee.  

The magic, not-so-secret, fix to bad writing is to...keep on writing.

Give yourself permission to write badly, and then start again the next day.

Thanks for reading, thanks for writing, good luck!



Summer Writing Updates

I've moved past the preparation stage, and into actually writing my next novel, "Caretakers".

This is the view from the place I'm lucky enough to be writing for the next few weeks
It's an interesting process.  I'm using a workbook that I created after my experiences last year, writing, "Here Be Monsters", which pulls together lots of lessons and exercises that I found in various books and websites, and in talking with authors.  Assuming that everything goes well this summer, my plan is to polish the current version and go ahead and publish it in the hopes that other would-be writers will find it useful.

I've also been listening to the audiobook version of Stephen King's book, "On Writing"  for the last few weeks while shuttling my son Ben around to various camps and playdates and such.  The best part about it is that the audiobook is read by King himself, and I feel as though he's been my writing coach during the preparation for writing this next novel.

My old laptop was getting slow and cranky and flashing and crashing, so I've borrowed Ben's Chromebook for the last few days of writing, and have been so impressed that I'll be buying one of my own to replace my ancient Dell.  It's lighter, faster, runs longer on a charge, and costs less.  Given my computing needs, it makes lots of sense, and I'm excited to have a viable alternative to the dinosaur in mind.

Back to the writing...it's exciting and nerve-wracking and difficult and easy, all at the same time.  I know the shape of the story, having worked through the story arc and characters with my workbook, but there are some challenges with "Caretakers" that I didn't face with HBM.

The book is more complex, most notably from being written using two voices. I noodled around with alternating chapters, but it messed with the flow and my being able to relate to/with the characters I was writing; so I will be writing all of one voice first, all of the other voice afterwards, and then blending/shuffling the two once I've finished writing both parts.

I don't know if that's how other authors writer multiple voices/perspectives, but it seems to be the best way for me to write this novel.

I'm just getting started, but I will try to post with word counts and other developments as the project rolls along.




Character Profiles: How Much is Too Much

My writing process is a mix of the pre-planning and 'seat of the pants' methodologies.  I do some work beforehand, laying out some general waypoints, researching topics likely to come up in my writing, and getting to know all of the major and minor characters in the book. Once I've done that, I have a general map of where I want the book to go, but don't actually know how I'll get there; that happens in my daily writing session.

I try to write 1500 to 2500 words per day, when I'm actively writing, and generally write in a linear fashion (from the beginning of the story to the end, without skipping around).  Each morning before I start, I look briefly at my pre-planning workbook, as well as the writing I did the day before; this taken care of, I start typing, and let the story spill out of my head and into my laptop.

The reason that this works for me is that I know the situation and the characters...given that...my sub-conscious takes over a bit, and I let the characters write the story.  A key to this process is knowing a lot about my characters.

I fill one of these out for every character with a speaking part in my books, and it forces me to really get to know them before I start writing.  One of the perennial items in the "Additional Notes" section is the name (or names) of people that I know IRL that share traits or personality or features or aspects with the character.

I was working on these character profiles yesterday, having fun getting to know the new ones, and having fun getting reacquainted with the regulars, when it occurred to me that these aren't so different from the ones that I used when I played D&D a million years ago.

The character profiles I use for writing my books, and the character sheets that I used for D&D serve much the same purpose: to help create a fiction by aiding with the suspension of disbelief with believable details. Knowing about your characters helps you to tell a better story.

I don't worry about the fact that lots of the stuff that I know about them that will never come up, or play a part, in any book that I write, it helps to give me a solid grounding in their histories. 

I often get into discussions with beta-reading minions about how or why one of my characters would act or react in a given situation, and I can generally answer...because I know...I know their family background and job history and favorite foods and their pets' names. 

That stuff doesn't need to (in most cases it shouldn't) make it into my stories, but it's worth knowing, because it makes the characters more real to me...which will hopefully make them more real to you.




Dive into Pre-Writing in Five Easy Steps!

I published my third book last week, and after a weekend of cookouts and canoeing and boardgames and sleeping in, I'm ready...ready for the next writing project!

I dropped my son off at camp with his friends in town, my wife is at work, the dogs are sleeping all around me, the 'writing' playlist is playing on my iPod, I've had just the right amount of coffee, and I'm in the mood to write a novel...now what?

I have a process that works for me, so I thought that I would share a bit about it as I go along in my pre-writing for the coming days and weeks.

A secret that nobody but you knows is that my first book wasn't "Here Be Monsters", it was the simple pre-writing workbook that you can see on my laptop in the picture above.

