Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I'm still here!

Yeah, yeah. I know. I haven't posted in nearly a month. It has been a pretty crazy month, however. My uncle whom I haven't seen in 8 year visited from Virgina. I've been sick, other family members have been sick. Works been crazy, in fact I think I've worked every single weekend since my last posting. Parent-teacher conferences. Co-workers being out for 2/4 weeks and me being in charge of taking over for them while they are out.

The list goes on and on doesn't it? Notice anything about the above list? It's real-life. Nothing really out of the ordinary. I could have even listed that our car is leaking coolant and will need major surgery to replace the head gasket, but that wouldn't really matter. What I see up there are a list of things that just happen to everyone.

The choice to stop updating the blog while the banana hit the fan was mine however. I could make up some excuse about how I literally didn't have the time, but I did. I chose to spend it other ways. I could have found a half an hour twice a week to squeeze in a really short but upbeat blog posting on some random topic, but instead I let it slip through the cracks as I dealt with real life.

Nothing wrong with this at all. To me writing is a hobby, and one that has to be set to the side for a while while I deal with other things in life. Like everyone else in this world, I have many other tasks, all pressing for my time. How we choose to spend them is ultimately what we'll accomplish in life.

So there ends my apology without apologizing. I'm still here, still kicking, still dreaming about writing, and still updating the blog.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

We're going digital!

Last post, I extolled the merits of pen & paper. Today I want to talk about doing away with that outmoded system, We’re going digital!

I’m a proponent of going paperless. I know I’m a geek, I’ve resigned myself to that fact. Going paperless, however, is not as easy as it seems. We don’t always have immediate access to a computer, internet connectivity, and there are still many things that just don’t translate well from pen to keyboard.

I already talked about how universally easy it is to jot down notes on a pad a paper. So what can possibly replace such a universal, inexpensive, and portable option? So far I haven’t found anything. Short of expensive devices like iPhones or other PDA’s, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find something that beats the old standby.

If you have one, however, the iPhone comes close. Most smart-phones should fit this category as well. I can pull up notes and type out something fairly quickly. I can turn on the voice recorder and leave myself an audio reminder. I can even email myself, or look something up on wikipedia to find out if the idea I have is correct. It does come in handy, but it’s not perfect.

Something does get lost in the translation. It’s hard to doodle in the margins like you can on paper. Underlining does not have the same impact as ink, where the thickness of the line left by your pen can convey as much information as a full sentence typed out on the computer.

I also own and love the Kindle, Amazon’s ebook reader. The e-ink display is just like reading real paper. I don’t get eye strain like I do on a crt or even lcd monitor. I can store hundreds of books and take them wherever I go. I can create bookmarks and even take notes.

The Kindle, however, is not perfect. Battery life for an avid reader will only last you a couple days. I also recently read about a group of students in Princeton that found it difficult to take proper notes on the Kindle. Seems it’s just easier to jot down something in the margin of a paper book.

Ebooks have a ways to go. Right now I think the pdf conversion is seriously lacking, but that’s something that will eventually be fixed as more and more books are designed with ebook readers in mind and not just a quick port at the last minute. The cost does need to come down as well.

No, we definitely lose the personal touch when we go digital.

Still, ultimately I type everything into the computer, it’s my natural habitat and a place I know I’ll never leave. I’ll still continue to out-think my pen and my computer. Until we are one with our computers, able to spew down words as fast as our minds can think, I will keep straddling the digital divide hoping to hold on to a simpler method. One that I hope will never go out of style.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Easy Come, Easy Go.

So I had a great week two weeks ago. Woke up on time. Worked out early in the morning. Wrote on my blog, did research for the outline of my novel. Even had plenty of time to rip through a few books that I'd been wanting to read.

Life has a way of changing on a dime, and unless you are always on the ball and don't make excuses from events around you, it's very easy to fall into The Trap. I'm not one of those, life hands my lemons, I throw my hands up in the air and decide to play video games instead of make the lemonade.

