Thursday, September 29, 2011

An Update With Good News

With work being so unpredictable as of late, I've been focusing all of my attention on my writing. The novel I've been working on for 5 months is now nearly complete. I'm working on the final draft now. All that's left is to do a final check on my spelling, punctuation, and grammar (and to make a couple small changes to some key scenes) and it will be ready to post on Amazon. In preparation for that I'm opening the google docs version of the first four chapters to anyone who wants to read or comment on it.  The link to the first chapter is at the bottom of this post and I'll be posting three more chapters in the next few days.

Out of the Shadows - Chapter 1

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Balancing Obligations

Two weeks ago my boss went on vacation and I was left to do her job as well as my own. With the extra hours at work, I didn't have time to get in daily writing AND keep up with my blog. The blog had to go on hiatus. I still have at least three more days until I get my regular work hours back and I will hopefully be returning in earnest sometime this week.

Friday, July 22, 2011

My Favorite Authors, and Why

I was trying to decide who my favorite authors are today, and I realized that I don't have very many. I've read widely and there are very few authors that I actively dislike, but only a couple have really captured me.

J. K. Rowling - She did something magical. She took all the rules, followed them to the letter, and wove together a magnificently crafted story. I hope to see more from her in the future.

Jim Butcher - I don't know what it is about Jim Butcher that makes his Dresden series so fascinating to me. I think it's the character of Harry. He's so real, and his life has been so very miserable, that I can't help but pull for him.

Anne Rice - This woman's description is amazing. The best I've ever read. Of everyone I've read, her voice has had the largest impact on me.

S. K. Epperson - Her work comes to life so vividly in my mind. I can see every scene. The way she gets you inside the killer's mind is chilling. She does psycho better than any other author I've read. She's an amazing story teller.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Shame vs. Pride

When I was young, I had a lying problem. I knew the difference between fantasy and reality, I just enjoyed telling stories. Unfortunately, I chose to pretend those stories were true. Other kid's parents, and my school teachers had several conversations with my mother about my behavior before she finally sat me down at the age of twelve, looked me straight in the face, and said, "Nobody likes a liar."

I stopped lying.

But, some of those old lies haunted me into adulthood. I gave a few kids nightmares, and made a couple of them cry. It was funny and impressive when I was seven, as an adult, I felt ashamed of my behavior.

I once pretended to be a fortune teller and gave all the little children on my block horrible predictions about their futures. One little girl ran home hysterical. I was banned from her house.

Another time, I had forgotten to bring anything for show and tell so I got up in front of my whole class and made something up. I told a room full of eight year olds how my sister, while attempting to bathe our new kittens, had been scratched up so terribly that she was now in the hospital. Furthermore, she had accidentally drowned all five of the tiny cats. Of course, nothing of the sort had happened, and I got into HUGE trouble. It probably wouldn't have been as bad if the teacher hadn't believed the story and called my mom to check on my sister's well being.

These sorts of incidents stuck in the back of my mind, taunting me every time I laid down to sleep. Just recently I finally made peace with them. Last week I started to think about those childhood indiscretions and instead of the usual shame, I felt amusement. I realized that if I hadn't been that mischievous kid, the kid who told stories that terrified the other children, the liar, I never would have grown into the woman I am today. That early drive to entertain, frighten, and amaze, never really left me. It grew up too.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The choice of roof suffering for your car can be confusing, we differentiate, you baptize us.

This was posted as a comment on one of my blogs. Yes, it's some kind of advertisement but I couldn't figure out for what. It seems to have been translated, and poorly. Oh English language, how I love you. 

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Lolz, spambots, lolz. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Writer's Block

I think there are four different kinds of writer's block. There are probably more that I haven't thought of, but these four are the ones that I have personally dealt with.

#1 - Procrastinator's Block - You really want to write, but for some reason, something else always seems more appealing. For instance, creating twelve blogs and then scheduling them to post one at a time over the space of a month. Hulu, flash games, Facebook, or a leisurely drive down Lake Rd. to admire all the fancy mansions. Some procrastination has led me to some very useful tools in my writing. The night I spent creating character bios with little pics and surveys infused my writing with a lot more realism. Unfortunately, most of my procrastinating is useless, and guilt ridden. The solution to this type of writer's block is to turn off your internet, unplug your tv, butt in chair. This is my most common problem.

#2 - Uninspired Block - Your brain feels like dead weight and you're sitting in your chair but nothing is coming out. When this is the case, attempting to keep doing what you're doing is going to be like slamming your head into a brick wall. Stop. Do something else for a little while. Exercise. Listen to inspiring music. Take a walk. Watch one of those movies that really moves you creatively. Have some caffeine. Rejuvenate yourself.

#3 - Burn Out Block -  A writer can't write ALL the time. I tried spending an entire day doing nothing but writing. It left me with a brain that felt like mashed potatoes. My spelling and grammar began to slip, and most of the last three hours of work had to be deleted in edits. Some of it barely made sense.  When uninspired, I look for inspiration, when I've overworked myself, I take a very different approach. When my creative mind feels like mush, I exercise the other side. Logic puzzles, time management games, cleaning, reorganizing CDs or bookshelves are all things you can do to exercise your logical left brain and give your right brain some down time. 

#4 - Naysayer Block - This is the inner editor saying, "Look at what you just wrote. That is pompous crap. No one will ever want to read this. You have no talent." Kick your inner editor in the nuts. That'll shut anyone up. Trying to edit while writing is counter productive. Editing uses your left brain. Writing uses your right brain. Keep your focus on your writing. The time for editing is later. I know it's hard. I actually had to blindfold myself an hour a day for a week to get into the habit of writing without reading my work back after every few sentences. Here are a couple of mantras to help you get past your inner editor. *You can't judge your own work effectively when you're so close to it. Wait. If you still think it sucks when you're editing it next month, you'll be able to change it. *Everyone occasionally writes crap. *Plenty of published authors EXCLUSIVELY write crap. *Practice makes perfect... competent. Even if what you just wrote IS crap, and you won't know that until you read it back in a month or so, every word you write takes you one step closer to mastering... not sucking at your craft. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Casting Your Novel

I've found something that really helps me see my characters better, but first, the conundrum.

