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Updates: May 2012

Here we are pushing the halfway point of the year.  I’m having trouble believing this fact, but unless the calendar has adapted a mind of its own, June is almost here. What is even crazier is how much has happened since my last set of updates.

I finally crawled out from under my rock and picked up a copy of The Hunger Games.  I don’t know why I stalled on it for so long.  I think it has to do with the fact that I typically don’t read books that have suddenly jumped into popularity solely for the fact that everyone else is reading them.  I have not read one Twilight or Harry Potter book.  I was over at Costco and saw a copy of it sitting on their book display.  I decided to give it a read.  I won’t go into a review of it here, there are plenty of those around, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I’ll likely pick up Catching Fire soon.  I’ve added a “What I am Reading” box to the side bar on my website, thanks to another Goodreads plug in.

There are some other books I have on my to read list:  Horror for Good: A Charitable Anthology is one of those books.  I’m not a huge fan of Horror, that has to be said.  But, I am a huge fan of what this anthology is about: giving back.  There are some big names in the Horror community that have shared their talents with the Editors for the purpose of doing good.  Put out by Cutting Block Press, they are taking net profits and donating them to The Foundation for AIDS Research.  In my opinion $5 for the Kindle version is money well spent.  I’ll be likely to order the print edition, as most of you know, but either way I can’t help but support this.  Pick up your copy here: LINK.

I also plan to read Exit Reality by Robert S. Wilson once that is released.  I don’t think an official release date has been announced yet.  Some other titles I hope to read soon: Fading in Darkness by Robert S. Wilson and Death on Zanath by Lee Gimenez.  Of course this is all money and time permitting.

Besides reading and blogging you may have heard that I am a writer.  You may have also heard some rumors about a Novel I have coming soon.  Since I will be virtually self publishing Dissolution of Peace, I hired an editor to review it.  So right now it is over at Wilson Book Service awaiting editor mark ups.  I think this is an important step serious self publishers should consider.  A professional editor is something that is lost when you self publish.  No matter how good you are, self editing is always bound to miss something.  In any case, I’m expected to get his mark ups by mid-July.  I will certainly be diving right into fixing what needs to be fixed and getting that out to you.

I have also hired the talents of Neil Jackson at Pig and Cow Design to create the cover art for Dissolution of Peace.  I’d hoped to have some cover art to show you for this post, but good art takes time (It has only been a week or so).  I most certainly will have it up for your on Facebook and Twitter when it comes out.

I do have something to share with you.  A little update and tease to novel.  Below is the blurb for Dissolution of Peace:

“The people of Earth have enjoyed centuries of peace under one global government.  They’ve made great strides in space travel and planet colonization.  The colonies on Mars wanted independence and Earth granted without a fight to preserve the peace.

 When Earth Navy Captain Christina Serenity is brutally attacked by a traitor, her life is saved by Security Forces Corporal Michael Carlson.  On the heels of her recovery, her ship is attacked by terrorists, and she is thrown into a difficult assignment.  She must chase after the only clue they have, a Martian ship called the Phobos, to find out what secrets it hides.  To make matters worse, someone still wants her dead.

 Now Serenity must trust her protection crew to keep her alive long enough to solve this puzzle while trying to prevent an interplanetary war.”

On the topic of things taking time, I realize that for… well hell almost a year now, I have been telling you that Daddy is Tired will be coming out soon.  So far I’ve been embarrassed with every false promise I have made in hopes this would be coming out soon.  As you know this is a children’s picture book my son and I wrote together, that has been at the illustrator for a really long time.   Sadly, it is now well below his reading level.  So my hopes of he and I reading it together have been smashed.  I am utterly disappointed and have tried very hard to be understanding of every delay.  I did warn her that I would like to see it done before she had a baby because life would get hectic after that.  She assured me that wouldn’t change things.  Unfortunately it has been one life event after another.  That being said, she is doing this for free.  But, I am learning, somethings are worth the price you pay.  And the Artwork will be great once it is done, so don’t get me wrong when I speak of worth, it is the delays that are maddening.  I’ll hold off on announcing a release date until I have the illustrations in hand.  While my wife and I will be happy to see it published, my six year old son probably doesn’t even remember writing it.

In other news, I’ve become involved in a project I am really excited about.  I am the Editor-in-Chief for a new Speculative Fiction magazine called, Plasma Frequency.  I am excited about this project for several reasons.  One, it is a paying market.  We are seeing a ton of new markets pop up, but rarely do they pay.  Eventually, depending on the readers and the advertisers, we plan to grow to a pro-rate market.  We offer both print and electronic forms.  We also provide something different to the writer.  We provide editor feedback.  There are two things that always frustrate me with a rejection letter.  One, I never know how far they read in my manuscript.  Two, I never know why they reject my manuscript.  Plasma Frequency‘s  editors changed that.  They are sending out letters telling authors they don’t accept just how far they got in the process and at least one line as to why the editor did not send it on.  When I agreed to this project, I built the process to be transparent.  Writers have a right to know just a little bit about what happens to their manuscript when they click submit.

Another great thing about this project is that they plan to review books that are published by Independent Presses and Self Publishers.  For now I will likely be the one to review them, but I think this is great news.  These two groups need a bit of the spotlight.  Surprisingly though, we’ve only received one book review submission.  We have received a steady stream (10-20 a day) of fiction submissions.  Artists and Books to review are just starting to trickle in.  So if you have one of those, now is the time to submit.  Our fiction submissions are open continuously.  If you don’t make the flagship issue (currently set for Sep 2012),  we will be publishing bi-monthly.

If you are a self published Author, we give you 15% off our advertising rates.  Right now these rates are already really low compared to other magazines.  But, as our readership goes up, so will those rates.  Of course, anyone can advertise (within our standards) in our magazine.  Our electronic issue is free, so we expect a lot of downloads.

For submission details, advertising details and subscriptions, visit: plasmafrequencymagazine.com

So what else is coming down the pipeline?  I have a new novel in the works, maybe I will have some announcements on that in the June or July updates.  The sequel to Dissolution of Peace is also in the talks.  I have two new short stories out making their rounds at the various markets.  And, of course, I will have my weekly blog posts for you.  I don’t have any new topic lined up, but subscribe to my blog to get alerts for my new posts.

 

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Blurbs

Every time I blurb, my wife gets mad and opens a window.  All joking aside, blurbs are an important part of selling a book.  But, I find it rarely discussed in writing groups.  This is because in a traditional market, blurbs are often left to the Editor to write.  So, with my recent post on book covers, it seemed important that we discuss the back of the book.

Blurb Versus Synopsis

A synopsis is a very important part of pitching your book to traditional publishers and markets, but it is not a blurb.  If you want to sell your manuscript to a publisher you need a synopsis.  A synopsis is a summary of your story including key plot points and the ending.   You provide this to editors and agents in an attempt to get them to read your manuscript (and hopefully sign it).  It is not something you would use for marketing your book.

A blurb is that teaser you find on the back of the book.  Think movie trailer in written form.  It is a quick teaser.  It provides just enough plot, character, and scene to entice someone to read your book.  It is a tool for marketing your book quickly and effectively.

A self published author will find themselves writing more Blurbs.  Where as traditional publishers will usually write the blurb for the Author.  This goes back to what I have talked about in my post on self publishing, marketing is left in the hands of the author.  But really blurbs are not that hard.  In my opinion they are a bit easier, and certainly more fun, then a synopsis.

How to Write a Blurb

I mentioned this already, but you need to think movie trailer in a written form.  You need to construct your blurb in a form to sell your book.  Entice an audience.  Get them to take your book home (virtually or physically).