Last week was a big Trap for me. Work got busy and made me stay late each day, insomnia crept in, my wife had some things to do at night so I took over homework and bedtime responsibilities. It's amazing how quickly you can go from great to horrible overnight.

I woke up (late again) on Thursday realizing that I'd only done the rough draft of my blog post. I sat down mumbling to myself about it and decided that I was just going to skip it. Well, skipping it turned into a all-weekend long thing.

So here it is, late Sunday night, finally sitting down to get back into the swing of things. Life loves to spice things up and last week was just too spicy. The great thing about weeks however, is you can restart them over and over, so here goes.

Let's get back into the game!

Monday, September 21, 2009


Ahh the typewriter, something my children already know as an antique. I wonder if the keyboard will be as antiquated by the time they are explaining it to their jacked-in Matrix-style children? Technology moves fast, but sometimes old standbys work well.

It really is hard to beat pen and paper. Sure we might not have to kill animals for hides or use chisels for cutting stone anymore, but the basic premise of a writing tool manually used by human hands to permanently mar a writing surface have served mankind for thousands of years. 

The printing press helped bring the printed word to the masses, but I don’t think the writing scene really changed till the typewriter was introduced in the 1800’s. Now we’ve taken the next step, to computers, and I doubt we’ll ever look back. 

Nowadays entire books can be sent from country to country in mere seconds. Print on Demand devices like the Espresso can have an entire trade paperback in you hands in just a few minutes. Printed, glued, cut, and bound. 

While the ability to get words to print has been streamlined, I struggle sometimes with getting thoughts to words in the first place. If I’m walking down the road or in the shower when an idea comes to me, it’s hard to jump on a keyboard and get those ideas down before I lose them. I still find pen and paper invaluable for those spontaneous outbursts of muse. 

That’s why I still strive to keep around pen and paper. Not everywhere, mind you, but anywhere I might spend a lot of time; the car, office, bed-stand; you’ll find ye-olde writing utensils, ready for me to jot something down.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Book Review: The Host: A Novel

Dear Reader:

If I ever ever think about reading another Stephenie Meyer book, please take my Kindle away.

I told myself I was done with the Twilight series but no! I had to trust Amazon's "top 10" lists and throw caution to the wind.

The Host, touted as a sci-fi novel, is the tale of a Soul (alien) that is implanted into a human here on earth and takes over her body. As cool as this possible alien invasion sounds, the book was a romance novel. Course the entire Twilight  series was as well, so there is little doubt that my daughter would love this book just as much.

I just can't take the selfless female hell-bent on making others happy at the expense of causing herself pain and anguish. No more. I wouldn't put up with it in my life.

Now don't get me wrong, it was a pretty good novel. I have to hand it to Stephenie for coming up with unique ways of bringing vampires and aliens to life. I just don't like her genre.

Despite my self-loathing (it's rubbing off on me apparently) for reading yet-another book by her, Stephenie came up with a pretty darn good tale. She's quite imaginative. Phoenix isn't brought up in many books, and it's pretty neat seeing my home-town in a story. I appreciate the localization.

So read it if you must. If you liked Twilight, you will probably like The Host. If, like me, you wanted to slap Bella into next week partway through New Moon, don't' say I didn't warn you.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