When I'm making a new character, I write down dominant physical characteristics. I fill out personality worksheets. I do character interviews, surveys, and yet more worksheets. Even after all of that, when I picture my characters in my head, I don't see them very clearly. I can see their surroundings with ease, even down to the litter in the gutter, but the characters are blurry watercolor people drifting through a backdrop of photo realism... I know what they'll do, think, and say, because I KNOW them but I can't make up a randomized appearance in my imagination.

So, I don't want to base my characters physically on people that I know because I would be irate if those people's personalities started to show up in my characters. So if I can't make them up, and I can't use the physical characteristics of real people. That leaves me with... actors.

And it's helping. Every scene seems far more intense now that I can really SEE my characters moving around my settings. It also gave me a fun project. Scissors, tape, markers, and I now have a little notebook with character bios and pictures.

So what do you see most easily? Is there something for you that's hard to see? Does anyone else use actors as character models?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Lakewood Public Library and I Love My City

As bookish as I am, I've never really been a library person. I hate the idea of having to give my friends back. I get most of my paper books from used book stores, flea markets, and garage sales. Recently, in an attempt to squash some of my writer's procrastination, I decided to check out my local branch library. WOW! We have the coolest library I have ever seen.

I'm going to make a broad, sweeping, over-generalization, and say that Lakewood is the trendiest city in Ohio. Oberlin would come close if they didn't have those dry laws. Lakewood is a strange amalgam of hip, rich, liberal, poor, trendy, and eclectic. When they decided to update their library, they went all out. It's huge, beautiful, and full of art as well as books.

The entire layout is very open with a multitude of desks, cubicles, and computer consoles. It reminds me of a university library in that way. It is in fact at least twice as large as my university's library.

I plan to live in Lakewood for the rest of my life. It's an old city, full of old buildings (more than half of the houses in Lakewood were built before 1939) that people actually care about. There are no crumbling churches, or condemned mansions. The entire city has the camaraderie of a small town but the sophisticated air of a metropolis. At least 75% of the businesses on Detroit road are owned by individuals, not corporations, and I've never seen so many consignment shops and antique stores. People walk to and from the multitude of bars, raucously singing at 2am on Saturday morning. No one is afraid of being mugged, possibly because our large and friendly police presence deters potential thieves. In fact, the sidewalks of Lakewood are much busier at midnight than are the streets. For every car on the road, there are at least ten pedestrians. 

I love everything about this city and if I have my way, I will never leave... Okay, well the snow can get excessive... and being so close to Lake Erie, there are some massive spiders... but still. I <3 Lakewood.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Goals for July

Goals for July
  • Same unreasonably high word count goal! 60-90k. Yes, I set the bar too high. I want the pressure on. I work really well under pressure, and not at all if I don't push myself. 
  • Finish my WIP. Since I have added a whole slew of new scenes, I have split my WIP into 2 novels. The first is still called Out of the Shadows. My working name for part 2 is Into the Light... Hokey right? It'll likely get changed. 
  • Edit OotS - Send to Jyl
  • Start on ItL - Finishing this one in August. 

The BIG GOAL - This is the one that I'm really going to try to keep. I'm setting a kindle date for Out of the Shadows. This novel will be completely finished, edited, copy-edited, formatted, and posted on AUGUST 24, 2011. That comes out to 55 days. Wish me luck. 

My abysmal goal setting skills leave something to be desired. As seen below. 

 Goals for June

  • Write between 2-3k words everyday.  30 days has June, so that comes out to between 60k and 90k.
    • C+ June was my most productive month since I began my WIP 4 months ago. The 60-90k word goal is completely and intentionally unrealistic and was not met. 
  • Finish Out of the Shadows. If I keep to my word count goal, I shouldn't have any problem with this. Shadows is getting pretty close.
    • F Still not done. :) I made a sweeping change at the last minute, added another 75k words... and decided to turn Out of the Shadows into a 2 part 200k novel, instead of a 1 part 125k novel. 
  • Do a rough edit to  get it ready for Beta Reader Jylie Bean.
    • F Jylie is still waiting.
  • Outline Echoes of Death - This outline will be included in my words per month goal. 
    • F But this book is CALLING to me. I already have the plot entirely outlined in my head, just not on paper. I DREAM this book. It's going to be a ghost story set in outer space. Jealousy, psychotic ghostly possessions, and sexiness. So excited. 
  • This one probably won't get done, but the goal is to get as many of them outlined and finished as I can. So, if I finish OotS, and I finish the EoD outline before my beta reader gets my manuscript back to me, THEN I want to outline and write three short stories set in Lythian's past. Working titles - Origin (10k),  Eternity (20k), Sacrifice (20k). This goal will continue into July.
    • This is a two part goal, though none of it is done yet. We'll see, but I think it's going to have to wait until September. I want to finish my two part Out of the Shadows, and my sequel Echoes, before I start the stories. This might get pushed back as far as December. 
  • Keep my nice, neat, working spaces nice and neat. 
    • A+ With the help of my very neat husband, we're like the odd couple. He walks behind me and catches the stuff I discard. 
  • Enforce the "leave me alone while I'm working" rule better.
    • A- I found a few things out about myself this month... Mostly they involve this rule. I'll do a blog post. 
  • If my favorite Jylie Bean gets my draft back to me before the end of the month, start the second round edit on Out of the Shadows so it can get sent to my two Gamma readers and back to the Jylie Bean.
    • She'll have pt 1 soon. Then we'll start on editing. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Is This any Better?

Awhile back I posted a sample product description of my WIP, Out of the Shadows. Mostly people didn't like it so I've updated it. Let me know what you think.

In 2025 a genetically engineered super virus nearly destroyed the world.

In 3146 the government is still hunting the infected, but they have been lying to everyone. The 2R virus isn't deadly. It's something much more dangerous.

Lythian Kennett is good at staying in the shadows. She has lived under the government's nose for years without arousing suspicion, until one night she walks into the wrong bar. After accidentally exposing herself as an infected, Lythian must go on the run with her best friend and a complete stranger or face a punishment worse than death.