The blur should be short, somewhere in the 250 to 300 character range.  After all it has to fit on the back of the book but it also needs to be a quick “PICK ME” type of a sale.   A short quick description will hold the reader’s attention long enough for you to finish.  After all you want them to make a decision based on your whole sales pitch, not half of it.

Blurbs have three parts.  You can divide these parts up as paragraphs if you are looking for a simple formula for an effective blurb.  Obviously these would short paragraphs just giving a quick taste of what they can expect to read about.  Or, you can use the parts in your own way to make a blurb that fits your style and book.  Either way, you need these three elements to have an effective blurb.

Part 1 is typically a quick introduction to the setting and the characters.  The “In a world” line we’ve heard so many movie trailers start with. The first line needs to hook them.  Some blurb writers suggest starting with controversy or even asking a question.  But a hook is more then a punch in the face.  Sure a punch in the face gets your attention, but it would also piss you off.  Think of it more as a tap on the shoulder.  Get their attention, while giving them something to look forward to.  Don’t give away too much plot and certainly not any twists.  A question may work.  Think about every time some one has sold you something.  Most of the time they start with a question.  Questions call for an answer.  There is no formula for the perfect hook.  Establish setting and character in a way the interests the readers.

Part 2 is typically where you introduce the conflict, the major one at least.  Remember you are not highlighting plot points.  This is where you want to introduce the same conflict that got your story going in the first place.  Do NOT reveal the resolution to the conflict.  Why read if you already know how it ends?  Have you ever watched a movie trailer, thought it was great and went to see the movie?  Only when you saw the movie you realized all the best stuff was in the trailer.  You felt a bit disappointed with the movie, didn’t you?  Use some good stuff, but save the best stuff for the book.

Part 3 is the hardest of the part.  You need to lead the reader to the resolution with out giving it away.  Leave the reader wondering:  Will he escape?  Does she defeat the empire?  Is is possible they could fail?  In fact many blurbs end with a question.  Because once again our brains are wired to want an answer to a question.  The only way to get the answer is to read the book.

Blurb Tips

  1. Read a lot of blurbs.  Get some of your favorite books and read the back of them.  Go to the book store and read the blurbs on books you’ve never read before.  Take note of the blurbs that make you want to read the book.  What was it about that blurb that hooked you?  Identify it and learn from it.
  2. Make the reader care.  Give them characters they can relate to and a plot they want to read.  Provide an element most people can relate to.  A tough work assignment, a romantic crush, a victim of something out of their control, an injustice, or anything else a reader can relate to.
  3. Use riveting words but use them the right way.  Victim, hate, Peace, conflict, war, hopeless, are all words that bring a certain emotional impact.  Find strong words that invoke the emotional impact you want your story to have.
  4. Suggest all the possible outcomes.  You don’t want to give away the ending.  The key word here is “suggest”.  You don’t need to say:  “Will she win the war?  Will she die trying?  Will she lose everything for this one cause? Or, will she triumph over all in everlasting glory?”  First, saying all that is a mouth full.  I got lost several times just writing it.  But, you can hint that all these possibilities could happen.
  5. Shout lines.  This is a term used to describe bold text or other text that is distinguished from the other text.  It could be a short line that lets the reader know the type of book they are reading.  Personally, I haven’t seen much need for something like that.  But, if you are going to highlight a part of our blurb, make sure it is a strong part.  A defining line.
  6. Look at your manuscript.  Is there a great line in there that you think sums up the book well.  The blurb I am putting together came from the lines I had written.  Give you manuscript another read before you put together the blurb.
  7. Give your blurb the same love and care as the rest of your manuscript.  Edit it, read it over.  Give it to trial readers, and then edit it again.  It is okay to start with more that 250 words.  You can cut out what you don’t need.  But look over your blurb carefully.  Make a bad impression here and your book will sit.  Remember you can have gold written on the inside pages, but if no one ever opens the book they will never know.

The cover of a book is important.  The back cover may be even more so.  The blurb is your chance to tell a reader why your book is worth their time and money.  Sell them on your book with an effective, well thought out, attention grabbing blurb.

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Updates: April 2012

I have spent so much time writing helpful posts, I had nearly forgotten to get my monthly updates out to all of you.  Luckily April isn’t over just yet, and I have some great updates to share.  So without holding things up too long, lets get started.

When it comes to short stories, I haven’t had really any new updates.  Both short stories are out to markets and only time will tell if either of them will get picked up.  According to Duotrope one story I could hear back on any day now.  The other, it will still be 25-75 days before I could hear back.  You can always watch my Twitter Feed or Facebook Timeline, I am sure to post something there the moment I get an acceptance letter.

Looking at my site traffic and link clicks.  It appears many of you are still checking out my story “Death Watch” in Liquid Imagination Online.  I love that this story has some staying power in all of your minds.  If you haven’t checked it out, you can here.  It took Second Place in the Preditors and Editors 2011 readers poll.

I have two new novel ideas in the works.  One brings back Samantha Baxter, the GPA Agent in “Dream Job”. (read it here)  It is still very early in the planning, in fact I haven’t written a word of it yet.  I’ve got another story to tell first.

Which brings me to my current work in progress: Volition Agent.  This story is a Science Fiction story that will likely be my second novel.  I will be making great strides in this novel over my weekend (tomorrow and Thursday).  I had trouble starting it, because my first novel was stuck on my mind.  I couldn’t think of a dang title for it.

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you know I was having some trouble with a title for my nearly complete novel.  It was on my mind so bad that I couldn’t think of much else.  When I wrote this Novel in it’s first draft (and very rough form), I have planned to call it Serenity after one of the the Main Characters.  Of course, all of us Science Fiction nuts know why that would likely not work now.  Firefly and the Movie Serenity have saturated the market with that name.  Since my book has nothing to do with the Firefly franchise, I thought it best to change the name.  When I underwent the significant rewrites I had hoped a title would jump out and bite me.  It didn’t even take a nibble.

Now that trial readers are looking at it, I felt I really needed to get a title.  So much so that my mind was stuck on it.  So stuck on it that I couldn’t write.  I clicked on the random title generator about 300 times.  And it sparked 25 titles that I liked but didn’t really work.  Then finally one hit me.  Looking over all those titles and playing with the words gave me the title.  After sleeping on it last night, I’ve finally got a name for it:  Dissolution of Peace.

I have set a tentative release for early August.  The trial readers are almost done.  I will then be sending it out to for final thoughts and proofreading.  Once that is complete, I will make the final tweaks and it will be ready for publication.  I will announce an official release date once I know when it will be done.  However, you can expect to see me begin marketing it very soon.  I’ll be working on cover art next.  I have an idea of what I want to see, but I’m not an artist.  If you know a good cover artist, let me know.  As always, for up to the minute updates on my book (including release dates, giveaways, and more) follow my Twitter or Facebook.

The last thing I’ll address is my son’s and my collaborative children’s book, Daddy is Tired.  For my new followers, Daddy is Tired is a book my son and I worked on when he was in Kindergarten.  I was writing during “quite time” and my son said he wanted to write too.  So together we came up with a story that he wrote down on scratch paper with a crayon.  After a few months, I took it and edited into what we will see published soon.  I tried not to make to many changes (it was pretty good), and sent it out for drawings.

I know the original release date was the first part of 2012, but we are now a third of the way through the year and the artist isn’t done yet.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed, but sometimes one delay follows another.  At this point I have no updated release date.  The artist underwent surgery and the timeline is now up to her body’s healing process.  You can’t always put a timeline on that.

