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Where is Lagoon Hills?

Image by Richard Flores IV

Image by Richard Flores IV

So often, when I write stories, I stay pretty ambiguous about where the locations are.  With Dissolution of Peace, space was a vast enough location that specifics were rarely needed on specific earthly locations.  With Volition Agent, I tried to keep the cities generic because I wanted the story to feel like it could have taken place anywhere.  But I did touch base on a few cities to give a general location.

With Broken Trust, I picked a specific location that I knew.  The world of this story is vast and there are countless cities I could have written in.  But instead I picked Lagoon Hills.  And where is Lagoon Hills in relation to today’s world?  Right outside of Vacaville, California.  I took a few liberties with the location, adding a river and more a circular motion of the hills.  I also distanced it from the freeway a bit.

Growing up in Vacaville, I’ve been to Lagoon Valley Park many times.  I’ve driven past it more times than anyone could count.  As a child I would ride my bike out there all the time.  And as I got older, driving out there with friends was always something fun to do.  The location isn’t really a lagoon in the text book definition.  I guess it would be a lake?  But it is one of the smallest I’ve seen.  California is a drought ridden state right now, so it is even lower than I remember it growing up.

When I was putting together the world of Broken Trust, I realized that I needed a location for the main city.  I knew that Liam was going to be a person who was defensive minded.  And when you drive by this little lake every day, you can’t help but start to see some of the advantages to establishing a new city there.

Of course, the location is fictitious, and though based on this location they aren’t exactly the same.  But that is the joy of fiction,

Picture by Richard Flores IV

Picture by Richard Flores IV

especially fiction set in the future, you get to take certain liberties on the location.

But this location has more that just a defensive posture I was looking for.  It also had a key factor:  Being surrounded by population centers, but not right on top of them.  Lagoon Valley is about an hour from both Sacramento and San Francisco.  One of the things I theorized in creating this world, is that when everything was said and done, and the world as we knew it was over, people would eventually want to band back together.  And chances are they’d head for the major population centers.  More survivors would be in the major population areas, just by the odds.

It was important, though not completely shown in this novel, that Liam and his friends be the biggest-little guys.  I wanted them to be surrounded by other groups of people, or City-States, because it becomes an important part of both Broken Trust, and any possible sequels.

Another reason, I couldn’t resist a chance to give a little shout out to my hometown, where I lived most of my life.  So that is the behind the scenes on the location of Lagoon Hills.

Don’t forget, you can preorder Broken Trust now until May 28th. m It released worldwide May 29, 2014.

Would you want to live in Lagoon-Hills? Or are one of the other City-States better for you?  Take the quiz to find out.  Click the image below to get started.

broken trust quiz 2

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Surviving “The End”: How Broken Trust Came to Be

One of the most common questions any author gets asked is, “Where did you come up with that idea?”  Well, that might be second only to, “When are going to bed?”  But the truth is each idea comes from someplace new.  The number one source for my short stories is the dream realm.  But oddly enough my novels never come from the things I dream.

Broken Trust is no different than my first two novels, in that small ideas slowly grew into something larger than life.  But Broken Trust is very different in one key way, the world in which it happens.  I spent more time working on the world of Broken Trust than it took to write it, edit it, send it to beta readers, edit it again, and have my editor fix it.  That is something that was new for me.

You see I am a “seat of my pants” writer.  I don’t outline, I don’t plan.  I get the ideas in my head, formulate a story line, put the character into the box, and I let them play.  It isn’t the easiest way to write, I know plenty of authors who cringe at the thought of no outlines.  I even know many authors with giant cork boards used for plotting out their epic novels.

But, Broken Trust did have a little planning in it.  But it happened by accident.

Let me back up to beginning. I started a short story, I never finished it.  The story was about an ex-cop who survived a recent mass extinction event.  The event was caused by the over use of antibiotics leading to a super bug that devastated the human race in a short amount of time.  Anyway, I began to write about this man and what he was doing.  Eventually the goal was to lead him along to the end of the story in which he discovers a group of humans trying to rebuild some resemblance of a society.

And that sparked a thought in my head.  What would the rebuild be like?  So I started planning that aspect of the story.  I wondered about the whole world.  And I started to craft all these different population groups, with different government structures all around the world.  The world grew and grew.

And, well it out grew a short story.  It even outgrew the story I had originally planned to tell.  I decided that I wanted to focus more on the world several years after the apocalypse after many in the world were starting to shift from survival to rebirth.  And that was the initial start to what is now Broken Trust.

The story evolved even more since that point.  It became very much about how damaging to would be on people to survive in a situation like that.  It became about people taking on roles in life they never thought they would, and do things they never wanted to do.  It became about friendship, love, and very much a story about people. Characters who were supposed to be background and secondary characters jumped up and demanded more attention. And, as my characters often do, they took the sandbox I gave them and built a wonderful story.

The story is a lot like my other stories, in that it follows a three main character format.  The story has heavy romantic overtones, and has some of my trademark action sequences.

Be sure to check it out.  The book is available for preorder from now until May 28th.  You can get it for up to 50% off the cover price.  Preorder the paperback and I will sign it too.  It releases worldwide on Amazon May 29th.

Here is the book blurb:

broken trustEarth is no longer teeming with human life. After a major mass extinction event, the world is no longer able to function as it once had. Governments have collapsed and those that survived are left to figure out what is next for the human race.

Liam Fisher never wanted to be a leader. But after finding survivors, protecting them, and founding the city-state of Lagoon Hills; the people demanded he be their leader. Instead, Liam agreed to sit on a Council with four other leaders.

Together with Talya Brooks, the person who saved his life after the collapse, Liam runs the militia of Lagoon Hills. And though it was tough early on, the people of the city now live in relative comfort and safety.

But Liam is fighting his own personal demons: The loss of his wife and unborn son. Rachel, a past lover he never really got over, has suddenly arrived at the city gates. And the mounting stress of a neighboring city-state threatening war.

The people of Lagoon Hills are counting on Liam for their safety. Can he keep himself together and be the leader everyone wants him to be? Or will the people closest to him be the greatest threat of all?

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I Call BullSh*t: Social Media Marketing is Easy

Dung-heapI’ve decided to start a new regular post call “I Call Bullshit”.  In these articles I will take  common themes, rules, myths, and legends about writing and publishing, and I will call out the bullshit behind all of them.  Call me the Mythbuster of the writing world. Unless that violates some copyright, then just call me Richard.

Anyway, one of my favorite sayings is, “I call bullshit.”  Why? It has so much more of a punch than, “I don’t think that is true. ”

This time around I tackle the myth that Social Media marketing is easy.  You wouldn’t believe how much I heard this starting out as a business owner, and now as a writer.  And on the surface it sounds easy.

Here are some of the things I have heard:

All you have to do is post a lot and people will follow you and buy your products.