When her world starts to crumble, she realizes nothing is what it seems. As the secrets, lies, and betrayals threaten to overwhelm her, Lythian isn't sure who she can trust, and the person she trusts least of all is herself.

The first chapter of Out of the Shadows is available at Link below.

Chapter 1

Friday, June 24, 2011

Weird Research

There were a few interesting things that I learned this week while doing research for my novel. I thought I'd share  some of the more interesting ones.

#1 - A planes engines don't turn the plane. There are flaps on the wings that control pitch and flaps on the rudder that control direction. Also, the "steering wheel"  in a plane is called the yoke.

#2 - If a person falls from 30 ft. the rate of survival is 50%.

#3 - On the moon however, a person can easily survive a 30 ft. fall. (assuming there is no damage to their space suit) They would have to fall from over 100 ft. to reduce their rate of survival to 50%.

#4 - When people talk about suffocating in an enclosed space, the real danger is NOT a lack of oxygen but excess CO2. The average concentration of CO2 in the outside air is .039%. The average person loses consciousness between 3% and 10%, depending on length of exposure and lung health.

#5 - When a sugar molecule is metabolized by a person's body, it creates 3 molecules of CO2  (which is expelled by their lungs) , and 3 molecules of water. This is why people crave sugar when dehydrated.

I love all the random things I learn about while doing research. Some of them are intentional, some are unintentional, but I've loved trivia my entire life so I'm happy to take it all. Learning is fun.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Ode to the Dark

What is it about the night?
After the sun sets the air thrums with wild electricity.
Just before dawn a final burst of excited energy ripples through the semi-darkness.
Then the sun rises, dispelling the magic.
Every dawn feels, not like a new beginning, but like the death of a mystery.
The sunlight leaves me no privacy.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Friday, June 17, 2011

Character Personality Worksheets

I created a Google Doc Character Personality Worksheet that I would like to share with anyone who wants it. It's based on Cattell's personality theory. The link is at the bottom of the page. Feel free to use it however you like but if you want to post the link, please credit me.
Raymond Cattell's 16 personality factors make up a kind of sliding scale of personality traits. For instance, under Warmth are the traits "impersonal, aloof, and detached" on one side of the scale. On the other side of the scale are "warm, kindly, and outgoing." The chart I created is intended to give you a visible tool with which to define your character's personality.

How to use my version:
Print up the table. Read the traits from left to right and circle the ones that you feel apply to the character in question. Once you're finished with the row you'll be able to see if your character is more Warm/Cold, Reasoning/Irrational, Emotionally Stable/Unstable. I then like to score each trait. On a scale of 1-10, where 1 is irrational, and 10 is rational, Lythian Kennett would score a 9. 1 for warmth. 4 for dominance. etc...

Character Personality Worksheet

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Your Word Count is Wrong

I ran across an interesting article today about word count. Evidently, when traditional publishers, or, I assume, POD publishers talk about word count, they don't mean the number that Microsoft Word spits out at you. What they really want to know is how many typeset book pages they'll be paying for.

Here's the formula:

If your manuscript is done in 12pt. Courier, with 1" margins, double spaced, 25 lines per page, then multiply the number of pages by 250.

It makes sense if you think about it. A page full of 1 line dialog is going to have a lower word count but take up the same amount of space as a page full of description... and your publisher/POD printer, has to pay for the paper even if the page is mostly white space.

I wonder if anyone has created a formula to let you know how boring your book is... If lots of dialog and short paragraphs make for a book that reads easily, and vast amounts of lengthy description are dull, it stands to reason that more white space = good. If that's the case, then perhaps you can tell if your work contains too much or too little description by determining whether your average typewritten page contains more or less than 250 words.

I'm going to do an experiment. I'm going to estimate my words per page for each chapter and see if my more exciting/actiony chapters have a higher or lower word counts than the more emotional/talky chapters. I might even go ahead and do this on a scene by scene basis if the results are interesting.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Back Story & Feeling Overwhelmed

So, here's something I didn't know. Writing a novel with 1,200 years worth of back story is hard. I have different versions of how everything happened. I really need to get all this stuff straight, both in my head and printed out in my binder. Right now, it's all in my binder... but it's ALL there. I need to decide what did happen and what didn't. And I still don't have a name for my villain. Actually, I have 8 names, but in my draft I just call him General General, cause I haven't decided which of those 8 names I for sure want to use yet.

Also, my writing process is driving me crazy. When I sit down to write, I write from the place I left off, but sometimes when I'm at work I get a sudden inspiration, or my characters start talking in my head and I have to write it down. The problem with this is that it has left me with thousands and thousands of words in scenes I haven't gotten to yet. Some of it is just snippets and some of it is entire scenes. For instance, my last two chapters are 90% done. When I sit down to work, having all these random bits and pieces floating around is starting to overwhelm me a little. 

Also, last night I dreamt I found a baby dinosaur, it was really cuddly but it had these super creepy teeth, then it grew up into a 1/2 person 1/2 lizard little girl... but it still had those super creepy teeth. I strongly suspect that this dream was my brain's response to my husband telling me yesterday that he wants a baby.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Do You Remember Not Being Able to Read? or The Books That Changed My Life

   The most intense memories of my childhood all revolve around books. When I was three my grandmother gave me a grade school reading primer from the 1950's. At 300 pages, it was huge for a children's book. My grandmother wanted to read the stories to me but I refused. I desperately wanted to read them myself. With the logic of a three year old, I had decided that if I were able to read, it would make me an adult. I spent most of my childhood obsessed with finding ways to grow-up.
   The primer was full of individual stories about a group of children. Each story was between two and ten pages long and each story was preceded by a small picture. I spent hours just looking at each picture and trying to force myself to be able to read the words. One picture, one story, captivated me. A girl stood in her bedroom and her bed was in disarray. The covers were rumpled in such a way that it appeared, in the small picture, that something terrible was being covered up by that wrinkled blanket. The guilty look on the little girl's face convinced me! She had murdered her little brother, and he was hidden in that bed!
   I was enormously disappointed when I was finally able to read the story and there was nothing hidden under the folds of the girl's comforter. The girl was simply worried that she would be in trouble if her mother realized she hadn't made her bed before going out to play. What a let down.
   The only other thing that I really remember from that book is that squirrel was the largest, and most complicated word in the English language, and that one should never eat wild berries.