It had been my hope that  it would be released while it was still at my son’s reading level.  But, it has already passed that.  He doesn’t know it is getting published (in fact by now I think he forgot he wrote it).  I only hope he is excited about it by the time it comes out and hasn’t lost all interest in writing by then.  I doubt that will happen since he loves to practice his words and his imagination is very strong.  Perhaps we can come up with a few more children’s books to share.

So, with two book released hopefully coming in 2012 I’ve got a lot going on.  Personally I am glad because my family hit quite the financial speed bump when my wife lost her job.  She was the sole provider for our family and my income doesn’t even pay rent.  Some happy news will be welcome this year.  While she tries so hard to find work in this slow economy, I’m trying to relieve stress the only way I really know how:  Write.

So that is the updates for April 2012.  Can’t wait to share more news with you in May!  I’ll see you next week for my next blog post.

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Should Authors Write Book Reviews?

Yesterday I asked my Facebook and Twitter followers what they would like me to blog about.  I got only a few responses.  This one, on twitter, caught my eye:

Peter Snede (@Petersnede) wrote: “@Richard_Flores4 I’m interested in a post on authors writing book reviews. Are neg reviews advisable? Do they help them connect w/others?”

I had never really given it much thought.  I’ve written a number of reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.  I’ve even written a couple of them on here.  But, I never gave much thought  if I was doing a good thing or a bad thing.  I just did it to help out fellow Authors and to help out readers.  So I spent yesterday at work thinking things over on this topic.

We all know that when you get your book ready to sell, you hope to get some reviews.  Whether that be on Amazon, Goodreads, or a blog post.  Generating buzz around your book (positive buzz) will only help you sell more books.  But, what is the benefit in reviewing other author’s books?  Here are some of them:

  • You can hope that the favor is returned.  Perhaps you review their book and they will do the same for you.  If not them directly, then you can hope that your generosity will be rewarded through Karma, fate, good vibes, or whatever you want to call it.
  • Since almost every way you can do a review, you can create a profile that has a link to your site.  You might generate traffic to your website.  If you are reviewing the books on your website or blog, they will find your website when they search for that book.
  • Perhaps your Blog audience enjoys your reviews.  That will certainly help you get more visitors, and get your name out there when you are selling your books.  Chances are if your reviews entertained them, they might take chance on your book.
  • The Author may publicly recognize your review and post it to Twitter, Facebook, or to their own site.  Hopefully that helps you.
  • If you review enough books, name recognition is certainly possible.

The reason I do it is simple:  I enjoyed the book enough that I thought my blog audience would enjoy it as well.  After all a review is my opinion, and for the most part I think my blog audience enjoys my opinion.  I write all these blog posts for my blog audience, not so much for myself.  So, I never gave much thought to all the above benefits as well.  The reason I write reviews on Goodreads and Amazon is to help out fellow authors by increasing their reviews and for the benefit of the buyer who is trying to decide if this book is right for them.

But, Peter asks an important question:  Are negative reviews a good idea?  Well, that was a very tough one for me the first time I had to face a book I didn’t much care for.  When it comes to my blog I only share books I enjoyed.  The reason for that is simple, I want to help my blog audience find the next book they will enjoy.  For me, writing a negative review on my blog serves no purpose to my blog audience, and since my blog is not book review blog anyway, I just don’t do it.

But, when it comes to Amazon or Goodreads, I review books that I don’t like too.  Simply because those are public resources that people come to looking for their next purchase.

But back to the topic:  My moral tough spot.  I had read a book, or rather a collection, that started off horribly.  I even debated putting it down and not reading it anymore.  The problem was, I was given this book for the sole reason of writing an Amazon review.  The even bigger problem was I know the author.  He is a good Author and person.  I talked to my friend and fellow writer about my issue.  He made a good suggestion:  Write the Author and tell them you don’t like it.  Tell them that if you wrote an honest review it would be a bad one.  And explain to them why you don’t like it.  If he insists you still review it, then do so.  If he says well thank you, then you don’t have to review it.

I reviewed it, because it also got a lot better.  I gave it an honest rating and an honest review.  But what if it hadn’t gotten better.  Well, the way I see it that is up to you.  If you are only writing reviews for the benefit of you audience finding books that they will like, then only review books you think are good.  If you run a book review website, you are in a tough spot.  If you are given, and agree to, review a book for your blog.  Then you have to review it.  You could contact the Author and warn them.  Or you could just write the review.

If you are just doing reviews on Goodreads or Amazon you have another option.  If I don’t enjoy a book, I simply rate it.  I don’t write a full review.  I just give it a star rating at leave it at that.

Frankly, unless you are a critic, I don’t think writing a full on bad review does anyone any good.  You won’t change the book, it is already published.  And if you are trying to aspire to be a good Author, then you want to build a positive network of authors.  So, I suggest you follow the “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” rule.  Remember a review is way different then the test reading process.  This book has already been published.

Will writing bad reviews end your career?  I don’t think so.  But it won’t boost it either.  However, if you plan to start a blog that reviews books, plan to be an honest book critic (the Siskel & Ebert of books) then you need to take a different approach.  And, I’m not really qualified to give you some guidance on that.

You will notice that I have never once said you should give a false review to a book.  Friend or not, the moment you start writing false reviews you destroy your credibility as an Author and a Reviewer.  Boosting egos won’t work.  If it is a friend, tell them the book is not your style.  If you are not comfortable writing a bad review, don’t do it.  Once of the best things about reviewing is you get to choose what you review.

In summary:  I do recommend that Authors review books.  I don’t think you need to write bad reviews.  And, writing reviews will help you connect with other authors, and with a audience all your own.

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Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover… Wait

We all know that saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”  We hear it all the time.  But, we rarely hear it applied to actual books.  That is because we all judge our books by the cover.

In a Disney’s Phineas and Ferb episode, “The Chronicles of Meap”, there comes a very funny scene (at least to me the author).  In which Candace is with her Mom (Linda):

Phineas: Yeah, it looked way outside, but then it was right in the zone. There’s a lesson, baseball fans: never judge a book by its cover.

(scene flips to Candace, looking at a row of books)
Candace: Boring, dull, stupid, lame— heavy-handed and derivative.
Linda: Oh, thank you for those insightful reviews of books you haven’t read.
Candace: Mom, that’s why books have covers: to judge them. I mean, why did you choose these books from the library?
Linda: They looked interesting.
Candace: So…

Linda: Point taken.

Every time I see that scene (and I watch a lot of Phineas and Ferb) it makes me smile.  Because it is so true.  Books have covers to entice us to buy them.  When I am in the book store (yes they still have those,) I browse the rows of books until I see a cover that jumps out at me.  I pick it up, look it over (including the back) and I decide if I am going to buy it based solely on the cover.

This is why cover art is so important.  Once you get them to pick up the book, you need to get them to turn it over and read that all important “sales pitch” printed on the back.  Only after you get past that will you be able to get them to buy the book.  Even if the person thumbs through the first few pages, they have to pick it up off the shelf first.

That is why covers are important in the store, but what about online.  Do people still browse the virtual aisles of Amazon.com?  I think they might.  Even if they know exactly what they are looking for, they may browse more.  For example, go to Amazon.com and search Richard Flores IV… no wait that sounds vain, search Robert S. Wilson instead.  If you were specifically looking for his book Shining in Crimson because you saw my post about it (vanity again).  How would you recognize it instantly in the scrolling list of results.  THE COVER.