Once you have followers, the word will get out about your projects.

If you write engaging articles, people will continue to read your blog.

Getting followers is easy.

Well, I call bullshit.

I am not a social media expert, and I think anyone who claims to be an expert better have some concrete evidence to this title.  But, I have used social media for my old security business.  And I currently use if for my writing, and for Plasma Frequency.  I am constantly on social media, not just for business but for personal use too.

First, simply posting doesn’t attract followers.  You have to post things that either engage your audience or entertains them.  And you have to get them to like it enough to share (or ReTweet or ReBlog) it to their followers.  And it has to be good enough that their followers than choose to follow you.  This can be excellent articles, a hilarious Tweet, information that your audience might enjoy, or anything like that.

Again, that sounds easy, but it isn’t. Lets look at my author account on Twitter.  I’ve been on Twitter for going on three years.  Not a long time, but I have almost 4,000 tweets in that time.  Or,  roughly four tweets a day.  That doesn’t sound like a lot and compared to others, I am a novice.  But, even still I can only think of maybe twenty tweets that actually gained mass popularity and directly resulted in adding one or two follower.  I know of only three tweets that directly brought on 10 or more followers.

Now, my blog on the other hand does tend to attract more followers with each post.  I usually get one follower for every three to four posts I make.  But, I have had some posts, such as my self publish one, that brought on a ton of followers.  And my articles on writing tend to draw more attention that my promotional posts (I’m getting to that).

I haven’t had a a follower of Facebook is ages.  Facebook is becoming the vast wasteland of social media marketing.  And I will get to that soon.

Now, posts resulting in purchases…. I hate to tell you this.  But I can not account a single sale on any product to Social Media posts.  Not one.  For one reason it is hard to measure that.  I am sure people see my book is out and go buy it.  But my guess is most of those people were going to buy it anyway because they know me, or know my work.  They just needed the reminder it was out now.  But, how many people have read this blog and decided they wanted to buy my book?  There is no way to really know that.

I will say, as a big time consumer of books, I have never seen a promotional post by an author I didn’t know and decided to buy it.  My promotional post I mean “Here is my book link.  Please go buy it.” Followed by a link.  Any why not?  Well that is a lot like a hard sale.  Imagine walking into the car dealership, which is already a hard sell location, and the first think the salesman said to you was, “Here is a car, please buy it.”  You probably would leave.  And I doubt you would buy the car, you know nothing about it.

The same is true in social media.  You need to get people to buy your books because they like what you have to say.  That means they like what you post on your blog, the Tweets you post, the Facebook things you share.  And then, only every now and then, you give them a reminder that you have a book out.  Or you integrate reminders through out your posts.  I often reference my books and my magazine in posts.  But not in a “Buy me now” way, but in an example or a causal reference.  Like product placement on TV.

And that takes a lot of work.  I go back through my blog posts to add these links you see.  I have to constantly update my website and blog to show relevant books.  And even still those only result on a few clicks.

Promotional posts are not outlawed.  There are several promotional rules out there.  Some say the one-in-three rule, or the one-in-five rule.  I personally use the one-in-ten rule.  That is that one in ten of my tweets or Facebook posts are promotional.  Now, that doesn’t mean that I count my tweets.  It is a general rule of thumb.

Lets say you are lucky to have a vast amount of followers.  I certainly don’t.  But maybe you are lucky.  You may actually be unlucky.  Here is why:

Facebook has stacked the deck against authors, especially broke ones.  It is a game of percentages. Not all those people will see your posts.  Not even half of them will.  Not even a quarter of them, unless of course you pay for that.  Promote your post and it will pop up everywhere and to everyone, even people not following you. But it comes at a price.  Of my last few posts on my Author Page, only 2.5% to 8% of my followers saw the posts I made.  On Plasma Frequency’s page it was a bit better, 9% to 41%.  Note, the 41% was on those posts that were shared by others (like when an new issue releases and all the authors share).

So here lies the problem with Facebook:  Getting Followers, and getting those followers to see what you post.  The solution, and the only one I know of, is to pay Facebook.

But I am a small press that doesn’t make a profit.  My books are not making a profit yet either.  I am unemployed, trying to make a living off of writing.  I don’t have “extra” money to pitch into a Facebook campaign.  And even if I did, a little research will show you that there are plenty of people who didn’t get much for their money.  And what would I have to pay to get all my posts seen all the time? My wallet just started crying at the thought of it.

You may be thinking Twitter is the way to go.  Sorry, to tell you that simply being free has not solved the problem.  Getting followers can be easy.  Follow a shit-load of people and so many will follow you back.  Then, I know people who go back and unfollow all the people who don’ follow back… I call bullshit on that too, but that is another topic.

Anyway, I see people with 5k followers and following 5k people.  I follow 400 people on my account.  When I go on Facebook, I can go back for an entire day and read all the post from a day.  Maybe it would take an hour, or two tops.  Go on Twitter, I can read Tweets for four hours, and only get about 3 hours down my timeline.  There are so many people out there shouting on Twitter that things get lost.  Some of my favorite Tweeters are constantly missed by me.  I find myself skimming over my timeline and bypassing any tweet with a link in it.  Anything that sounds like “buy me”.

And that got me thinking. If I am doing that with 400 people, what is the person who follows me with 5k other people they are following.  I can guarantee they are not reading Tweets by a small time author with sarcastic humor.  So while Facebook will tell you that they are not showing your posts to everyone.  Twitter is showing it to everyone, but I contend that just as few are actually reading what you Tweet.

And, WordPress tells me how many views I get on each article I write.  None of them add up to all of the followers I have.  In fact of the last ten posts, the readers number worked out to about 25%, on average, of my follower count.  And that is just the ones that clicked the link.  Not that actually read the article.

And if that is the case, simply having followers does not mean they are hearing about your projects.

Write engaging articles, Tweets and posts, and people will read what you write.  Well, what the hell is engaging? You can answer that for yourself, but not for other people.  It sounds easy.  Just write about writing.  Sorry, but every independent author and writer out there is putting out self help articles on their blog.

So what makes yours stand out from the crowd?  Your personality.  Certainly the fact that this feature has “bullshit” in it will mean some readers won’t read it.  But, it is also giving this article a bit of my own style.  Regular readers know that I tend to have a rambling, sarcastic, and sometime crass humor in the topics I write about.  Every single one of my blogs oozes with my opinion, and that gives it my own flair.  You can get my information anywhere, but my opinions and humor you can only find from me.

All that still doesn’t mean new followers.  They have to find your blog, Twitter, or Facebook before they even decide if they want to read what you say.  And while WordPress does well to attract new people to my articles, the rest is up to me.  It isn’t easy.  And, I can write one really good article, but not everyone is going to read it.