   Fast forward three years and most of the joy has been taken out of reading. There are only so many, "always brush your teeth", "don't run with scissors", "strangers are bad", stories that a child can read. It seemed to me then that all the books in the world were there to remind us of the rules. Then I found the library.
   My elementary school was small and our library was minuscule. Aside from four shelves of reference texts, there were only six shelves of fictional story books. For this reason, each grade was only allowed to check out certain books. That meant that in first grade I had my choice between picture books about baby animals, and Dr. Seuss. Luckily, I was sneaky. I would choose very thin books off of the third and fourth grader's shelves in the hopes that the student aid library assistants wouldn't know the difference. I was only caught once. There was one book that I checked out at least a dozen times.
   This might have been the first book that made me want to be a writer. The idea that I could choose the way the story would end enthralled me. (I really sucked at choosing. I don't think I ever found the "Supergirl lives happily ever after" story line. I mostly only found the "Supergirl is murdered horribly" ones.)
   After getting in trouble for repeatedly checking out books I was not supposed to, I was banned from the library for a little while and my mother bought me one of those Scholastic book subscriptions. Every month they would send me two new books. These books were mostly awful but one of them changed my life. The Doll in the Garden was the book that convinced me that reading was better than tv and nintendo put together. It was an eerie, morbid, ghost story about dying children. It was also the first book that ever made me cry. It was the book that instilled a life long love of reading. This was the book that finally made reading fun for me. I remember it distinctly, a kind of click. "Oh, THIS is why reading is fun. I get it now."
 Fast forward another 7 years. One day, when I was 13, my mom took me out to the movies, just the two of us. I don't remember why I was given the special privilege of a day out alone with my mother. I have 3 younger sisters and being alone with either of my parents was a rare event. Now, my mother's choice of movies might seem a little extreme for a 13 year old, but I was one of those children that was never really a child. I was bookish and full of fantastical daydreams. I spoke like an adult from the time I was 8. Other kids thought I was weird... and I was. My best memories of childhood involve dressing in frilling nightgowns and pretending to be a forest nymph. So when my mother took me into the theater, she didn't think twice about taking me to see the most intriguing movie currently playing, even if it was rated R. I was, after all, her pint sized adult child. Which is how I ended up seeing Interview with the Vampire in the theater. Afterwards my mother worried the movie had been too graphic. (There were boobs) I tried to reassure her by informing her that I had been reading her (much more graphic) romance novels for at least three years. Harlequin taught me about the birds and the bees.
   That movie kind of obsessed me. It was so dark and beautiful and sad and violent. I still think it's one of the best movies ever made. It so expertly captured the tone of Rice's novel, which of course I had not yet read. I didn't even know there WAS a novel until spring break of that year when my parents took us on vacation.
   Las Vegas is not a place for children. The different hotels do have special amenities for little kids, tiny theme parks and the like, but I was BORED. I was too young to have any real fun and too old to enjoy collecting skeeball tickets. At the hotel, I had a bit of a crisis. I had been keeping a secret from my mother for about a year. It was personal, and embarrassing, and I knew if I told her that she would tell my dad. But, I didn't have any money and I needed to buy the necessary toiletries. At home, I had always been able to steal hers without her noticing. When I told my mother, she shrieked and hugged and giggled. I'm sure my face was beet red. I made her promise not to tell my father and she gave me a $20 bill and sent me down to the little convenience store on the first floor of the hotel. It was my first time buying them myself and I was mortified so I dawdled around in the little gift shop. That's when I saw it. Interview with the Vampire, by Anne Rice, in paperback. I had enough money, but I knew my mom would mad if I didn't bring back all of her change. Then again, she had drug me on this enormously boring vacation to a city created for adults. I bought the book, consequences be damned.
   I spent the rest of our vacation wanting to be left alone so I could read. I think that vacation was when I got a reputation for being a taciturn, contrary, stick in the mud. Seventeen years later, my family still sees me that way.
   That book had an effect on me that no other book ever has. It pulled at my imagination so strongly that the real world seemed petty, trite, and unimportant. Just as I had started to grow out of the world of fantasy, built for children, Interview with the Vampire showed me that there was an equally vivid world of fantasy for adults. Instead of Prince's and Princesses climbing towers and riding unicorns, I could have dark beasts stalking the night in human guise. Danger, intrigue, and passion, could replace my fairy tales.
   I applaud anyone who managed to make it this far into what is probably my longest blog post ever. I'm nearly done. While there are many other novels that I enjoyed, or somehow impacted me as a child, these are the four most important. One, for making me desperate to learn to read. The second for teaching me that I can create my own stories. The third for making me truly enjoy reading for the first time. And the fourth for allowing me to cling to my childlike imagination even as I was becoming an adult.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Best Writing Tools... Amendment

I ran across a new instructional website for writers and despite the dozens of books and websites I've already read, this site had some new and interesting tidbits of information.

Darkwaves Writing Tips

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Goals for June

 Goals for June

  • Write between 2-3k words everyday. This was my goal last month... and I didn't make it BUT I'm going to try harder this month! (No more Hulu...  TV rots your brains anyway.) 30 days has June, so that comes out to between 60k and 90k.
  • Finish Out of the Shadows. If I keep to my word count goal, I shouldn't have any problem with this. Shadows is getting pretty close.
  • Do a rough edit to  get it ready for Beta Reader Jylie Bean.
  • Outline Echoes of Death - This outline will be included in my words per month goal. 
  • This one probably won't get done, but the goal is to get as many of them outlined and finished as I can. So, if I finish OotS, and I finish the EoD outline before my beta reader gets my manuscript back to me, THEN I want to outline and write three short stories set in Lythian's past. Working titles - Origin (10k),  Eternity (20k), Sacrifice (20k). This goal will continue into July.
  • Keep my nice, neat, working spaces nice and neat. 
  • Enforce the "leave me alone while I'm working" rule better.
  • If my favorite Jylie Bean gets my draft back to me before the end of the month, start the second round edit on Out of the Shadows so it can get sent to my two Gamma readers and back to the Jylie Bean.