Now, if you click on the link to his novel.  You will see Amazon puts that “People who viewed this also viewed:” on the bottom.  Now all you see there is the cover, the title, and the author.  Now, you may not ever use that (I have), but people do that.  Otherwise, Amazon wouldn’t use it.  Again, they will make the choice to click on the novel, based on the cover.

So the cover is important in store or online.  If you go with a big publisher, chances are they will have someone take care of the cover art for you.  But, if you decide to self publish you will need to deal with cover art on your own.  Perhaps you hire somebody, or you can do it yourself if you choose.  But be prepared to spend some time on it.

A good cover needs:

  1. To have the title on it.  That seems obvious enough, but the title should be the dominate text on the cover.  I have seen books where you could easily mistake the Authors name as the Title.  Or even a tag line.  You don’t need to place the Title on top, but you do need to make it the most eye catching thing on there.  Use easy to read, but stand out fonts.  Make sure the title contrasts with the rest of the cover art, you don’t want it getting lost in the artwork.
  2. To have the Author’s name on it.  Believe it or not, I have seen covers with no Author’s name on it.  If I want to find a book by Robert S. Wilson, Lee Gimenez, or even a blockbuster like Orson Scott Card; you need to have the name on it.  I am not going to spend time looking to see who the book is written by.  You may not think you are worth looking for, but if you are marketing your book, someone is looking.  Even me, the twice published author of two short stories, gets a hit to this site based on a search for my name, an average of once a week. Again, stand out font that contrasts with the artwork.
  3. The artwork itself.  Many would argue this should have been number 1 on this list.  Sure the art may be what catches the eye first, but title is what always hooks me in to reading more.  So as far as importance goes, you decide.  There are several ways to get artwork for your cover.  There are plenty of stock photo/artwork sites.  You can buy the artwork per piece or you can pay a monthly fee and get all the artwork you want.  Some are even free.  Always check the terms and conditions carefully.  You may not be able to use the stock art commercially.  The other down side to stock is that your image could be used by some one else  not giving you exclusive rights to the art.  If that is the case, you may want to commission an artist to do your cover art.  It will likely cost you (unless you are connected) and it will likely be more than the stock art sites.
  4. Relevant artwork.  Artwork is important enough to get two bullet points (that I didn’t want to turn off my bullet point format).  Make sure however you get artwork it is relevant to the story in some way.  It should be eye catching as well.  The artwork should not be overwhelming either.  It is not an art gallery exhibit.  Just enough to entice the readers to pick it up off the shelf.
  5. The sales-pitch.  Typically this is on the back cover.  Not seen right away.  But you got the book off the shelf (or they clicked on the link).  Now you need to get them to buy it.  If you buy paper books like I do, the first thing I do after looking at the front cover, is turn the book over.  This is where the author now has a chance to tell me why I should buy the story.  Online they have a section for the Book description or synopsis.  There could be whole blogs on how to write that.  The main issue is you want to have a quick sales pitch about what your story is going to offer.  And then, if you have them, some quotes for fairly well known (or just known) reviewers.  This is your chance to get them to check out with your book.  A poorly written sales-pitch will result in them putting the book down.  Of course, they may also put the book down because the story isn’t what they like to read.  That’s okay though.  You’d rather have them not buy it then get it thinking it was something else and hate it (and possible tell a lot of people they hate it).

Lets take a look at the cover of Shining in Crimson and The Nanotech Muders.

Cover design by CL Stegall of Dark Red Press.

On SIC we see a large red eye.  That certainly will get you a second look.  The eye is not just some red circle.  It is very detailed eye that almost starts to tell the story itself.  The title is a unique font, but very readable and stands out.  The author name stands out from the cover art, while not taking over the cover.  The book description from Amazon provides a brief sales pitch and some praise:

Set in a dystopian, religiously-demented American Empire, the city of Las Vegas is no longer a city of sin. Now called Necropolis, it is a city that eats sin. The vampires of Necropolis wait patiently for the Empire’s weekly drop off of guilty Penitents; sinners and criminals full of fresh blood.

Hank Evans is one of those Penitents and he would gladly let the vampires take every drop of his blood if it weren’t for one detail: Toby. Toby is Hank’s only son. Now, Hank must do whatever it takes to escape the city of the dead and save his son from an Empire as bloodthirsty as the vampires it uses to keep its people in line.

Praise for Shining in Crimson:

“A big-scale vampire thriller that changes the rules.”–Scott Nicholson, author of Liquid Fear, The Red Church, and They Hunger

“One of the best surprises I’ve had in a long while. Writing with a smart, self-assured ease, Robert S. Wilson has given us a gift with Shining in Crimson. Part Underworld, part Escape From New York, Shining in Crimson is genuinely frightening, genuinely thrilling, but above all, first-rate storytelling. I’m a Robert S. Wilson fan from now on!”–Joe McKinney, author of Flesh Eaters and Apocalypse of the Dead

“Robert S. Wilson shows a lot of promise here with this debut novel. Now it’s time to see where that promise will take him.”–Ray Wallace, The Chiaroscuro

“You’ll not find some glistening torsos and smouldering eyes in this book. What you will find is a brilliantly thought out society of Vampires.”–Jim Mcleod, Ginger Nuts of Horror

“The Mesh of Religious symbolism and political commentary tucked neatly between pure horror and suspense is superb.”–Lisa Lane, The Cerebral Writer

Cover art by Deron Douglas

On The Nanotech Murders we have a beautiful woman standing in front of a detailed back drop, holding a gun.  Let’s be honest here, it catches your eye for several reasons.  One you have an attractive woman, two you have interesting shading, that almost implies she might not be all human, and last you have that gun.  The cover certainly catches the eye.  The font on the title is unique while readable and the authors name is prominent but not overwhelming.  The book description from Amazon offers a brief sales pitch:

The year is 2071 and there’s a serial killer loose in Atlanta. Lieutenant Jak Decker, a homicide cop, is on the case but is getting nowhere. As the body count mounts, his boss assigns him a partner, the smart and beautiful Detective Cassandra Smith. Decker, a tough, wise-cracking loner, doesn’t want a partner, especially when he finds out she’s an android.

While I am no expert in Book Covers, I do understand that we judge books by their covers.  If you want to sell some books cover art helps a lot (and it certainly doesn’t harm anything).  We must also remember that your cover art will become that books brand.  And we all know how powerful branding is.  Just think about golden arches.  So consider your cover art carefully.  I can’t wait to get some cover art for my first novel.  Please comment below with your cover art tips and tricks to help others learn from your own experience.

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Critiques

One of the most important parts of the writing process is the critiques.  I am talking about the step where you get trial readers to look over your work in progress so that they might catch things you missed.  You get a lot of valuable information from good critiques, but bad critiques can be useless.

Let me clarify that.  When I say good critiques I don’t mean positive feedback or five star reviews, I mean a critique that provides the author with feedback that useful (though not always positive).  And a bad critique provides the author with little help in their quest to polish the work in progress into a final draft.

I have had my share of bad critiques.  Some have just had useless comments that give me no help.  While others were just downright mean and hurtful.  I realized there are a few guides out there on how to properly critique another author’s work so that they get the most value from your reading.  After that, I will talk about how to accept the critique with an open mind.

How to be a better sample reader:

I prefer the term “sample reader” over critic, simply because it provides a more accurate description of what the real job is.  Your job is to provide your fellow author with the perspective of a reader.  For some reason, we authors tend to keep our author hats on when we read a draft copy of a manuscript.  We want to point out ways we would have written it differently, sometimes pointing out matters of style rather than structure.  Or worse, we want to provide our own rewrites.  Instead we need to put on our reader caps and try (as hard as it can be) to look over the manuscript as a reader.  We need to look it over as a reader would and find things that make a reader stumble.  Of course, we have advice to offer as an author and you can add it is correctly (I’ll get to that) but think like a reader first.