Finally, getting followers is easy.  Three years I have been fighting my way up to getting good quality followers.  And you see, that is the real trick here folks.  Getting followers is easy.  You can get thousands of egg avatar followers on Twitter, but those bots aren’t reading shit you write.  You can use programs to gain more followers, or be part of “Team Follow Back” and get thousands of followers quickly.  But they are not reading what you say, and that defeats the entire point of everything you’ve been working for.  Why write at two thousand word blog, such as this one, if no one reads it?  Why keep tweeting away when no one is reading them?  That is not an effective social media marketing strategy.  That is a scam of trying to make yourself look popular in the hopes that you might get more followers based on your perceived popularity.  It won’t work.

There is only one way to get quality followers on any social media platform.  Time.  Develop a strategy and stick with it.  Modify it as you find out what works, and keep plugging away.  I certainly get more hits to my blog now than I did three years ago.  My interactions on Twitter have gone up.  But it takes a lot of hard work.  Why do think major companies hire social media team members to manage their pages?  Because it takes a full time marketing team to really work on it.  And let’s face it you are only doing it part time around all the other jobs of being a writer, publisher, and/or editor.

To say social media marketing is easy is complete bullshit.  Like all marketing, it takes time, strategy, know how, and hard work.  It also takes the added step of being social and being yourself.  There is nothing easy about it.

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Broken Trust Release Date and Festivities

Oh yes!  It is finally time to announce my first release of 2014, Broken Trust.  I’ll tell you a little secret, I am absolutely terrified about this release.  Here is why:  If every book has a little piece of the author in it, Broken Trust has my whole soul in it.  I touch on some of my own personal demons in this one and it is a bit scary to put that out there.

But I’m not letting that stop me from having a little fun.  I also want to celebrate this novel, my third novel in as many years, with a huge festival.  I want to get people pumped up for the release and I am going to do that in the traditional fashion.  Throwing free stuff at all of you!

BT Release Party

The festivities start with the BOOK A DAY IN MAY giveaway.  I’ll be giving away free paperbacks every day in May.  The post office is going to love me.  I’ll be giving away copies of one of my three books each day.  Watch for details coming soon.  Are you an author and want me to give away copies of your books too?  Send me an email and let me know.  I’d be happy to work something out.  It would be great publicity for your book as well as mine.

I’ll also be posting regularly with Broken Trust Trivia, Tidbits, and Fun Facts.  Not only will these be fun information and trivia about how I came up with the ideas and world of Broken Trust, but knowing these trivia posts will earn you some prizes during the big party.

Pre-Order will be available at a very reduced price.  You will be able to preorder both the print and digital version for a discounted price during the month of May.  All preorders will be shipped on the day of release or sooner.  Those who actively follow the festivities will also get codes for an even greater discount on preorders.

Of course no book release party is complete without a Virtual Book Tour.  The book tour will run from May 22nd to June 5th.  It will be on 7-14 different blogs (or maybe more), and will include guest posts by me, author interviews, and reviews of Broken Trust.  I am looking for blog participants to assist me in the tour.  If you blog about books, or writing, please contact me.  Tell me about your blog, your followers, and reader numbers.  If I select you to participate in the tour, you will get a free copy of Broken Trust and possibly other prizes.

We will also be having a Release Week Super Party.  For one week I will be giving away swag, ebooks, prizes, and more.  I’ll be asking trivia questions, there will be fun quizzes, and other games to play.

Of course all this leads up to Release Day.  Broken Trust officially goes on sale May 29th.

If you want to support me on these festivities there are several things you can do.  First, you can preorder.  Second, you can support the fun more directly.  This includes being a host blog, retweeting and sharing my social media posts, sharing this blog post, donating books to the Book A Day giveaway, donating prizes, and much more.  If you would like to help, please contact me as soon as possible.  I can always use the help.  It is also a great way to drive traffic to your blog and promote your books.

Want more information or to follow the festivities.  Check out the Broken Trust page on my website.

About Broken Trust:

broken trustEarth is no longer teeming with human life. After a major mass extinction event, the world is no longer able to function as it once had. Governments have collapsed and those that survived are left to figure out what is next for the human race.

Liam Fisher never wanted to be a leader. But after finding survivors, protecting them, and founding the city-state of Lagoon Hills; the people demanded he be their leader. Instead, Liam agreed to sit on a Council with four other leaders.

Together with Talya Brooks, the person who saved his life after the collapse, Liam runs the militia of Lagoon Hills. And though it was tough early on, the people of the city now live in relative comfort and safety.

But Liam is fighting his own personal demons: The loss of his wife and unborn son. Rachel, a past lover he never really got over, has suddenly arrived at the city gates. And the mounting stress of a neighboring city-state threatening war.

The people of Lagoon Hills are counting on Liam for their safety. Can he keep himself together and be the leader everyone wants him to be? Or will the people closest to him be the greatest threat of all?

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Author Interview: Nicholas Conley

I had taken a bit of a hiatus on Author Features.  With my move and the countless other projects I had, I got a little backed up.  But I’m back, and today I am interviewing Nicholas Conley, the author of The Cage Legacy.

 

RF: Why don’t you start by telling us about all about you?

4689f67df1a7c9828483081e1d310333NC: I’m an introverted, idealistic adventurer who is always in search of new experiences, new discoveries and new insights.

Writing is my life’s passion, and I’ve been putting words to the page since early childhood.  My 2012 debut novel, The Cage Legacy, was published by Post Mortem Press when I was 23 years old.  My novella Enslavement was featured in the anthology Road to Hell the year before that, and I’ve had almost 50 short story publications to date.  I’m currently working on three new novels, all of them in various stages of development.

RF: Since you already touched on it, tell us about The Cage Legacy.

paste8NC: Basically, The Cage Legacy is the story of a kid who has always thought he had the best father in the world…until one night, when he’s ten years old, the cops bust down the door and he finds out that dear old Dad is actually a horrifyingly brutal serial killer.  So now, that kid, Ethan Cage, is seventeen.  He’s going through the usual rites of passage – high school, alcohol, his first real relationship – but deep inside, he’s absolutely terrified about what kind of person he’s going to turn into.  If his dad, that great guy he always looked up, could secretly harbor a mutilated slew of corpses…it makes Ethan wonder, what kind of monster is waiting inside him?

So yes, it’s a story about inner darkness.  A story about what happens in the wake of a serial killer’s rampage.   A story about adolescence, about identity, about the demons lurking inside us.

But most of all, The Cage Legacy is about a father and son – and what happens when that sacred bond is torn to pieces.

RF: What inspired this idea?

NC: Honestly, what really inspired The Cage Legacy was my father’s death, back when I was only a teenager.  Losing a father at such a young age –especially when one has an amazing relationship with your dad, as I did – is a really traumatic, life-changing thing.  It shakes a person’s foundations, raises a lot of questions and forces the child to confront a lot of adult responsibilities that one isn’t necessarily ready for.  And like many teenagers, most of my high school years were spent struggling to forge my own identity, while making many mistakes along the way.