I was nervous about using CreatSpace to print my first novel without practicing on something less important first, and so reverse-engineered the process that I used to write HBM, and put it all in a workbook that would both allow me to play with the CreateSpace publishing tools, and make a useful tool for subsequent writing projects.

The first five steps are surface/simple, but help to define everything that will come later in the process of writing my novel.

I devote a whole, mostly blank, page to detailing the big picture.  I don't worry about cross-outs or spelling or specifics...I'm just trying to get the idea that has been rumbling around in the back of my head onto paper in some form.  There's a box at the bottom of the page where I try to fit the idea into a single sentence description of the novel (a shorter version of the 'elevator pitch').

Free-Writing for Detail
Another mostly blank page for brainstorming 50-100 words that I associate with the idea on the previous page.  Once I have an idea, these word start spilling out pretty quickly, providing me with some cues for setting and characters and storyline and twists and such.

The where and when of the novel.  I write a bare-bones description of the places that the novel will take the reader.  I like for the place/setting to be almost a character in the novel...it has to matter that the book takes place where and when it does.

Starting with Characters
At this stage of pre-writing, I populate the story with as many of the major characters (and any minor ones that I'm aware of as well) as is possible; thinking in terms of protagonist, antagonist, major, minor, dynamic, and static.  I also try to link/associate each character with someone (or multiple someones) that I know (or know about) 'in real-life'...not necessarily closely, and certainly not exactly, but it helps me to get a feel for the characters, and understand how they would react in the situations that arise in the book in a more convincing way.

Story Starters
For this final step of the first day (hopefully) of pre-writing, I think up five different scenarios introduce the cast of characters and/or set up the central conflict of the story.  I usually go into this stage having a clear idea of the start that I want to use, but work at coming up with four others as well, and find that it helps me think about the setting and characters in a different way, even if I end up going with my original plan.

I worked through these steps this morning, and was happy to find that the ideas came freely from whatever part of my brain the stories live in.  I've been thinking about this novel for a while, so I had some details and characters firmly in hand, but other needed a bit more coaxing.

This morning's work highlighted two bits of research that I have to take care of in the next week: an interview with a character analog and subject-matter expert, and a site-visit to reacquaint myself with the look and feel and smell and sound of Adirondack Great Camps.

I was most surprised to find that the story starter I had envisioned (and been happy with) months ago was not my favorite at the end of my pre-writing session.

The next session of pre-writing will involve a detailed analysis and biography and background of all of my characters, but before I can get to that I have an interview and a site-visit to take care of first.

Phone calls are on my todo list.




Happy 4th of July!

Today is an American holiday celebrating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776. The Declaration is is a powerful and enduring document, a cornerstone of our nation's foundation and future...there are sections of it that are known more widely than any other historical document:

Words make a difference.  Writing can change the world.  

The Fourth of July, then, is a celebration not of our independence...that came later.  It is a celebration of writing and ideas and expression of beliefs...it's my favorite holiday for this reason!

I'm celebrating today for another reason as well...my third book was published this morning.

I had always wanted to be a writer; always had ideas and plans and stories banging around in my head.  I didn't do anything about it until last summer, when I started planning, and then writing, my first novel, "Here Be Monsters".  I wrote and rewrote and edited the book, and it was published on New Year's Day of this year.  I followed it up with another, shorter, book, "Mickey Slips" in April.  My latest book, "Bound for Home", was published as of this morning.  I am in the planning stages of my next novel, "Caretakers", which should be published early in 2014.

My words and writing aren't going to change the world, but they have changed my world and my life.  I love the freedom to express and share my thoughts with the world.  I love the feeling of working with Gail, my wife, my love, my minion, on these books.  I love the indescribable joy that comes when someone enjoys my stories, and wants to talk with me about them.  

I love being a writer, and the 4th of July is my holiday!

Thanks and have a great one!



New Tyler Cunningham Novella Coming Soon!

I've been working on this latest novella for a while now...life gets in the way of my writing sometime...but it's complete now, and days away from publication as a Kindle eBook!

"Bound for Home" is a Tyler Cunningham Short, a novella of roughly 22,000 words, that takes a look at Tyler only months after his arrival in the Adirondacks; in the days during which he takes his first case as a consulting detective.

It's been polished with the help of beta-reader responses/suggestions, and grew in length by nearly 4,000 words since the first draft.  It is now in the hands of the SmartPig copy-editing minions, who should have it Kindle-ready in the coming days.

A sneak peek of the cover is available here for blog visitors...enjoy, and please buy the book!

I look forward to hearing your feedback on the book, and also to beginning work on the second novel in earnest.