Well, shall we get started?  You have a draft manuscript one of the writers in your group has shared with you.  So where do you start?  First, read the Turkey City Lexicon.  I have read it at least ten times, and I continue to look it over as feel the need.  Not only does it help you learn what to avoid in your writing, it also helps you look out for these things when reading to help other authors.  Remember this:  Just because it is listed in the Turkey City Lexicon, doesn’t mean is necessarily always wrong.  I have read some really great stories that had one or two of these “no-nos” in them, but overall it worked for the story.  The author was right to keep them in there.

Start with the opening lines.  We call this “the hook” in my writers group.  This is the first thirteen lines of a manuscript (that is formatted at 12 point courier font with one inch margins all around).   On a short story that is usually what is seen on the first page of the manuscript.  Therefore, it has to be strong enough to get the editor to turn the page.  The bottom line here is, when you read these thirteen lines, are you ready to read on.  Is turning the page a must for you?  Is the pacing strong, does it establish a setting and a voice?

For longer works you will want to break the next steps into sections.  For novels, I suggest going a chapter at a time.  For short stories, I tend to be able to do it all at once.  Perhaps with Novellas you may want to break it down by significant scenes.  It is easier to manage your comments in smaller chunks rather than trying to comment on a whole novel in the end.

I use the comment feature on Word to make comments line by line as needed.  I don’t comment on every sentence, that would be tedious and useless to the other writer.  I only highlight areas I think are exceptionally strong, I had trouble understanding, or otherwise catch my attention.

Here are some things to add in your line by line comments:

  • Areas where you tripped up on reading.  This might be a confusing sentence, a long piece of exposition that loses you, or an area that just doesn’t seem right.  It is okay to simply put “This line tripped me up and I had to reread it, but I don’t know why it tripped me up.”  This at least lets the Author know you had a problem with it.  Other readers may have seen it to and can better put it into words.  But you would be doing a disservice if you didn’t mark a line because you didn’t know why it bothered you.
  • Areas that don’t seem to belong.  Perhaps you read a sentence and it just doesn’t seem to be part of the story.  A random mention of a character’s memory that seems to have no bearing on the story (in your opinion).  Or it could be something that seems to belong in another part of the story.
  • Pacing issues.  All stories have a pace and that pace changes as the story goes through.  But if you are reading a fight scene and the author stops to tell you about the scenery, that should be marked.  Or if you are reading an action scene and suddenly a sentence or two seems to be too long and disrupts the pace.  The reverse can also happen, a slow dramatic scene that is suddenly interrupted with bursts of short sentences.  The fact is, you will notice when the pacing of a story suddenly changes, and it will jar you from the reading.
  • Thrown into the real world.  Anytime you are reading a good story or book you will get wrapped up into it.  It is all you’re thinking about as you read it.  Your mind is pulled into the story and you are in its world.  Anything you read that jars you into the real world should be marked.  Did your mind wander at a particular section?  Did you suddenly become aware that you were reading?  Again, it is okay to tell an author that you don’t know why you were brought back to reality.
  • Inconsistencies.  The main character has blonde hair all story long, and suddenly there is a reference to his dark hair.  Or, the story seems to take place in one area and you read something that doesn’t fit the scene.  Anything you read that doesn’t seem consistent with the rest of the story should be pointed out.
  • Unrealistic.  This is a tough one in the Science Fiction world.  We like to write things that are just a tad bit unrealistic.  But, there are things that simply make you shout “OH COME ON!”   There are certainly unrealistic elements in the worlds we create.  So remember to look for things that are unrealistic it the world the story is told.
  • Don’t forget the good.  Did one particular line stand out as a real strong one?  Do you really identify with a character’s situation?  Was there a scene you found especially moving?  Mark those and let the author know.  Anything you think is really good; let them know you appreciate those points too.

You may have noticed I made no mention of punctuation in the list above.  All too often people confuse critiquing with proofreading.  The point of a good critique is to offer the author a perspective of a reader.  So, unless an author specifically asks for punctuation, I only point out the punctuation that confuses me as a reader.  Proofreading is best left for later.

After the line by line comments are put in, I always write an overall critique of the story as a whole (or of the chapter for novels).  This is my overall thoughts of the characters, the scene, and the tale.  This is where I put any thoughts that don’t fit in the line by line critiques.  Again, put the positive in there too.

Be polite and be nice.  All too often I have got critiques that were simply uncalled for.  Things like “this is terrible” and “you don’t know what you are doing.” will not help anyone get better.  It fact, it is just downright hateful.   That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be honest, but if you are not going to be constructive, leave it off.  There is no room for hate, or just being mean in the writing world.  Be constructive and be fair.  The overall goal of any critique is to make the writer’s work better.  Keep that is mind.

Accepting Critiques

So many authors cannot seem to accept critiques.  Perhaps it is our natural defense against being hurt, or perhaps it is the feeling that we know our own work best.  So here are some tips on accepting critiques from your fellow writers:

  • This is not an attack.  The goal of the critiques is to make your work the best it can be.  Not to attack you or your writing.
  • You want readers, right?  Remember you want people to enjoy your stories.  You didn’t write them just for you?  If you did you wouldn’t be looking into publishing them.  So remember these are readers too, open your mind to their ideas.  After all, if they are having trouble with something, chances are other readers will too.
  • Be receptive.  I have heard this a lot from writers.  “They want to change my style.”  or “That is just my style of writing.”  And most of the time I have heard that, they were not talking about style at all.  Style is the way you right, the type of narrative you use, ect.  The goal of any critique is not to change your writing style, but to strengthen it.  If your “style” is confusing it needs to be refined.  Most of the time “style” is used as a way of closing off to other people’s thoughts.  Be receptive to their ideas.  Chances are if people are pointing it out it needs changing (see below).
  • Don’t respond to a person’s critiques.  There is a need for us to defend ourselves.  When someone points out a flaw in our writing we want to tell them how wrong they are.  The problem is they are a reader expressing their opinion.  It can’t be wrong because it is what they thought.  And, chances are they are right… you just aren’t ready to see it.  And if you don’t want to change it, don’t.  But you don’t need to argue with them.
  • You are the Author.  This means you get final say in what you change and what you keep.  Just keep this in mind.  If the majority of your readers had trouble with something, it is likely something that needs a second look.  If even just one person has an issue with something, it needs a second look.  In fact, I can only think of two times I did not change something sample readers had an issue with.  Otherwise, I have addressed every concern as best I could.
  • Move on.  I haven’t ever gotten more sample readers on a piece after the first round.  It is my preference.  I move on to proofreading.  You may want to make the changes and have a second set of readers look at it.  If you do that, move on to a new set of readers.  Don’t use the same readers for the same work more than once.  The effectiveness is gone.

More tips for Authors:

If you want to get the most from your sample readers, ask them questions you want answered too.  Don’t just let them do all the work.  Do you wonder if a character is likeable?  Do you wonder if someone understands a particular concept?  When you send out your manuscript to the sample readers, give them a list of questions.

Some of you may know, I really took interest in the craft of writing after reading Orson Scott Card’s How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy (among others).  It that book he talks about teaching your sample readers (I paraphrase but you get the point).  After reading that, I used some questions of his and added some of mine to create a list of questions I wanted answered by my readers.  Feel free to use some of these if you wish:

Questions about the story (or chapter).  Please answer these after your first reading of the draft.  Please put your first thoughts on these questions.