Though Ethan has a somewhat unique fatherly experience, what with his dad being a serial killer, I do believe that he is still an extremely relatable character.  His emotions are painfully real, his frustrations genuine, and I’ve had many readers tell me how much they connected to Ethan, because even if one hasn’t lost or become estranged from a parent,  the issues that Ethan faces are pretty universal – albeit, a bit more horrifying.

RF: What is the most embarrassing mistake you’ve made as a writer?

NC: Oh, God!  When I first starting submitting short stories to various literary magazines, anthologies and so on, I was about sixteen.  And  there was one time I sent a story to a magazine, but I accidentally wrote the cover letter out to the editor of an entirely different magazine.  Instant rejection!

RF: What is your favorite Quote?

NC: “All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one’s own personality. Good prose is like a windowpane.” – George Orwell

RF: What is one of your favorite place in the world?

NC: I visited Iceland this last summer and was pretty damn impressed by it.  Aside from being astoundingly beautiful, Iceland has a fascinating culture and history.  Honestly, it feels like walking into another world.  Reykjavik is definitely one of the most interesting cities I’ve ever set foot in.

Of course, I’ll always have a deep, deep love for the southwestern United States.  I lived in Arizona for much of my childhood, and I’d imagine that the lifelong affection it gave me for ruddy, desert landscapes will probably stick with me for the rest of my life.

 

I want to thank Nicholas for stopping by my blog.  For more about him, check out Facebook, Twitter, and his website.  You can find The Cage Legacy on Amazon.

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I Hate Valentine’s Day

The-best-top-desktop-roses-wallpapers-hd-rose-wallpaper-10-close-up-red-roseI know it may come as a shocker that a SciFi geek, such as myself, might have an issue with a holiday about love (oh, I’ll get to that).  But I absolutely loathe Valentine’s Day.  I am not so sure when it started, but I think it came about after college.  Perhaps I can blame my ex for that (I kid, so relax people).  Every February comes around and I have deal with this crap again.  Normally I would just rant to my wife about it, she’d say, “Yes, hon” and then I’d go buy her something anyway.  But I have a blog now, so that means I can rant to you this year.

First of all, I do have fond memories of Valentine’s day as a child.  So I don’t ruin it for my kids.  After all, there was parties at school.  A bag full of Valentine’s Cards.  I remember going through every Valentine in the box to find the right one, that said all the right things, to the cutest girl of the class.  Of course she didn’t notice, the cute girls rarely notice us SciFi guys.  But it was fun.  Plus, I have an addiction to those candy hearts with the little sayings on them.  I don’t know why, because they really are the candy corn of Valentine’s Day.  But I do love them.

As I got a bit older, and realized that I was alone for Valentine’s day, I began to fester a bit of deep hatred for it.  You see, in junior high and my first two years of high school, I was fairly certain I would be alone for the rest of my life.  You know, in that typical preteen drama fashion.  Then I met a great woman that I dated for three years.  So, of course, for those three years I thought Valentine’s Day was great.  Then she broke my heart (she is still a great person), and I got all “I’ll never love again” on myself.

When I met my wife and started dating her, I realized pretty quick that there was something important about a lasting relationship.  You have to show that person you care all the time.  Randomly, I try to do something nice for my wife.  I’ll buy her something special for dinner.  I’ll pick her up a candy bar.  I’ll get her a little trinket.  I do these all year round to show my wife I care.  I don’t need one day a year to do it.  And I think that was when the true commercialism (and my cynicism) of the holiday kicked in.

Screw this damned holiday.  That is what I have to say.  I like to think that one of the reasons my little candy bar on a random Tuesday means so much to my wife, is because it was unexpected.  There was no societal obligation to buy her something to profess my love to her.  I just did it.  I don’t need a heart shaped box of chocolates to show my wife I care, a Snickers bar does the trick.  My wife doesn’t need flowers, she just wants a Coke.

I can hear some of you getting ready to argue with me here.  I hear you saying, “But just because you participate in Valentine’s Day doesn’t mean you have to stop the little things.”  Well, hold on.  There is more to this hatred that just the commercialism.

The logic of it is flawed too.  What is so special about February 14th anyway?  To borrow from Lewis Black’s bit, it is the height of flu season.  And why do we need to worry about love now.  I am fairly certain that spring, or summer, would be a nicer time to celebrate my love.

Not let me dig a little bit deeper on this.  Get a little personal.  I am not a handsome man, and now I am a fat man on top of it.  Nothing reminds me more, about how few people have ever found me attractive, as this holiday does.  Even now, approaching ten years married, this holiday reminds me of a deep scar to my self esteem that will likely never go away.  I’ve had two women ever find me attractive, and I sometimes wonder if they really do.  And of course now that I am married, no woman will ever tell me I am good looking.  They just won’t, because I am not.

Anyway, self loathing aside, this holiday is a reminder for guys like me (single or taken) that we are not what society has deemed an attractive person.  And it isn’t just men.  Women too, if not more so, are put to this gauntlet of self image issues.  And Valentine’s Day plays right into that.  It is complete bull shit.  And then there are all these self doubts that pop up from this holiday.  For what?  So they can sell a few greeting cards?

You know why Valentine’s Day is a success?  Dirt bags.  These dirt bags that treat their significant other like shit all year round.  But once a year they take them out to a nice place, get them gifts, and treat them like they should have been treated all year.  That’s why all these roadside stands pop up.  They aren’t for the people like me.  They are for the douche bag who is coming home from work and goes, “Oh fuck its Valentine’s Day.” And buys the biggest stuffed bear, a huge box of chocolates, and a bunch of balloons and shows up to the house with a last minute reservation at Applebees.

So I say we go back to having a big party with your friends.  You give them all valentines.  And the hell with this damn holiday.

Disclaimer: I did send my wife I nice card, some chocolate, and a stuffed dog. I may hate the holiday, but I’m not stupid.

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A Guide For Beta Readers

productReviewSo you’ve been tasked with beta reading a novel, or maybe you’re an author looking for what you should expect from your readers.  The real question, for you, is probably what do you do?  And when I look around, I don’t see many guides for beta readers.  So here is a guide you can use, whether you are a beta reader, an author, or an editor.

What Is Beta Reading?

I just finished editing my next novel’s manuscript, and I found it hard to get beta readers.  When I spoke to several other authors, I found that they too had this problem of getting new beta readers.  I think this is largely for two reasons.  The first is that many don’t know what a beta reader is, and two, many are intimidated by the idea.  Beta reading is essentially a trial reading.  A beta reader reads over an early form of the manuscript for an upcoming novel.  This manuscript is often a little rough, but largely publication ready.  It just needs a little bit of polish.  They are the readers that are trying out this novel for the first time.