How I spend my time writing. Part Five: Research

Oh research, how you like to wile away my time! I love research, Jennifer doesn't. When it comes time to figure out what new mattress we should buy, or the best price/performance ratio for a new TV, I’m all over that. I could spend hours (and have) doing nothing but researching. Some might call it surfing the web, but I prefer to call it research.
So how important is research for novels? Depends. I always imagined Dan Brown or Tom Clancy doing copious amounts of research to weave such an intricate tale into modern or recent history. Finding obscure references from ancient texts or linking ancient masonic symbols into the latest thriller novel seems like it’s something you definitely need research for. Or you could just make shit up. It works for many authors, like Stephen King, who wrote stories about places he'd never visited.
Which sorts of things should I research? I say research what you need in order to make the story come alive. In reading the Twilight series, I wondered if Stephenie Meyer ever visited Forks, or if it was just a made up town. Turns out it’s a real town, and their official website is capitalizing on her novels. Regardless of wether she visited the town or not, Stephenie needed to understand enough about the town so that she could represent it well enough in her books to make it come alive. Things like how long it takes Bella to drive from her home to high school or La Push help bring the story alive to the reader. Things that we can relate to, like driving distances or falling down on the ice after living in Phoenix your whole life give us relatable experiences that draw in your reader. 
How much time should I dedicate to research? You probably can’t research a topic too much. But I’m also (ahem) a newbie writer and will probably redact that statement as time goes on. I say it from a standpoint of a writer who’s still working on getting into the groove. Some might say it’s hampering my creativity, but it makes me feel more comfortable when I know more about a topic. Not all that research should make it into the story, only the parts that you need to convey to the reader. The more I know about a topic, the more minute details I can convey to the reader without having to give the bigger picture. It makes me seem smarter than I really am, knowing those details.
As for finding the time, good luck on that one. I can literally spend all day surfing the…I mean researching things. The trick I use is to keep a list (long list for me) of topics I need to research and when I find 10 minutes here and there I snag those, grab the topic at the top and start. A smartphone with internet connectivity comes in handy here if you’re on the go a lot. I count reading in your genre as research.
How do I do it? My favorite tool is an RSS reader. I also use Wikipedia and of course my favorite Professor of all, Google.
What am I working on right now? Well I recently pulled up a small town in Vermont on Google Maps that I’m finding pictures of so that I can incorporate those into my story. Google Maps, or the more robust Google Earth is great because it incorporates pictures that users have uploaded from that area. Now I can see exactly how that lake looks, or the pipeline that hangs 14 feet over the dirt road. Those are details I can incorporate into my story to make my characters (and the reader) seem like they know the area.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Book Review: The Lost Symbol

The Lost Symbol
by Dan Brown

I read this book on my Kindle, so it was already downloaded by the time I woke up yesterday. Read for an hour during lunchtime and I knew I was hooked. Started reading again after work and don't even remember eating. Finished around midnight. I've loved Robert Langdon in his previous two books and this one was another great read. Dan Brown mixes ancient texts and real-life locations with made-up people. I couldn't stop reading.

Reading the book is like listening to a lecture on history, science, religion, and architecture. But while the instructor is talking to you he is juggling a live grenade, chainsaw, and a feral cat at the same time. You know something is going to go bad, you just don't know which item at which point.

That is until the end. The feral cat and the grenade has gone off, the chainsaw's out of gas, but the instructor didn't get through all of his material, so he info dumps the last bit on you as the bell is ringing and you are pining to get out the door and go to lunch.

That's what reading the book is like. I loved the book, don't get me wrong, I just felt like it was too much like college. You can get past the lecturing as long as there is a grenade in the room. Other than the last 5% of the book and Dan's serious push about God in the book, I liked The Lost Symbol. I was a little dissapointed in what the symbol actually was, but well you'll just have to read the book :-)