I graded myself for my performance in May below. I warn you in advance, it probably won't be interesting to anyone but me, and also I failed.

Goals for May - Performance Review

  • Keep my word counts at 14-21k a week ((80k for the month))
    •  (D) My word counts were actually closer to 7k a week than 14. I really wanted to average 3k a day!
  • Finish the first draft of Out of the Shadows
    • (F) Out of the Shadows still has about 25% to go.
  • Finish the outline for Echoes of Death
    • (F) I didn't do anything for the outline of Echoes of Death. I'm waiting to send OotS to my #1 Beta reader before I start working on the sequel.
  • Start editing Out of the Shadows in 5k chunks... to be completed in June.
    • (F) Nope. /pout
  • Organize my writing space and my writing bag.
    • (A+) YES! - Finally something that I actually accomplished. My writing bag is a giant messenger bag that goes everywhere with me. Inside it I keep a binder full of character profiles, outlines, drafts, and a great deal of miscellany. It is enormous and previously lacked any form of organizational system. I am proud to say that it is now spic and span.
    • (A+) My desk also now looks much more tidy and is organized so that I can actually find my things. I REALLY want to clean out the drawer of my desk that doubles as a filing cabinet but everything that might go into the filing cabinet is currently stored in my writing binder. I think that wouldn't be useful until I start on my second novel.
  • Do at least one thing to reach each of these goals every single day.
    • (B) Yes and No. While I was working on my novel everyday, I also had a Star Trek the Next Generation marathon for a week. If I'd spent as much time writing in those 9 days as I did watching Star Trek, I probably would have made my monthly writing goal.

I am adamant that I CAN and WILL average 3k a day this month!!! It's hard to get to 3k on days that I work but I need to push myself harder on my days off.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Comment Posting Issues???

If anyone else is having commenting issues, try switching your comment settings from embedded to pop-up.  Blogs using pop up comments seem to be unaffected.

I heard somewhere that resetting your widgets to default might help as well but I haven't tried that.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Amazon Mechanical Turks

I somehow stumbled onto a mention of an Amazon program called Mechanical Turks. Sometimes companies need work done that they don't have the resources or personnel for. They outsource these little jobs to Amazon and Amazon pays you to do them, then takes a 10% cut. (You can get cash in $10 increments deposited into your checking account, or Amazon gift card credits for as little as $1) The higher paying work seems to be mostly outsourced transcription. I always thought that I would like to be a transcriptionist, so I tried it out. WOW is it hard. I had no idea how many uhs, ums, ya knows, and likes, Americans use in their speech. Plus, it's really hard to listen to a sentence and then transcribe it when it's sprinkled with enough non-word placeholders to double the word count. Did you also realize that people don't actually speak in whole sentences? Every thought is strung together by, and then um, so it's like, and that is... It took me hours to do a fifteen minute phone conversation. 

Honestly, I only looked into this because it seemed like a neat way to make a little cash while sitting at home on my computer, but I would need to be pretty hard pressed for cash to do this again ($7 is not worth 4 hours work). I did, however, learn an INVALUABLE lesson about the way people speak.  I think it's going to be interesting to see how this experience effects my writing.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


I went to a Seether concert last night. It was super awesome. I was in the very first row, center stage. During "Fine Again" the guy next to us proposed to his girlfriend, and at the end of the show John Humphrey's threw his drum sticks into the crowd and my husband caught one. Very cool night.

Less cool, I had to work at 6am. So I only got about 3 hours of sleep and there was not enough time to wash off my makeup. Normally I wear very little makeup at work. It seems like a wasted effort. When I go to concerts however, I get decked out; centimeter thick catty eyeliner, red eyeshadow, glitter on my eyelashes. I work in a gas station so I was expecting comments from customers. What I wasn't expecting was a sweet little old lady to give me a copy of "Awake" titled: The Truth About the Occult. Evidently, the JW church believes that watching movies and reading books with supernatural themes causes you to become susceptible to demons. Demons also, evidently go after those who use Ouija boards and/or check their horoscope in the Newspaper.

Seriously? People actually believe this?

I'm an atheist so I don't believe in demons at all but I understand why people believe in God. I get it, even if I don't share their views. Sometimes I wish that I could believe in a loving and benevolent universe. But thinking that demons are lurking about, waiting to tempt you over to the dark side if you go to see a twilight movie... is preposterous. IMHO.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Strengths and Weaknesses

For me, some parts of writing come much harder than others. Dialog, for instance, comes very easily, while subplots are the bane of my existence.

I overcome my trouble with subplots by looking over my outline and asking myself, "What else could go wrong?" for every scene. The best of the "what-elses" are the ones that add the most tension, have the most far reaching consequences, and tie back into the main plot most successfully. Those are the ones that make it into the rough draft.

As simple as it sounds, it took a lot of hair pulling to come up with that system and subplots still don't come easily to me.

 Reader Question: What are your strengths and weaknesses? What ways have you found  to overcome or work around your weaknesses?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Best of the Best - Writing Websites, Writing Books, Writer's Tools

One day I decided I wanted to write a book. I've read a lot of books. I've written a lot of essays, but I didn't have the first clue about how to create a my own novel length work. The first thing I did was google "How to write a novel". This approach led me down a circuitous path. Every time I learned something new that clicked on my metaphorical light bulb, I discovered new sets of questions. For every amazing website I found, there were ten stinkers. While this is by no means a comprehensive list of every tool that I found useful, it's a good place to start.


Richard Harlan's Writing Tips - This is a very hefty website. It gives advice on everything an aspiring writer could want to know. The author in question is very witty and I found the entire website engaging. This author is based out of Australia so unless you're an Aussie some of the region specific publishing information might be skipable.

Simon Haynes Writing Tips - This is another good site for beginning writers. It touches briefly on every subject that a beginning writer could need. He's also a programmer with several VERY useful tools for plotting and drafting.