Don’t confuse Beta Reading with Advanced Readers.  Advanced readers generally are receiving a finished, and publication ready, copy of the book called an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy).  They are reading a copy of the book for editorial purposed to review the book.  It is a very different thing than Beta Reading which helps to polish the book for publication.

What Are the Qualifications of a Beta Reader?

There really aren’t any specific qualifications needed to be a beta reader.  I think this is something that most people don’t realize.  It sounds fancy, so people assume that they can’t possible help out.  But a good author wants beta readers from a cross section of people, to give the best representation of his potential readers.

Some of the people that authors want to beta read: They want a mixture of men and women.  They want a wide age range with the bulk of them falling in the books target demographic, but they do want a few people a little older and younger than your target audience. They want people of various educational background. They want people from different belief systems.  They want people from different fields of work or study.  They want a few fellow authors or editors, but mostly they want regular readers.  They want readers of their genre and potential cross genres.  For example, Volition Agent is science fiction, but it has action and thriller elements, so when I selected beta readers, I chose a few action and thriller readers.

As you can see there is no “typical” beta reader.  So no matter where you come from in life, if you like reading and want to help an author mold his work, you can be a beta reader.

So, what should I expect?

Each author does beta reading a little bit different.  With Dissolution of Peace, I sent out a few chapters at a time to the group and then compiled there results and sent out the next set.  When my next two novel manuscripts I just sent the whole manuscript and waited to compile the answers at once.  Some authors are more involved and like to have you read a few chapters and then meet up on Google Hangouts and have a group discussion about those chapters.

Expect to get a Word or PDF document that is in standard manuscript format.  That means it will be double spaced and in a uniform font. It won’t be a finished book, remember it still needs its polish.  Expect to be given some basic instructions too.  Some authors are very specific about what they want, others are more open.  I’ve been more open on my last few manuscripts.  That is something that is entirely up to the author.  Some will want you to make notes using the Word Comment function (which is my favorite).  Others will just want notes on a separate sheet. I prefer a combination of both.

Also expect a deadline.  Authors are often working under deadlines and they need these notes back from you by that deadline.  If you can’t commit to that deadline, then don’t agree to be a beta reader.  Authors are expecting responses from all of the beta readers (typically authors don’t select a lot of beta readers, I go for around ten).  So if the deadline doesn’t work, it is best to say so.  This way another reader can take your place.

What do I do?

Read.  But make notes while you read, either on a separate sheet or using Word’s comment function.  Do NOT change anything on the author’s manuscript, unless they have instructed you to.  And if you do, make sure you turn on Word’s Track Changes function.  Otherwise, the author will never know what you changed.  If you aren’t allowed to make changes to the manuscript but you see something glaring, you can use the comment feature to point it out.  Author’s don’t mind you pointing out typos and grammar issues, but that generally isn’t the focus of beta reading.

What Should I be Pointing Out?

I think this is the number one question beta readers want to know.  Here is a list of some things.  Authors may ask for more, but this generally covers all the bases.

Questions that Pop into your head – Point out to the author when and where a question came to mind.  Sure, it could be answered later, or not at all.  The author can see if he is putting the right questions in your mind during the right parts of the story.

Areas where you lose interest – Point out areas where you begin to lose interest or your feel like the author has slowed down the story too much.  For example, you might read a long drawn out paragraph about a starship’s engines and you feel your mind starting to wander rather than focusing on what is being said.  Point that out.  It could be what is called an “info dump” and we need to fix that.

Dialogue that doesn’t work – Perhaps some of the dialogue seems fake.  Or you don’t think a street thug would use such proper English.  Point out confusion areas where you are not sure who in talking.  Also point out scenes where dialogue is taking place but you don’t know where it is taking place at.  Dialogue absent of scene.

Passages you had to reread – Point out areas you had to reread a few times to understand.  It could be an awkward sentence, or an over technical passage.  But if you had to reread it, it is probably worth pointing out.  It is also worth points out if you reread a passage because you like it a lot (see below).

Story gaps – Point out things that the author doesn’t seem to explain.  There are gaps in the story line or something you don’t follow.  It is easy for us authors to forget you don’t live in the same world we created and while we know this happened in the “background” it may not be obvious to the reader.

Plot Holes or Weak Plot Points – Plot holes are dangerous for authors and weak plot points are sometimes even worse.

Unbelievable Story Elements – I like a good twist as much as the next reader, but I don’t like being completely shocked to the point I’m screaming “yeah right!”.  I like to read a twist and be both surprised but also think back and realize I could have seen it coming.  A character who can suddenly stop bullets with her bare hands on the last chapter, but there was no hint to this ability anywhere in the book before, is something you may want to point out.

Use the expertise you do have – We all have knowledge about different things.  Don’t be afraid to share it.  I recently read a book where a character carried a Glock (pistol), and the character repeatedly “flipped off the safety”.  As a Glock owner, I wish I had beta read that novel so I could have told the author that Glock’s have no external safety to flip off.  The safety is ingratiated into the trigger.  In my next novel, Broken Trust, the location of the novel is based on Lagoon Valley (though modified), near my hometown.  The problem was, I refer to the lagoon.  One of my beta readers pointed out that a lagoon is a body of water near a coast.  Not the case in my Lagoon Hills city.  It is really a lake.  The point is you have knowledge that you can, and should share.

Tell the Author of your Ignorance – Just like you have expertise in certain fields, so does your author.  And that tends to mean we do one of two things: We either show off our knowledge and really it has no point in the story.  Or, we assume everyone knows what we are talking about, and it leads to confusion.  Point out both of these to the author.

That’s out of Character – Point out things you see a character do that you feel are not in line with the character.  Characters evolve, but generally not suddenly.  If it doesn’t seem right point it out.

I loved that line – Here is where beta readers tend to forget.  They forget to praise what they like.  Even now, I listed it way on the bottom of this list.  I suppose it is human nature to point out what is wrong first.  But you need to tell an author if you liked something.  Did one line stick out in your mind or hit a special cord with you?  Tell the author this.  Did you love an action scene, or a character’s particular dialogue, or did you love a particular twist?  List those for the author too.  List the stuff you liked for the author too.  Let them know where they really hit the nail on the head.

General thoughts – Here is another point beta readers tend to forget.  I like to take a moment at the end of each chapter (or section of chapters), and again at the end of the novel, to tell the author my overall general thoughts on it.  Both the good points and the bad.  Things like: I really liked how character X is starting to come to her own in this chapter, but I wish she wouldn’t have been so weak with Character Y.  Or, I really loved this action packed chapter, when it was over I couldn’t wait and dived right into the next chapter.  Any general thoughts are good for the author to consider.  Maybe they were looking to slow things down, or speed things up, or give a since of romance.  Your general thoughts will tell them if they hit that mark.