Monday, September 14, 2009

How I spend my time writing. Part Four: Actually Writing

I try to write every day. I don’t meet that goal, but I try. Writing on a daily basis helps keep my mind focused on my goal of finishing a novel next year. 
So how do I find time to write? It was easy. I cut back on video games, TV and movies. Three things that I certainly enjoyed, but were low on the priority list when I need more time to devote to certain tasks. I still sit down and watch a movie with the family every couple weeks, and I can’t avoid 30 Rock, but cutting back on the hours was the easy part. The hard part is actually doing something with those available hours.
What time I’ve gained does not translate directly to hours writing. Once I sit down at the computer there are a myriad of things to distract me. Facebook needs checking, see who is listed on instant messenger, my RSS reader has 14 new articles, should I check my email just in case someone sent me something important? 
To help me combat this deluge of distractions, I created a second login on my computer just for writing. I removed all the icons from the desktop, I cleaned up as much as I could. Black and white desktop background, only the most essential programs available from the dock that I need to write. This certainly isn’t perfect, but it’s better. I still have access to the internet, I could get distracted nearly as easy, but it helps, and it’s enough to keep me focused on my task at hand.
My writing schedule isn’t set in stone. I’m working on trying to find the optimum time for me to write. Some days I do it right after work, but that doesn’t always work that well for me as I’m generally too wound up to get into the mood. That’s right, the old headache excuse, it works for guys too ya know.
Writing once the kids are in bed has it’s merits, but it’s also the only time I have in a day to spend time with my wife, so I’m torn. Plus if I’m too wound up from writing, I’ll have a hard time falling asleep and I’ve been working really hard to get my sleep patterns better the last few months.
The morning would work but living in the Phoenix area means the only good time I can go walking outside is early in the morning, so right now that’s out. Till I figure it out better, I’ll just find time in my day and make sure I write. 
Regardless of what time I work on my novel, the blog is still priority for now. So it gets the available slot in the mornings before work. Blogging helps me organize my thoughts and I have a surprising number of ideas that pop into my head while I’m working on my blog. The idea I had while I was writing this was how my book is being influenced by His Dark Materials series…that’s something I’ll have to make sure I tone down. Then again that series is one of my favorites, maybe I’ll leave it in!
So with all those thoughts down, I’ll close down this blog entry and actually get some writing done. My next blog entry will be on research, something I’ll be doing a lot of in the coming weeks.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Book Review: His Dark Materials

His Dark Materials
by Philip Pullman

Story of Lyra who is swept up into one of the most epic battles between good and evil.

I just finished the trilogy tonight. Wow what a rush. Pullman knows how to tell a good story. I also appreciated his ability to make up vast worlds and the creatures within them is amazing. I hope that I can learn to describe in my book half as well as him. Now I should re-watch the movie!

Prior to this I'd only made it halfway through the entire series, it was great to finally finish all three books. Not sure if this series is in my top ten, I'd have to sit down and make a top 10 list first...maybe for a future posting.

Sorry so short, but this is the first one I've done and I'm not sure about how I want to format these reviews. Mainly I just want to document my reading and hopefully pass on any good book ideas to my readers.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Eight Years - a special 9/11 tribute post.

Eight Years. Four Planes. 3017 Lives Lost.
My employer allowed us to take the day off. Most of us did that day, no work getting done regardless. The hours huddled in front of the television that night with my wife and small children, wondering what the future would hold.
Ever since that day, we have been a nation divided. Two elections that have polarized the left and the right. Two wars that may provide more questions than answers. Two Presidents with very differing views on how to run our great country. 
Laws have been passed. Citizen’s rights have been revoked. Racial profiling has occurred. The government has much more access into our personal lives. Sons have been taken from mothers.
Has much changed? Some wonder if we’ll ever get past it as a nation. Sometimes I wonder if we’ve already forgotten. Plenty has changed however. The question is do we even notice?  How many keep close in their minds the events of that day? How many of us barely pay it a thought? Do we get irritated as we’re taking our shoes off at the airport? How much security do we really have? Is it keeping the terrorists out or is it keeping the citizens in? How do we honor our dead properly while still having business space on some of the most expensive real estate in the world?
I watch as my children get dressed and head off to school. Today is special. Today is Tribute to America Day. Teachers and faculty don’t speak to them about the events of that day, they only speak of how great our nation is. The schools treat it like another 4th of July, when it should be treated like another Pearl Harbor. How can we belittle the dead like that? What do we hope to accomplish by not being honest and open with our children?
I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in God, I believe in people. I believe in our nation. I believe that we can rise above the divisions that have been weighing us down for so long. I believe that we as a nation are still strong, that we will fight for our freedoms, and not be bogged down in tyranny. I believe that we can overcome and triumph and become better people.
Regardless of your religious, political, or moral views, I hope that we as a nation can set those aside today to properly honor our dead. I hope that we can be a nation indivisible, as our founding fathers hoped we would be.  I hope that we present a strong front and an even stronger foundation. 
I will not forget.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