  1. Were you ever bored?  Did you ever find your mind wandering?  If so, can you tell me where it was you lost interest?
  2. Without looking back at the story, name some Characters from this story.  What do you think of them?  Did you like them, hate them, and why?  Did you confuse any characters or forget any?
  3. Is there anything a character did that seemed out of place for that character, against his/her nature?
  4. Did any dialogue seem excessive or not realistic for the situation or character?
  5. Is there any section you didn’t understand?  An area you had to reread? Did anything confuse you?
  6. Was there any time something happened you didn’t believe?  What was it?  Any time you thought “oh come on!”?  If so what was it?
  7. What do you think will happen next?  Is there anything you are still wondering about?
  8. What name might you give this story (or chapter)?
  9. Are there any other comments that can help?

In summary:

If you want to be a great writer, you will need sample readers to look over your works before you get them sent out to the editors.  But, you will also need to be a good sample reader.  I have learned more from the critiques I have given then the ones I have received.  That is why it is important the writer knows how to accept the critiques of his peers while also knowing how to effectively writing critiques of his own.

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Missing in March

I need to start with an apology to my subscribers and regular blog readers.  You may have noticed I have broken my own rule on successful blogging.  Blog on regular schedule.  While I am sure none of you have been waiting to make life altering choices because of my lack of posts, I feel as though I have some how neglected my responsibilities here.  It’s not just here, I have not been very active on Twitter or Facebook either.

Frankly I hate this month.  I have seen a lot of commercials for Buffalo Wild Wings about “What month would you give up for more March?”  It makes me cringe just thinking about have to do March twice a year.  It seams I have terrible luck in this month.  Last year, I lost my job in March.  Years before that have been even worse.  Well, this year my own personal March madness continued (see even my puns are bad in March).

It started off well enough.  As some of you know from my previous posts, I started a new job.  It doesn’t make much but it gets me off unemployment.  Of course I started this job in February along with a move back to my hometown in Vacaville.  All great ways to end February and start off March.  Of course, they all led to me neglecting my blog.

In the middle of March, my wife’s employer decided to make a sudden drastic schedule change.  This caused me to have to beg and plead with my boss for a schedule change.  My employer was very understanding, unlike my wife’s, and they made the change.  Only three hours later, my wife tells me they changed the schedule again.  My wife asked to remain at the same schedule, but she’s the forth most senior dispatcher there and they wanted a senior person on each shift (four shifts).  Never mind the fact that the person she was switched with, didn’t want to switch (and is more senior than my wife).  Well we got through that.  My employer was understanding and made some more changes.

Things got better, because immediately following that I got to attend the wedding of a friend of mine.  They will be a great couple and the wedding was outstanding.  It was a lot of fun and I was very happy to share this event in their lives.  I extend my congratulations to Logan and Tessa Bryce.  I hope you enjoy life together.  There is no greater journey in life then marriage.

Right after that I attended my first San Jose Sharks regular season game.  I am a huge hockey fan, and an even bigger SanJose Sharks fan.  After so many years of wishing I could go, it was great to finally be able to go.  The arena is great and while we had great seats, there probably are not many bad seats at HP Pavilion.  I got to meet Randy Hahn and Brodie Brazil from Comcast Sportsnet.  I have been listening to Randy Hahn call Sharks games for as long as I can remember and to meet him was great.  Brodie Brazil is new to the CSN team, but he provides great rink side commentary and he is very interactive on Twitter.  So meeting them both was a great start to the game.  Everything about attending the game was great, accept the final score.

Left to Right: Brodie Brazil, Me, My wife, Randy Hahn

Two days later my wife started her new schedule after her days off.  The unnamed local ambulance company she works for did not schedule enough ambulances to adequately cover the area.  As a result an ambulance was late to a call.  And my wife was fired the next day.  She has not had an issue there for over nine months, but they were quick to terminate.  I can’t believe a company that puts “Family Values” on their letter head, would fire the main provider of a family of five on an issue that is ultimately their own fault.  This company has little regard for their employees and has created a hostile environment, in which most all mistakes result in suspension and/or termination.

In any case, her income was three quarters of our family income.  I don’t even make enough to pay the rent.  Fortunately quick thinking will likely help me keep a roof over our heads for the next few months.  But, we pray that either her union comes through for her (though that is not likely) or that unemployment kicks in quickly.  God willing, she will find work before this really matters.

As a result I have been trying to pick up extra hours at work.  I’ve also been burying myself in my office so that I can try to get this novel out for all of you.  And, hopefully if you folks like it, I can sell a few copies.  I also had a great idea for another story, with potential for novel length.  So with any luck you may see a few novels from me this year.  Of course, I prefer quality over quantity so we will see what other tricks life has in store for my timelines.

So, March is my least favorite month.  And despite my wife and my Irish heritage, we can can’t see to find the luck of the Irish.  They say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  But I am so sick of drinking lemonade (This cliche brought to you by Country Time Lemonade, which I am drinking as I write this).

But, while March is typically a rough month.  I have many blessings in my life.  I have a lovely wife, who loves me for richer or poorer.  I have three great boys, who could care less about bills and just want to play with their Daddy.  I have great family and friends who have put my family in their thoughts and prayers.  I have a job, the start up of a successful writing career, and I volunteer free time to my community.  So while March has got me down, I have 11 other great months to enjoy.

So, you can take my face off the milk cartons of the blogging world.  Though I was missing in March, April is just around the corner.

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“The End” Doesn’t Really Mean The End

So many of you made a point of letting me know that I forgot my weekly blog post this past Sunday.  I didn’t forget, in fact I let my Facebook and Twitter followers know exactly why I didn’t post.  I was finishing my novel.

Of course, by finish I mean putting ### (The End) on the first draft of my novel manuscript.  It is in no way finished.  But it sure felt nice to say it was finished.  I let myself bask in the fact that I had completed my novel for a few days.  And now, reality has struck.  “The End” on paper doesn’t really mean the end.

Many of us can write.  Most of us can write enough to create a short story.  A few less can write enough to create a novel.  But far fewer can keep following though on all the steps after “The End” to really finish a novel (or even a short story).  I’d like to see a few more people reach the real finish line.

When it comes to writing works for publication (even self publication) there are steps you have to take to reach the finish.  I’m going to clue you in on some steps so that you know what to expect after you type “The End” on your manuscript.  I’m new to the Novel steps, but they are the same as those for a short story, just longer (and maybe harder).

Let it Rest

You have to let the story rest in your head for awhile.  That is, you have to forget about it a little.  If you finish the first draft and then start edits the next day, you’re bound to miss things because the ideas and words you typed are still fresh in your head.

How long is enough time?  Well that is really up to you.  I know fellow writers who wait months to touch a short story and years for a novel.  I know others who can wait a week on a short story and two weeks on a novel.  There is no right answer when it comes to time.

For my short stories, I post the first 13 lines (or the hook) in my writer’s group.  I give them a week to ten days to share their thoughts and offer to read the story.  After that I move to my second step.  With this novel, I plan to wait until March to start the next step.  I think it will be enough time for me.  If not, I’ll give myself more time after the next novel.

You don’t need to forget the story as a whole.  If you are like me that could be impossible.  It’s just enough time to allow you to forget enough of the gritty details that you will see things like inconsistencies, grammar errors, missing words, POV errors, and other things.