Characters – I think this is another point that authors need from beta readers, but are often left off.  Give a thought on the novel’s characters.  I like to do this as part of the summary.  I go through each of the characters I remember and I tell the author if I like them, didn’t like them, and why or why not.  I tend to get more detailed and explain what I liked and didn’t like about each character.  It gives the author a better idea if they are hitting the mark with how the readers feel about a certain character.

NOTE:  Never get insulting with you comments.  The criticism you give should be constructive in nature.  That doesn’t mean some of your comments won’t sting a bit, but as long as you are constructive with your comments it is fine.  Here is an example: “You’re being foolish if you think a woman would ever say that.” versus “I don’t think Character Z would really say that.  It doesn’t seem inline with anything she’d done or said before.”  See the difference.

What will the Author do with everything I note?

That depends on the author’s process.  I will wait until I get all the notes back from all the beta readers.  I read all the comment made.  I then reread the manuscript and go through each area line by line.  Chances are, if the majority of the readers comment on something, I will make changes to correct it.  If just a few, or even only one, reader comments on something then I have to decide on that change on a case by case basis.

This is one thing that I have seen frustrate a few beta readers.  They complain that the author didn’t make some of the changes they suggested.  The truth is the author did take your suggestions under consideration, but in combination with all the other reader’s suggestions.  If nine readers like that Character X is a jerk, but you hated this about him; chances are the author will keep him as a jerk.  That isn’t to say that he won’t tweak Character X based on some of your suggestions.  Remember this is the author’s novel and they will make changes they feel best suits the story.  But rest assured, they did read everything you had to say and took it all as important.

What happens next?

Well for me, I like to adjust the story based on the reader comments and then send it to my editor.  Other authors do the beta read step twice and will get a different set of readers to read it again.  That is up to the author.

Summary

So now you have a guide on what to do as a beta reader.  I find beta reading a lot of fun and an excellent chance to really help develop an author’s story.  As an author I enjoy getting beta reader feedback, it is often the only time I get a direct feed into a readers thought on my story.  With this guide you can be an effective and excellent beta reader for any author out there.  No go forth and help an author out.

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Being an Artist in Tough

frustrated_writer_200I’d like to start off by reminding people that writers are artists too.  This seems to get forgotten for some odd reason.  We think of painters, sculptors, photographers, graphic artists, and even musicians as artists.  But for some reason people don’t think the same about writers.  Writers are artists of words.  We paint pictures in your mind.  We sculpt characters into life.  We make music with our plots.  But, as any artist knows it isn’t easy to be an artist.

First, most people assume art is a hobby.  I’ve touched on this before in other posts.  But it really aggravates me how many people refuse to see my art as a potential career for me.  We are a corporate world.  We see a nine-to-five, cubicle bound, TPS report filing job as being “real” work.  If you think you want to be an artist when you grow up, expect to be frowned upon by friends and family (unless they too are artists).  Not all of them, no.  But you would be surprised how few of them will really truly support your work.  They will see this as a hobby.  They will see it as something you do when you are not working.  They won’t understand your desire to do it full time, it is foolish to expect to make money from creating art in your basement.

Which leads me to my second point.  Making money in the arts is hard.  Of all the artists out there, I think musicians and actors (performing arts) are one of the few to regularly command big bucks.  But even only a fraction of the performers out there hit the “big time”. If you paint, you probably won’t make a lot.  I’ve certainly made it clear how hard it is to make money as a writer.  From others in the arts, I have seen that it is hard to make money in most of the arts.  And to make good money someone has to “discover” you.

Hitting the “big time” is rare in the arts.  The reason is that you have to be discovered.  You have to find your niche and get someone’s attention.  Not just anyone’s attention either.  But the attention of the “movers and shakers” of your particular art.  If your a short fiction writer, that is one of the big time markets.  If your are a novel writer that is one of the traditional publishers out there.  This is if you really want to be the next big thing.  But, most artists out there want to be found.  And so many of them are shouting “pick me” to the people the hope will “discover” them.  I’ve seen a lot of excellent talent give up because they just can’t be heard among everyone else that needs attention.

Of course, you can simply publish your own art.  I see this in more than just writing.  Painters and Sculptors will sell there work online, or attend art shows.  Writers can now self publish with relative ease.  YouTube has allowed movie makers and performers to reach a large audience.  Just about all art forms can “self publish” in one way or another.

No matter if you self publish or get found, you will have to promote your own work.  That is the bigges pain in the ass of all this.  I struggle with it all the time.  You will beg for reviews, sales, mentions on on other blogs, and ask all your friends to please help you get the word out.  You will quickly find that most of your friends and family, or even your social media followers, will not do much to help spread the word.  Most of them won’t even bother to click the link you posted.  And even more will simply start to ignore you because of you are over doing it.  If you are expecting your friends and family to buy and review your art, don’t hold your breath.  So few people take the time to review anymore, your friends included.  You’ll count on your friends to support you.  Give you an opinion on your work.  Don’t do it.  Trust me, you have friends that will repost everything you say about your art.  But not nearly as many as you thought.  And so few of my friends have ever purchased anything I’ve written.  And those that have, less than half (maybe less than a quarter of them) have written a review.

You’ll try to advertise.  But finding the right audience is a talent that can be hard to perform.  You’ll have to attend conventions, art shows, and much more simply to get the word out.  And all this takes away from your time spent creating art.

You will also hit a lot of rough patches in your quest to make your art a career.  You’ll get a bad review.  You’ll have a lack of ideas.  You’ll get depressed and think you can’t possible make your art a career.  You’ll reach out to your friends for support and they’ll ignore you.  Or tell you that “they don’t read”.  You’ll get rejected by your favorite venues.  You’ll get rejected by a mentor or someone you looked up to.  Someone will bash you for your technique.  Someone else will say you lack the education to pursue your art career.  You’ll get so down that you’ll think you were foolish to ever give art a serious try.  You’ll think it is time to give up on this and focus on getting a “real job”.  You’ll cry at night because you just wanted that acceptance letter so bad, and you were shot down.  You’ll be heart broken because you hoped your closest friends would read your work and they don’t.  You will hit a point where you realize walking away is the easiest thing to do.

And that is when you have to make choice.  But, if you really are an artist to your bone you will realize that, no matter how easy it seams, you can’t walk away.  You will have a moment when you realize that even though it is tough, you know you have what it takes to be the next big thing.  You will realize that art was always something more than a career to you.  You will rise up and make the choice to push forward.

You will still be hurt when the people you love don’t see your art as more that a “hobby”.  But you will network and make additional friends that enjoy the same art you do.  You will make the effort to learn how to use social media without driving your followers away from over promotion.  You’ll learn how to advertise.  You’ll find conventions, and shows, and other ways to get your book noticed by the people that really matter.  You’ll learn that the “movers and shakers” certainly have an important part in the art world, but they are not who you create your art for.  Your art is for the people who want to see it.