J. A. Konrath's Writing Tips - This is one I'm sure most people reading this post will have already seen. It's very witty and informative. It contains much more information about marketing than any of the other websites I've listed. This is definitely the best website for what to do after you've published your novel.

Jim Butcher's Writing Tips - This one is my favorite, hands down. I actually printed the whole blog. Every post. It's a fun and fascinating look into the process and every post has meaningful content. This was the blog that really clicked it for me. This was the one where I stopped reading about how to write and started writing.


"On Writing"  by Stephen King - Fascinating book but not extraordinarily useful.

"The Elements of Style" by William Strunk - Every how-to-write book and blog cites this little book as one of its sources. While full of useful content, it is EXTREMELY dry.

"Write Great Fiction: Plot and Structure" by James Scott Bell - I have mixed feelings on this one. I found it very motivational but I also thought it could have been more succinct.

"Writing Fiction: Step by Step" by Josip Novakovich - This one is my favorite. It is a little dry and it reads like a text book but it also has exercises at the end of each chapter. I found it to be very useful practice.

"HTML for Dummies" - This was instrumental in setting up my website.  It allowed me to save a bundle of cash since I didn't need to pay someone else to do it for me. It will be equally helpful when my novel is ready to be formatted for the kindle, as kindle formatting uses HTML.

"The Bedford Handbook" - I'm pretty sure this is standard reading for college comp classes. This book has every single grammar and punctuation rule in the English language, even the really obscure ones. It is an invaluable tool. Used bookstores should have older copies at a large discount.

Freeware Tools

yWriter - One of Simon Haynes programs. It's very useful for organizing outlines, and plotting.

Google Docs - This program allows you to edit your manuscript from anywhere you have access to your email. I frequently use it to write quick scenes while I'm at work and then transfer it to my rough draft once I get home.

iGoogle - Let's me see my email inbox, my rss feed, post to my blog, edit my google docs, and keep track of my daily to-do list... all from the same page.

WinSCP - Freeware program that lets me keep my website updated.

I don't like floundering. I find indecision frustrating. I like to weigh all of my options, make a logical decision, and work towards a clearly defined goal. These are the websites and products that helped me figure out where to start.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Philosophies for a Peaceful Life Part 2

*Don't hate your job*

Let's play a game of pretend. My name is John and I hate my job. I wake up at 6am and I dread going to work. I eat my breakfast, take my shower, and brush my teeth while simultaneously wishing that I could catch strep throat so I would have a valid reason to stay home. I get in my car and spend an hour in rush hour traffic wishing that a semi-truck would t-bone my SUV so I can call off. I get to work and spend 4 hours staring at the clock willing it to be lunch time. When noon finally arrives, I breathe a sigh of relief then start dreading the end of my lunch hour. By 5pm I'm so exhausted from my long day of loathing that I don't have the energy to be grateful that I'm finally going home. As soon as I walk in the door to my house I start dreading work the next day. Yes, John's life sucks, but here's the secret. This is pretty much everyone's life. So leave your work at work. Every hour you spend dreading going to work is another hour you're miserable. You are working to finance your playing, so try to enjoy every leisure moment available to you. If you expended as much effort trying to LIKE your job as you do hating it, it would be like going to the circus everyday.

*Never Complain*

No one likes listening to others whine. I would go even further with this. Not only should you not complain to others, you should also stop complaining to yourself. It is difficult to be pleasant company while you're annoyed. No one ever died wishing they'd spent more time bitching.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Make goals with me!

The lack of any organization to my life frequently leaves me with no concrete way to measure my writing progress. This month I'm going to set myself milestones to work towards. So here are my...

*Goals for May*

  •    Keep my word counts at 14-21k a week ((80k for the month))
  •    Finish the first draft of Out of the Shadows
  •    Finish the outline for Echoes of Death
  •    Start editing Out of the Shadows in 5k chunks... to be completed in June.
  •    Organize my writing space and my writing bag.
  •    Do at least one thing to reach each of these goals every single day.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Philosophies for a Peaceful Life Part 1

*Worry is pointless and detrimental to your health.*

     There are two kinds of situations that call for worrying. The kind you can change and the kind you can't. If you find yourself in a worrisome situation that you can fix, then make a plan, take action, and allow yourself to stop worrying.
     If on the other hand, the situation is completely out of your control, CHILL OUT! If there's nothing you can do, there's nothing you can do. Worrying about it will only do you harm. ((It has been proven that excessive worrying releases cortisol into your blood stream. This harmful chemical causes aging, cancer, high blood pressure, increased risk of heart attack, and reduces the efficiency of your immune system.))

*Anger is a useless emotion*

     Anger is one of the most basic human emotions. It's hardwired into our brains by our biology. Fortunately for us, we have logic and reason on our side. Here's the thing. The world is full of lovely, kind, people who want nothing more than to sprinkle sunshine over the world.  The world is also full of jack-holes who take pleasure in ruining your day. If they ruin your day, they win. Don't let them win.
     Try to let rude, accusatory, self-entitled, and confrontational people pass into and out of your life without leaving negativity stains on your emotional carpet. Spray yourself down with mental scotch-guard. The best defense for this is pity. Horrible people have horrible lives. Maybe they have more money, better cars, a nicer house, a prettier wife, than you, but for some reason, they are unable to appreciate what they have. That is something to be pitied.
     Another defense is thankfulness. Be grateful that you didn't accidentally marry someone that negative. ((unless you did, then I'm really sorry)) Be grateful that person's unhappiness isn't YOUR unhappiness.

     Most of the time, the situations that anger us are not caused intentionally. They are caused by small, insensitive, and repeated slights from those we love. Instead of allowing these situations to cause familial discord, ignore them. Which will take you longer, fighting with your spouse about taking the garbage out, or taking it out yourself? I ask myself this. Would I rather have an evening full of yelling and hurtfulness, or a happy evening together? This works in reverse as well. If your spouse/roommate/parent asks you to do something that you don't really feel like doing, just get it done. It will make everyone happier in the long run.
    Another option is to just let their chore go undone. Perhaps they'll get to it eventually. Let people work within their own time frames. They are your spouse, not your employee.
     If someone hurts your feelings, try to remember, that they didn't do it intentionally. They probably didn't even realize they were being hurtful. Rather than take the offensive, consider first. Are you being reasonable? Are your hurt feelings really his/her fault or are you being oversensitive? Is it important enough to ruin the rest of your day over?