Self Edit

Next, you will need to read your entire manuscript and self edit.  Check for errors that don’t fit the story line.  Maybe you typed a chapter thinking you’d go one direction and now it no longer belongs in the story.  Perhaps another area needs more development to increase the story.  Go though and edit all these things.  If you find grammar errors, punctuation mistakes and typos fix those too, but that isn’t the main focus here.  They point here is to begin to smooth out the story.  Cutting out unneeded areas, and beefing up areas that need it.  Once you are done with that, you’ve got a second draft.

Trial Readers

Once you are done with that second draft you need some trial readers.  You need someone who will give you HONEST thoughts on your story.  This isn’t likely to be a family member or even a close friend.  No one wants to hurt anyone’s feelings, especially not those of a friend.  Friends and Family are best left to read the final product, not your drafts.

This is where a writers group is very handy.  You can get honest thoughts and critiques on your work from other trusted readers who also know a bit about the business.  I’ve planned a blog post for later this month on critiques.  Watch for it.

Now, you are likely to get responses at different times.  One reader might be done in a week, the other might take two.  Since you definitely need to have more then one trial reader, here in my suggestion:  Don’t read any critiques or change anything until you get a response from all your trial readers.  Otherwise you may change something one reader hated, but the other four readers loved.  So save yourself the extra work and go through each critique after you have them all.

Self Edit: Part 2

Look at all these suggestions your trial readers gave you.  Some of them you will find completely useless and you should ignore those.  However, if all the readers point out the same trip up, you might want to fix it (even if you think it is fine the way it is).  But remember, this your work not theirs.   And only you know what is best.

You may really like a scene, but your readers have trouble with it.  Rewrite it then, or cut it.  That is up to you.  But again, this isn’t about grammar and punctuation.  You will be polishing this into a even better story.  Soon, you will have something resembling a third draft.

Proofreading

Unless you made major story changes, it is time to move on to the final draft.  I am a firm believer in four drafts and done (the done being the fourth).  It keeps you out of the endless rewrite circle.  I have a friend who is on their twelfth draft of a novel.  As I have told that friend, that novel will not be published.  They have become obsessed with making it perfect.  It won’t happen.

Now, with my short stories my proofreader is my wife.  She catches most, if not all, my typos, grammar mistakes, and punctuation screw ups.  And for a short story that is enough.

There are proofreading services out there.  I haven’t use any, but I may use one when it come to my novel.  I miss things, and a professional shouldn’t.  Now, some people don’t feel comfortable with that.  It is entirely a choice that is up to you.  I see no reason to do it for short stories.  But, my novel is 67,000 words.  So after my wife reads it she may miss some things.  If the rate is reasonable I will use one.  Otherwise, I am an author that has no money.  I won’t spend a lot on it.

However, no matter how you do your proof reading this is the time to go grammar cop.  Fix all those little mistakes.  Look for those rather then anything to do with the story.  Fix them.  Once they are fixed you have your forth draft and your completed manuscript.

THE END

You are done with your novel, right?  Well not exactly.  You want to see it published.  That involves a lot more work.  It is really a blog topic in itself.  But you have already accomplished much more then the average person who sets out to write.  You have a completed manuscript.  Pat yourself on the back.  Go get a snack, and then start working to get it published.

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Book Review: The Nanotech Murders

Cover art by Deron Douglas

From the Back Cover:

The year is 2071 and there’s a serial killer loose in Atlanta.  Lieutenant Jak Decker, a homicide cop, is on the case but is getting nowhere.  As the body count mounts, his boss assigns him a partner, the smart and beautiful Detective Cassandra Smith.  Decker, a tough, wisecracking loner, doesn’t want a partner, especially when he finds out she’s an android.

 
The Nanotech Murders by Lee Gimenez (Double Dragon Publishing) was added to my ‘to read’ list because the topic of future police work appeals to me.  I felt it promised to show me another author’s take on the future of police work.

I spent a lot of my college years studying Law Enforcement.  It had been an eventual career goal for me at one point.  So when I read or watch fiction involving police work, I tend to be extra critical.  I tend to notice unbelievable situations, reactions, and characters.

Unlike others I have know, I am able to recognize that police fiction has to be dramatized because in general the job has a lot of very boring moments.  No one would read a book about a cop who pulls over traffic violator for eight hours, maybe handles a domestic quarrel or two, then goes home and goes to bed.

Trust me, I am not down playing the daily duties of our police, they regularly put their lives on the line.  They often have to go from boring to complete terror in seconds.  If fact, that is exactly whey we love Police fiction.  It takes that terror and puts it into a believable scenario so we can watch police officers become the heroes we know them to truly be.

It is 2071 in Atlanta, and the police are dealing with a serial killer.  They have almost nothing to go on and the number of victims are rising.  To make matters worse the Captain is putting a lot of pressure on Detective Jak Decker to solve the case before the media gets wind of it.

Jak’s boss feels he needs a partner and forces Cassandra on him.  As you read this story Jak and Cassandra  find themselves neck deep in a case that may be more then they can handle.  Every time they pull a small thread, their word unravels even more.   They must struggle to solve this case before it destroys everything they have worked for.

Jak is you stereo-typical detective:  A drunk with a troubled marriage, who doesn’t play by the rules and often goes rogue from his orders.  It’s pretty much all thrown at you in the opening scene, and it was a bit troublesome for me to take.  But, Gimenez quickly breaths life in Jak and despite the stereo-types, I quickly found myself drawn in by Jak’s character.  I really wanted to see him succeed.

The character I most identified with was Cassandra Smith, the CS android unit that represents the best android technology has to offer.  Every scene and chapter in her point of view was enjoyable to read.  She is struggling to understand police work beyond the programing she has.  The relationship that Cass and Jak develop through the novel was one of the very enjoyable plot threads of the novel.

Gimenez writes a thoughtful thriller that applies subtle twists and turns to the plot.  It is a fresh take on the thriller with multiple entertaining plot threads that work well to complete an overall story that was fun to read.  I don’t think there was one point in the novel where I thought, I saw that coming.

The action scenes are written well.  They provide you with an intense feeling as if you are actually involved in these scenes yourself.  There are plenty of gun fights in the novel, but they don’t ever become boring or predictable.   Each time a character was involved in something life threatening you got the real sense that they could lose everything trying to solve this crime.

As I mentioned above, I am very quick to spot the mistakes in Police stories, the unrealistic descriptions of events.  This story has some of those.  None of this was distracting to the story.  I never felt like yelling:  Oh come on!  That’s impossible!   

So overall this is a great future cop thriller, that is believable and an entertaining read.  Gimenez does everything right with this one.  He takes believable cops, and shows them to be the heroes we all know them to be.  The Nanotech Murders is a must read for anyone who enjoys Science Fiction, Thrillers, and/or Police fiction.  Gimenez does a great job telling a blockbuster tale here.  One that is fun to read, has believable characters, a strong plot, and is just plain entertaining.  It is easily a four out of five.  I strongly recommend you pick up a copy.  I know I will be adding some other Gimenez titles to my ‘to read’ list.

(You can purchase The Nanotech Murders in paperback or for your Kindle on Amazon.com here.  It is also availble in paperback and Nook at Barnes and Noble here.)

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Multiple Projects

Working on multiple at one time is something I am very accustomed too.  Having worked as a manager and business owner for many years, I am well aware of the difficulties involved in multitasking.  However, until this month, I wasn’t aware of how hard it would be to do that with my writing.  You see, before this month, I had only one work in progress at a time.

I think more of my problems come because I am typically not an outline writer.  I don’t create and outline to work from, I just type.  Well, that also makes the ideas stored in my mind a bit harder to track.  There where a few things I was already doing that helped dramatically and there are some things I learned recently.