You will work to put out more of your art so that while you may not make much per piece, you’ll have a wide variety of art to choose from.  You’ll also realize that money isn’t the real reason you ever made art in the first place.  And you will get back to making your art for yourself and let the money come second.  You’ll realize that you may have to work for years before you get discovered and that is okay.  You may need to work your day job and work on your art on the side.  But you won’t care anymore because you are still creating.

The rough patches will always come.  I hit them still all the time, even when I try to be rational about it.  But you will also hit some great times.  You will get excellent reviews.  You’ll have a moment of pure inspiration.  A friend you never expected will show up with a kind word and a helpful tip.  You will get an acceptance letter.  You’ll find a new mentor.  Some one will tell you how your work inspired them to try it. You will be reminded of why you really wanted to be an artist.

And that is the moment you will realize that being an artist is tough, but you can’t imagine doing anything else.

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2014: Looking Ahead

10310_wpm_lowresSo it is 2014, though I am still a bit in denial about that, and now is the time everyone puts up new year posts.  I guess I will too.  There is a saying, “If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you?” I always thought that was kind of a silly saying.  I mean if everyone is doing it, there has to be a reason for it.  So at the very least I’d start gathering some facts.

None of that has to do with 2014, I don’t foresee any massive bridge jumping events in the near future.  In fact, I am not very good at predicting the future.  If I was, the Sharks would have already won the Stanley Cup years ago.  So while I say I am looking ahead, I am really just planning ahead and hoping it all works out.

I’m not much for the resolutions thing.  The meaning of resolution has been perverted over the years, and the definition really should be changed.  Now a days a resolution is a plan you make in January and break by February (March for the diehard folks). Personally, I am so sick of the lose weight and eat better resolutions.  There are no points for originality there.  And the gym advertising that starts in late December and runs through February kills me.  Undoubtedly the gyms make money hand of fist with people who buy memberships in January and never use the gym again after April.

I do like to make plans for the new year though.  A plan sounds better.  And everyone know even the best plans go to shit real fast.  So when your “plan” gets all jacked up, it was expected all along.  I never feel nearly as guilty when my plans fail as I did when my resolutions failed.  That being said, one of my personal plans for 2014 is to lose some weight (yeah, I know what I just said).  So far so good.  Even with the holidays in the way, I’ve lost almost 12 pounds in December.  I have no plans for a gym membership though.  My new apartment has a fitness center on site, so perhaps once all the resolvers have given up, I can start using the treadmill there.  Of course, a walk around the block is also free.

I have a number of personal plans for 2014, but that really wasn’t the point of this blog.  This blog was more about what I plan to do in the writing and publishing aspects of my life.  That is why most people read my blog.  Actually the truth is I don’t really know why most people read my blog.  I’m not even sure how many people bother to read past the few corny jokes.  So I suppose if you’ve made it this far down my blog, I owe you some good solid blogging.  But, as my credit rating suggests, I rarely deliver on what I owe.

broken trustMy first goal for 2014 is to release three novels this year.

Three.  The past two years I’ve only released one a year.  And many writers were surprised I had time to release them that fast.  So three is a pretty lofty goal.

Here is what stands in the way: Broken Trust is already way behind schedule.  So at this point a March release seems impossible.  My editor, who I love to work with, is also very behind.  I’m guessing May before that one comes out.  The sequel to Dissolution of Peace is slow going.  I’ve been hitting a lot of stumbling blocks on that one.  Hopefully the ball gets rolling on that one.  And finally, I don’t have a solid novel idea in place for the third novel this year.

Here is why it can happen: Broken Trust is almost ready right now.  So I just need to get it rolling through the process again and it will be ready for release. All the cards are in place.  The sequel to Dissolution of Peace is being written and once I find my groove, I can tear out a lot of words per day.  For that third novel, I am playing around with a Volition Agent sequel (though I hadn’t planned on one).  Volition Agent was always planned to be a stand alone book.  But I am thinking about writing more about Lexia.  I do also have plans for a third novel in the Dissolution of Peace story line.  And I left Broken Trust open for a sequel as well.  But I also have ideas in their infancy for other novels.  One, could be an elaboration of my first short story “Death Watch“.

My second goal is to increase the pay rates at Plasma Frequency.

I had really hoped to do this in 2013.  I wanted to push hard to triple our rates, but the goal was just out of reach for a number of reasons.  But, I learned a lot in 2013 about the business and have made some changes.  This year I hope to go from 1 cent to at least 2 cents by the end of 2014.

Here is what stands in the way:  The funding is the biggest challenge.  I still fund about 95% of the operating costs for the magazine.  And not that I am out of work I can’t afford to increase those costs.  Also, increasing our readership has been harder than I expected.

Here is why it can happen:  We recently started charging for our electronic issue.  We’ve seen a slight reduction in electronic subscriptions but we did see an increase in print subscriptions.  Amazon gives us more exposure and that has resulted in a steady increase in readership.  We’ve also seen an increase in social media interactions and reader feedback.  All this means Plasma Frequency is on the up and coming.

My third goal is to start speaking at Conventions.

After attending Lone Star Con 3 this year.  I knew I wanted to speak at these convention panels.

Here is what stands in the way:  I don’t have much “cred” to get convention programmers to consider me.  That is the hardest part.  I also have to have the money to get to many of these conventions.  I’m still learning what conventions there are and when they are.

Here is why it can happen:  I’ve already applied to DetCon to participate.  I am already going there and I keep hoping they will contact me for at least one panel.  I’ve also started looking into all the other conventions out there.  Also, I am confident once someone gives me the chance I’d be really good at it.  I love public speaking.  And, as my blog reflects, I love sharing my experience and knowledge with others.

My forth goal is to expand what I do.

I want to be a writer.  I don’t want a day job anymore.  Of course, I need one.  Writers rarely make major amounts of money.  But my hope is to expand what I write and what I publish so that writing become more of a substantial source of income.

Here is what stands in the way:  The odds.  Making a lot of sales on my books is tough.  Also, to make more I need to write more.  And funding so I can publish more is also a challenge.  Plus, once I get a day job that gets in the way of writing time.  Also, it can be hard to write new things when you are so used to what you already write.  I write Sci-Fi.  I’ve considered non-fiction recently but fiction is what I know so that is a challenge in itself.

Here is why it can happen:  If I keep writing, the sales are bound to happen.  The more books I put out (hopefully 3 this year) means the more I have to sell.  Also, in the coming weeks Plasma Frequency will be announcing a plan to publish longer fiction.  As far as non-fiction goes, that is what I blog.  So I suppose that if I put my mind to it I can find a topic to write a non-fiction book on.  Though with my current publishing plans, the non-fiction book likely wouldn’t release until 2015.