     Sometimes it is their fault. Sometimes it is a big deal. Just remember, once people start yelling, they stop listening. Once the yelling starts, it becomes a contest, and everybody likes to win.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me

I turn 30 in an hour. I guess it's supposed to be a big deal but it doesn't feel like one. When my mom turned 30 she went out with a group of friends, got drunk,  and got a tattoo. I don't think I'll be going to that extreme. :)

I'm thinking cake with my family and writing.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Madden '12

Madden and ESPN are holding a vote to decide who is going to grace the cover of Madden 2012. They are down to two finalists. Michael Vick of the Eagles and Peyton Hillis from the Browns. I'm not really a football fan and I don't play Madden but I DETEST Michael Vick. I don't care how much money he donates or time he volunteers. I have no respect for someone who would hurt and kill animals the way he did. Taking sweet puppies and turning them into aggressive fighting dogs is twisted. So, boo for Michael Vick and everyone should go to

and vote for Peyton Hillis.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Are writers allowed to take sick days?

I haven't written anything in 4 days. My allergy meds have been knocking me on my ass. Mostly I've been sniffling and sleeping. It makes me wonder something though. How do people who take 10 years to write a single book manage to keep the enthusiasm burning? For the past 3 days, perhaps because I'm not writing, ideas for other books keep popping into my head. I've been jotting them down as they come to me... about 3 a day... but how do I keep my internal obsession focused on the RIGHT idea. And once I do get to those other books, how do I reignite the excitement for them?

I hope this makes sense. :)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Is There Something Holding You Back?

When I was a kid, all I ever wanted to be was a writer. When I grew up, I convinced myself that it was a pipe dream and created more achievable goals. I went to college for years and changed my major 8 times. I had so many ideas for stories, books, screenplays, and I never even started one. I wrote for class. Often. If I compiled every essay, research paper, oral presentation, and writing assignment, I could create 2 full length, and boring novels. My diaries could make ten.

Why were the research papers easy, while the fiction was so hard? It's the same thing. Writing a blog, writing an essay, writing a novel. You give your audience what they want. Why is giving an analysis of the themes in Macbeth  easier than telling a story? Answer: it isn't. It was all in my head.

When I wanted to write fiction I would sit at my computer and NOT write. I would judge every line. I couldn't get through an entire paragraph without needing to reread the entire thing and pronounce myself useless. I expected perfection without experience.

I have learned a little in the past month. It doesn't need to be perfect, it just needs to get done. It's okay if my first draft is complete garbage because every edit will be better than the one before. You have to mine a lot of dirt to get diamonds. Giving myself permission to suck has freed me.

So, while I'm qualified to give advice about very little, I AM qualified to give advice about this: If this sounds familiar to you, anonymous reader, if you too have struggled with the passion to write but the inability to actually finish something, JUST WRITE. Write anything. Write badly. If the scene isn't coming to you, just describe what you can and move on. If you aren't sure what comes next, skip to a scene that you'll be able to write more easily. Give yourself permission to suck.

Now I have an hour before I need to leave for work, and I'm going to go write something terrible.  ;)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

While I should have been working...

Here's what I was doing last night when I should have been working. The best book covers I've seen all have people in them, but there's no way I'd be able to work on something that complicated. There's a local artist I might try to commission for something more professional.

Chapter 1

Monday, April 11, 2011

Speaking of Product Descriptions...

This is the trial blurb that I have on my website, what do you think?

One thousand years in the future, an extraordinary woman will have to make a choice between losing her humanity or her life. Lythian Kennett is a vampire trapped in a world she despises. A fatal misstep draws her out of the shadows and into the fight of her life. Persued by a relentless adversary, one mistake could cost her not only her own life, but those of her companions as well. 

She never asked to be their leader. 

She never asked to be their savior. 

But then again, she never asked to be a vampire... 


I'm conflicted. I'm getting to the 1/2 way point in my novel Out of the Shadows, and I'm torn on what to do with it when it's done. How do I want to release it? There's the classic method, send it off to agents, cross your fingers, have them send it off to publishers, cross your fingers, then wait, and wait, and wait. Or there's the kindle self-pub method, stick it online, market, market, market, and cross your fingers.

People tend to be in one camp or the other. Either they think self-pubbing is for the desperate and untalented, OR they think that letting a publishing house control and profit off of your work is stupid. I don't know where I stand.

I believe that some of the traditional publishing methods are inefficient. They could definitely stand to have their entire business completely remodeled. Just because a business is running in the black, doesn't mean that it couldn't be streamlined. It also takes forever to start seeing any actual money.

When it comes to kindle publishing, I  believe that making a self-pubbed kindle book profitable over the long term would be hard. Marketing, networking and the like is fantastic if you're a likable person with interesting opinions, but what if you aren't? What if you can tell a story like nobody's business, but are otherwise an enormously boring person? What if you can't get anyone to even check out your book on Amazon?

When I ask myself which is more important, the thrill of having my book on the shelf at Barnes and Noble, or the possibility of making a steady monthly paycheck with my writing, I'm lost. But, if I look at it from a failure stand point, my options do start to come a little clearer.

What if I submit to 100 agents and no one wants to rep me? What if I publish on kindle and make $2 a month? What if I publish traditionally, DO manage to sell my novel to a publisher, get the standard $5-7k, the book doesn't earn out, and they kick me to the curb? What do my options become then?

So, I've decided on a middle of the road compromise. Instead of choosing one over the other I'm going to hedge my bets. I'm setting a time limit. From the day I send out my first bunch of queries, I'll wait 3 months. If I haven't gotten a positive response back from an agent within that time frame, I will post my work up on kindle. This will give me time to further polish my novel, format it, design cover art, release a second teaser chapter,  do some market research, create an irresistible product description, immerse myself more fully into message boards, blogs, and get my name out to more people.