How I spend my time writing. Part Three: Reading

So why is reading so important and what should you be reading? There are a number of reasons why reading is so important for writers. It helps you understand the genre in which you are writing better. Reading also helps you learn which topics to expound upon or even avoid in your own writing. Learning what other people have done before you will also help develop your own voice as a writer, The more reading you do, the easier it becomes to write because you’ve spent so much time learning the craft of writing with out even knowing you were being taught. You’re essentially taking English and creative writing classes for free while enjoying a good story. It might not be a lot, but you’ll pick up on more than you think.

If you don't have time to read, you don't have time to write.
-Stephen King

So what are good things to read? First off read what you love. Reading anything is more important that not. As the venerable Mark Twain said, “
The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.” So make sure you are reading all the time. In doing a little research on this blog post I came across a comment by a reader that said he read one book per week. Personally I find this pretty doable, but I’m a fast reader. Do what is comfortable. Do it every day.

Reading before bed is the best time for me. I have had trouble sleeping for years and the old curling up with a good book is one of the best things to help me relax, at least half of the time. The other half it ends up keeping me up till 3 am because I can’t put the book down. Oh well, at least I’m reading right?

Read books about writing. As a newbie writer who has no formal training in the craft of writing, or the English language (see previous entires on how little I learned in High School), I have a lot to teach myself. I need to re-learn grammar, punctuation, outlining, plot, characterization. Whole mess of stuff that I have to cram into this brain of mine.

I love the Dummies books. Whenever I want to learn a new topic, be it gardening, writing, philosophy or yoga, I find myself gravitating to the Dummies series of books. They are concise, funny, and I find give you a good overall knowledge on a particular topic. There is probably a reason why they’ve lasted so long and sell so well. They also give me a bibliography and usually plenty more books to put on my reading list.

Past the dummies plug however, there are many many books by authors on how to write. I’ll be posting those up in future posts as I read through them. Right now I’m reading First Draft in 30 Days by Karen Wiesner. Mid-way though writing chapter two of my novel I realized I had no idea where I was going with my story. So I stopped a week and a half ago and I’m forcing myself to not write any more until I have a solid detailed outline in front of me.

So what have I just finished reading?

I recently (finally) finished the Harry Potter Series. (Had to re-read 1-6 before I picked up 7)

I also finished the Twilight series.

I’m currently reading His Dark Materials Series again. (Pullman is one of my favorite authors. )

In the near future I have The Dark Tower series I want to read again. (Again one of my favorite series of books.)

I’ve also come across a new series called The Dark is Rising, that I’ll probably pick up after that.

I also can’t wait for Dan Brown’s new book to get released. I was a fan of Angels and Demons before Da Vinci Code hit it big. So glad he has another one being released soon.

I’ll be starting a new segment once I finish my next set of books. I’ll start posting up mini-reviews of the books that I finish. It will help me document what I’ve read and what notes I had on that book (useful for me to refer back to) plus I hope I might turn on my readers to something new.

So what are you reading? What series are your favorites? If you’ve read any of the books I’ve listed what are your thoughts on them?

Monday, September 7, 2009

How I spend my time writing. Part Two: Blog baby blog!

   I like the process as it gives me specific tasks to complete each day of the week. This keeps me coming back to the computer on a daily schedule and forces me to appease the writing side of myself every day. I believe that anyone can squeeze an hour out of their day if they truly want to accomplish something. This blog is important to me, so it's one of the first things I do early in the morning. I make it a priority and I'm sure the time I spend on it is worth it.