Juggle

Being an writer, and doing it a lot, is like juggling chain saws on a unicycle while up on the tight-rope.  If you don’t know what you are doing someone is bound to get hurt, and it will likely be you.

You may be planning to only work on one project at a time.  That you will complete one manuscript and move on to the next.  While, I don’t think you should do that, I can respect that.  But, there are still some other things to consider.  Lets look at what I juggle right now (and this is just writing related).

  • Novel A
  • Ideas for Novel B
  • Ideas for Novel C
  • Short Story A
  • Ideas for Short Story B, C, D, E, F, and G
  • Critiques and edits for Short Story A
  • Copy editing for Children’s Book
  • Keeping track of illustrator’s progress on Children’s Book
  • Researching best publishers for Children’s Book
  • Writer’s Group meetings
  • Critiques and edits for the works of writers in my writing group
  • Self Publishing research
  • Weekly Blog Updates
  • Webpage Management
  • Twitter Updates (to promote myself)
  • Facebook Page Updates (to promote myself)
  • Self Promotion
  • Planing to see if I can attend OSC’s Boot camp
  • Submission tracking
  • Short Story Market research

I am sure I have already forgotten a few things.  But, that is a lot.  Most of it has little to do with writing multiple projects at once.  The funny thing is, it didn’t become overwhelming until I tried writing my short story while working on the Novel.  The fact of the matter is that I refuse to trim back on any of this (and I still have personal obligations as well).  Each of these things is enriching and rewarding to my craft and my future in the craft.

So, let me share with you what it is that I have learned.

Organize

Organization is absolutely key to surviving the onslaught of things I need to do.

Schedule. I use my Google calendar like crazy.  It links with my android phone and my wife’s Google Calendar.  Aside from the list above, it keeps track of my kids’ appointments, my wife’s appointments, my personal appointments, my volunteer appointments, and my writing appointments.

Story notes.  I know I said that I don’t outline.  But often while I am writing one scene an idea comes up for a future scene in the same work.  So I have a file on my computer called “Story Notes” and on it I keep track of my daily word count, ideas for future scenes, characters (and their quirks), and much more.  It helps me to refresh my memory when I open my novel, especially after working on another project.

Ideas notebook.  Every good writer needs an ideas notebook of some type.  Maybe its a file on your phone.  Maybe it is a little notepad.  Whatever it is, you need to be able to carry it with you everywhere.  Ideas hit me at the weirdest times, from the middle of the night to the drive to the kids’ schools.  This gives me the ability to write them down.  Many of them don’t work out to a story right away, but recently two separate ideas merged when I was flipping through that notebook.  That became Short Story A that I mentioned above.

Submission Tracking.  If you are not tracking your submissions, you will be in big trouble.  I currently have two short stories out at different markets, and one more that will be going out soon.  The worst thing that could happen to those would be for me to forget about them or to even confuse them.  You might forget you sent one to a market already and resubmit it to them (wasting your time and theirs) or you might skip a market thinking you already sent it there.  I use Duotrope, it’s free and it works well.

Folders.  Organize your computer’s writing folders in one spot.  This keeps your works together while also making back up easier.  I have one folder called “writings” (original I know).  In that folder, I have a folder for novels, short stories, contracts, and the miscellaneous files.  I can drag and drop the ‘writings’ folder onto my Passport hard drive for simple back up.  Also, when I decide I want to write on a particular piece, I find it quickly.

Project Tracking.  It might be a cork board in your office.  It could be a program on your computer.  But you need to keep track of what projects are where and when was the last time you worked on them.  Set up three categories for your works in progress:  Writing, Editing, and Submitting.  Each project should be under one of those categories.  And, keep a date attached to it.  Otherwise, you may keep writing the newest thing while your other piece sits and collects virtual dust waiting for the edits.

Time Management

Time management is important.  You can’t expect to get everything done in every day.  There are only so many hours in a day.  I don’t plan out every hour of every day.  Life with three little boys doesn’t work like that.  Instead, I only plan for a few activities each day.  If I can get more done then great.

Check the Calendar.  Don’t tell yourself you will write for three hours today, when the Calendar says you have to be at the Doctor’s at noon, take the car in for an oil change at three, and you have a volunteer meeting at six.  With everything else you have to do, three hours of writing is not practical on that day.  But, perhaps you can fit in some smaller activities in between.

Know what fits.  I can’t write for one hour.  It’s just not how I work.  I have to write out a whole chapter and once I get going, there will be no stopping me.  So I know that I can’t sit down and write during the hour between when my two older kids get out of school.  I’m setting myself up for failure if I do that.  I do know, that I can read during that time.  So, I often sit in the car and read.

The point is, the first step to failing at multiple projects is assigning the wrong projects for the wrong times.  For example, my wife has the kids today.  She handles getting them to school and home.  That means I can focus on my writing today.  You won’t see much from me on Facebook or Twitter.  But, Wednesday through Friday you will see a lot more for me on the social networks because I can easily squeeze in a quick tweet or post while I am making lunch or entertaining the kids.  Every day you should work on your craft, but that doesn’t mean that everyday you have to type in a manuscript.  Take your weekly writing to-do list and plug it in around your life.

The best-laid plans of mice and men.  Plan on forgetting something.  Listen, you are human.  I know that may come as a surprise to you, but you will forget something you wanted to do.  Yesterday I forgot to write this blog post.  Even with all the plans in the world, something will be forgotten.  If it was a crucial line in your manuscript you can go back and add it.  If it was to even write, there is always a chance to make up for it tomorrow.  When I first pledged to write 1,000 words a day no matter what, I knew I would miss a day or two.  So, I have revised that plan to be an average of 1,000 words a day.  Much easier to manage.

Just know that you can’t do it all in one day, or even in a week.

Priorities.  Get your priorities down now.  And writing shouldn’t be number one.  Your life should be first.  Once you know what is important to you, you can better plan what needs to go where in your schedule.  Writing is very important to me, but my family is always first.  My own sanity is next.  So on a busy day, I may not plan to write in the hour I have to myself.  I may plan for a game or to zone out on the TV.   I won’t be writing anytime my kids deserve my attention.  I won’t be writing anytime the San Jose Sharks are playing.

Writing can’t be number one in out lives.  Recognize that, and place it where it really falls.  Then plan around that.  Your priorities change daily depending on what else needs to be done that day.  Once you get into a rhythm of your own priorities and schedule you will quickly realize there are certain days you won’t be writing in that manuscript but you may have time for reading, editing, promotions, and of course ideas come at their own times.   But, you will also see when you can maximize the writing time you do have with minimal distractions and without letting it consume your life.

Know your own limits

If you can’t juggle two tennis balls on the ground, I don’t recommend the tight-rope stunt above.  I know that I am just getting started in this multiple writing projects realm.  So, even though I have an idea for the next novel, I won’t start writing it until this current one is at least into editing.  I did put together a short story while I was writing this novel.  It is still waiting for it’s first round of edits.

I knew that one novel at a time is my current limit.  I also knew that I needed to push myself just a bit and try writing a short story while I was still working on another project.  It’s okay to push those limits just a bit from time to time.  But over doing it will result in burn-out and the possibility of dropping the craft all together.  That is something to be avoided.

Summary

In the end, I can’t tell you what will work for you.  You may not like my ideas, but I can hopefully point you in the right direction.  If you organize yourself, manage your time, and know your own limits; you can juggle all that life has to offer and still get your writing done.

As always share your ideas in the comments section below.  Let the readers know what works for you, and I am always willing to learn something new myself.

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