What does everyone else think? Which is the more appealing choice? If three years ago, this choice didn't even exist, and now it's this hard to chose to between them, what will the state of publishing be in another 3 years?

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Yesterday was only a 1/2 day for writing. I had to go grocery shopping in the afternoon and then to work afterwards. I did manage to get over 2,000 words in just a few hours but this success pales in comparison to my other accomplishment of the day...

My website is FINISHED!!! and uploaded. I am so very excited.

Jimmie Hammel's Website

There are links to my facebook account if anyone wants to friend me, and I posted a few pieces of fiction as well.

Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


I spent all day yesterday in front of my computer. I had two things that I wanted to get done. I knew I wouldn't do both so I let myself choose.

#1- Get some writing done on the first book in a series I'm working on. (Escaping Death: The Lythian Kennett Chronicles... futuristic, dystopian, space drama, with vampires, zombies, and flying cars. It's so much fun to write. I can't wait to see what people of think of the finished product.)

#2 - Design and Upload my new website. 

I have managed to design the website in my head. That's an important first step. Figuring out what I want it to look like is always the hardest part for me, but I didn't get anything down on paper, metaphorically speaking. I spent the day working on my novel. 

This is good, and also disheartening. I don't write very quickly. I'll be lucky to churn out 250 words in an hour. The most I've done in a single day (before yesterday) was about 1k. They aren't easy words either. They're hard, wrung sponge for a brain hard. A couple hours of that and my head hurts. There's a reason for it, I don't draft. When I write, every word comes out exactly the way I want it on my first try. It might take me longer, but I don't have to do much editing later. I can just move around a couple of sentences, maybe reorder some paragraphs. 

I got online yesterday afternoon and found some numbers. 1k isn't bad for literary fiction writers, however, 3k-15k seems to be the standard for genre. I decided that I needed to step up my game. I googled ((you would think Google would have added that verb to the spell check dictionary for their Chrome web browser)) writing speed to find some more stats on average daily production for writers and found a cute little site where people  posted the writing quirks of different famous authors. Evidently, all writers are obsessed with their speed. I found one mention of a man who would pull his hat down over his eyes while he was typing so he couldn't read what he had already written. Why not?

I fetched a scarf from my bedroom, put in my ear buds. I like to listen to eerie, atmospheric, wordless, goth music while I write. Then I tied the scarf around my eyes. I spent a minute giggling at the silliness of it, then I wrote 1300 words in an hour. They aren't perfect words, but neither are they bad. In fact, the darkness, coupled with the music, helped me see my scenes more clearly. I'm gonna try it for a few hours this morning. Hopefully I'll be able to get to the point where I'm disciplined enough to just keep my eyes closed. I'll post my results before I go to work tonight. Wish me luck.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Web Page

For the past week I've been thinking about increasing my internet presence and what that might entail. I decided I needed a few new accounts: an email, a blog, a youtube, a twitter, a facebook, and a website. Signing up for the first few was easy peasy. The website... not so much. I didn't want to sign up for a tripod account. I've done that a couple times before. I wanted something entirely mine. WWW.JIMMIEHAMMEL.COM... It was a huge pain in the ass.

First you have to choose a domain registrar, then you need site host, most hosts offer registrar services but there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of these companies! Which to choose? It's hard to tell because the online reviews for several of my first picks, appeared to be faked. They just seemed to complimentary. I finally did find one that I liked. They'll register your domain name for $8.99 a year and the monthly charge for their hosting services is based on the amount of space you use and the number of hits you get. It's super cheap for someone just starting out. If it ever starts to cost more $7 a month, I can switch to an unlimited hosting service.

So I get my hosting service and they register my domain name, all is swell. Now I need an ftp uploading program... that's something I never had to bother with when using Tripod. They had a pretty user friendly GUI. But I try out one called "fling"... couldn't figure it out. At this point I'm feeling a wee bit frustrated. Turns out my "site" is called something different and my domain is an alias... I need to link my site to my domain... then I need a username and password which are not the ones I chose but ones they assigned me... and some kind of file key... lolz... I wanted to rip out my own hair. But my host recommends a different ftp uploader called WinSCP so I try that one out and voila, I manage to get all this stuff entered into the right boxes and my "under construction" page uploaded.

But then it's been a couple years since I created my own website so of course I named it MAIN when it should have been named INDEX and spent another hour trying to figure out why I was still getting an error message when I tried to look at it...

But there is an upside. I now understand the mechanics a bit better. I have full control over my site and no one can put advertisements on it except for me. I have a central hub from which I can easily refer people to all my different social networking sites. It'll take me a day or so to create a fully functioning website to replace the "under construction" place holder but I'm excited. Can't wait to show my mom!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Something Old, Something New

When I was 16 I desperately wanted to be a writer and a friend of a friend of my grandmother's had published 7 or so books. My grandmother started sending me autographed copies of this woman's work and though I was initially skeptical, they turned out to be amazing. My family took a trip to Kansas one summer and while we were there my grandmother took me and my new favorite author out to dinner. To be honest, it was 14 years ago and I don't remember a thing that we talked about. I do have a picture commemorating the event. (Why oh why did I ever think that skunk hairdo was cute?) At the time, most of her books had gone out of print and she wasn't publishing anymore. We kept in touch on AIM for a few years and at one point she let me read a draft of a screenplay she had written. (I cannot begin to tell you how giddy I was at that opportunity.)
A few days ago I was perusing the kindle store and discovered that she is writing again. She has two new books for sale. I snapped them up immediately and I am elated. I have the day off tomorrow and I will be spending the entire day in bed so I can gobble them both up. I can't wait to review her on Amazon.

Her name is S. K. Epperson. She has written some of the best novels I have ever read. Her most popular novel is Borderland and it's amazing. I think they file her under horror but she isn't just scary. Her novels are crosses between horrors, mysteries, and psychological thrillers. Borderland has just a touch of paranormal tossed in there too (the ghost of a woman who was murdered 200 years before).

Check her out @