So those are my plans for my writing career in 2014.  Now to see what actually happens.

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Updates: Moving, Depression, and Failing to Write

The Bad

I Don't KnowAs a pessimist, I’ll start with the bad first.

Some of you may know from previous posts, and if you follow me on social media, that I recently underwent a major move.  I moved from my hometown of Vacaville, CA to Auburn, Washington.  I’ve rarely left the State of California for vacation.  The farthest I lived from Vacaville was about 5 years in Folsom, CA about an hour away.  So needless to say moving two states away was a big move, and a little bit scary of one too.

To top it off, I’ve gone from a four bedroom house to a three bedroom apartment.  This is another big adjustment.  I am not used to neighbors walking around above me.  Or having to walk forever to the trash.  Or even the smaller size of an apartment.  My family has had to adjust to the smaller spaces and the lack of a yard, or other things we are used to having in a house.

Family is another thing that has changed a bit.  This move was originally planned for the middle of June.  When the kids would be out of school and there would be time for my wife to transfer her job.  But my landlord told us we needed to move right before the holidays.  I had already been fired from my job.  So after a long talk with my wife, we decided that it was practical to move twice.  Once locally and then again six months later in June.  So we had to accelerate the plans.

So Amy and I drove all our belonging up to Washington.  Amy flew back to California and I was left up here alone.  I got really sick (I had already been fighting a cold).  And in the end I didn’t get anything done in the first week.  Things like getting a job didn’t happen.  Then Amy brought our kids up after they finished out the schooling and started winter break.  Then Amy went back to California.  She has to keep working down there until her job transfers, a date that hasn’t been set yet.  So I spent Christmas with the boys.  This is the first Christmas Amy and I haven’t had together in over 10 years.  Even thought one of us always seemed to have to work, we saw each other.

So it has been hard.  I have been suffering form a bit of depression and though I know that is normal, I can’t really slip past it.  I find myself sleeping late, moping around the house.  I force myself to go out, but it isn’t as much fun as it should be.  And the main thing that has suffered is my writing.  I haven’t written anything in almost a month.  I haven’t even opened any of my projects to review.

There have been a lot of delays to add to a already depressed Richard.  For example, I had planned to have responses from beta readers on Broken Trust by December 1.  All but one reader bailed out on me and hasn’t even bothered to respond.  So now I am looking for a new set of readers to look over this.  If you beta read for me, I’ll send you a signed paperback copy of the book when it is released as a Thank You gift (US Residents).  Contact me if you are interested.

Dissolution of Peace CoverThe fixes on Dissolution of Peace are still delayed by the editor.  She is doing the absolute best she can, but delays keep jumping up all over the place.  Hopefully the second edition can be released in January, but I can’t make any more promises on that.

The sequel to Dissolution of Peace is slow going.  Perhaps I should explain why.  Aside from the depression and busy life I’ve had, I am not sure I like how the sequel is progressing.  Originally I wrote the manuscripts for three novels.  The first is now Dissolution of Peace.  The second occurred after a lot of time had passed since the end of the first.  I made a decision that I owed the readers the story that occurred during this time lapse.  So I decided that was what I would write as the sequel.  The problem is, it isn’t progressing the way I thought it would.  I think part of this is my own self being critical of my work.  Depression and a lack of interest in writing anything is probably a huge factor too.

What I really needed to to was to break the slump in my lack of writing.  With all this free time on my hands, I should be writing more not less.  And I should be writing for my own sanity.  Since most of my books are still packed, I need this escape.  As I have mentioned several times over writing is my stress relief.  But honestly, it seems to be the first thing I am distracted from when I get upset.

The Good

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I’ve wanted to move to Washington for over four years.  I’m finally here.  That part I am thrilled about.  This is very beautiful country.  I love the rain, the evergreens, the natural beauty, and the state parks.  Yesterday I discovered Flaming Geyser State Park which is only about 20 minutes from me.  I think I could spend a long time sitting there writing while listening to the rivers and streams.  And I’ll be exploring some more of the State Parks later this week.  My own apartment complex is nestled in the hills surrounded by trees and it is a beautiful setting.  I’ve posted a few pictures here.IMG_20131215_090431_970

The downsizing has also been good.  I’ve managed to purge a lot of stuff I probably should have thrown out years ago.  I made a lot of charitable donations before I left Vacaville with the stuff my family no longer needed.  It has also allowed me to better organize myself since my office has to be shared with my bedroom.  And when Amy does move up here, she won’t want my office clutter everywhere.  There are a few pluses to living in an apartment too.  Things like no yard to maintain, no trash or water bills, and generally lower electric costs.  The lower rent also helps.  Unlike Vacaville, the apartment rents in Auburn are cheaper than the house rents.  And the saved money will be going into our “buy a house” fund.  Something that is on my two years goal list.

There is good news from Broken Trust.  I have cover art for the novel ready.  Mallory Rock, a great cover artist, did this cover for me.  I had a lot of trouble with this cover.  I really wanted to see certain things from it.  But I couldn’t hit the mark.  Mallory managed to hit the mark with this one.  Even thought it didn’t hit all the check boxes I wanted, it did give me what I needed.  A cover that was amazing and reflects the feel of the novel.  Don’t forget, you can get a free signed copy by being a beta reader for this book.  Read an early copy of this book, give me your thoughts and suggestions, and not only will you help shape the book.  I’ll send you a free copy, signed by me.

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Dissolution of Peace got a very nice shout out on Twitter from @CWVanderReyden.  His rave reviews of my book led to another person buying the book.  This is the first time that I have known of a direct recommendation resulting in the buying of my book.  And it was a simple word of mouth review.  I appreciate those types of reviews and praise a lot.  In many cases they can be more valuable that the professional reviewer.  So please leave  a review of my books on Amazon and Goodreads.  And tell a friend.  They can really make my day when I find out about them.twitter shout out

I forced myself to blog today.  That means I finally wrote something.  I’m hoping that means that when I am done here (and done making my kids lunch), I’ll start writing again on the next novel.  I need to crank that out and get it going for release in 2014.  I had a lofty goal of releasing three novels in 2014.  I think it can be done with how far along Broken Trust is.  But it will be a challenge just the same.  But the only way it will be done it to write.

And though my wife is not here with me, I do have the advantages of Google+ hangout to see her.  And she will be flying up to see us to the end of January.  And we will just keep our fingers crossed that her job transfer comes quickly and we won’t have to wait out too much longer.  There are a lot of couples who have to spend countless time apart, and I just have to remain optimistic that this will all work out in the long run.

And that about summarizes this move for me.  We moved to Washington to make a change that we couldn’t do in California.  And now that we have made the move, I have to remain optimistic that this was the right choice and that it will all fall into place soon enough.

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