   The thought of spending 7 hours on a secondary pursuit that is not actually writing the novel may seem contradictory. After all, I could be spending those 7 hours a week actually writing my novel. So why do I devote so much time to blogging? Two main reasons: first it gets me thinking about writing on daily basis, and the second main reason is marketing.

   Writing on a daily basis is important. I put this novel down 15 years ago and have found enough excuses to not pick it back up again till now. I don't want to risk that again. Blogging on a daily basis keeps me focused on the writing process. I have a lot of research to do for this novel, both for inside the book and for the writing craft itself. The blog gives me a place to organize those thoughts as well as refine my skills as a writer. I have to come up with ideas, lay them out in a logical pattern, do the actual writing, then copious amounts of editing to make each post worthy of being published. By nature I'm a sloppy writer. This process every week helps me slowly pay attention to details, so that as I write my novel I'm more apt to write better, have fewer edits down the road, and thus become better overall.

   While writing the book is important, marketing the book is the other half of the coin that many people don't think about. As a new author, I'll be among thousands of book pitches out there on the market. How I present my brand (book as well as my own) is going to be important. Blogging helps me develop a sense of who I am as a writer. Hopefully when that book deal hits the shelves and I'm being interviewed by Oprah I'll have already answered all questions to myself in the blog before I do them in front of a live audience. It also gets me thinking about the mechanics of publishing and marketing early in the book’s career. I have a short window to get my book sold. Now's the time to start thinking about how that will happen, and building up the buzz for when my novel is released.

   So blogging is an integral part of the writing process, at least for me. With the change of tides in the writing and publishing industry, we’ll see how it integral it becomes in the future. At very least, all authors need to have a website, and should be keeping their fans updated on various things. I hope this blog accomplishes all that I’ve set out to do.

   How has blogging helped you in your life? Do you use it as a journal, as a marketing tool, or even as your writing method of choice? As always comments are welcome and encouraged.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Change in URL

Quick post to let everyone know I changed the URL for this blog to be http://www.newbiewriter.com. The URL should have auto-updated if you got here from the previous link.

I think the URL meets the goals of this blog better and will be more of a general writing and publishing blog than the tale of a specific novel.

Please pass this url along to anyone you thing might be interested in my blog.

Many Thanks,

Tom H.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

How I spend my time writing. Part One: Time itself

Time is always on most minds these days. I don't have enough time. I need 28 hour or 36 hour days to get everything done. I hear things like this all the time (get it) and personally I think it's a bunch of crap. I'm a very reality-based person, I don't like dealing with "what-if's" if I can help it. We can't control time. Short of being on a spaceship traveling close to the speed of light, nothing we can do, nothing we read, no amount work or effort will succeed with us slowing down time or adding more hours to our day.

So what are we supposed to do if we can't change time? We can manage our own better. 

I'm always getting after my kids when they clean their room to make better use of their time. Instead of picking up piece of garbage and walking all the way to the kitchen to the trashcan, pick up 5 or 10, or better yet bring the trashcan to your room one time. Those of you that know me personally understand all the different hobbies I flitter in and out of almost on a monthly basis. I have the attention span of a 1st grader without all the cuteness. I try to be realistic about what I can and cannot do.

In getting ready for this novel I've decided to break my time up in smaller chunks. I know that I don't have the focus to sit down for 6 hours at a time and hammer on the keyboard yet. I'm just not that good.  In breaking up my writing throughout the day, it helps me stay focused on the task at hand. I'm also less likely to allow each task to take over too much of my valuable time and I can ensure each area gets some time each day. 

Going from a do-nothing guy to writing a book has been a humbling experience. I'm an avid gamer, and outside of work and family, the last 4+ years have found myself filling up  my free-time with games, mainly World of Warcraft. I've made plenty of friends there and find it quite an enjoyable use of time. However a lot of that had to change when I decided to re-start writing a novel. Not only do I need to find time to write, but I also needed to research on how to write, publish, and market my book. Don't forget spending time reading similar books from other authors in the genre. I also decided to start up this blog as somewhat of a creative/research outlet as well as a future marketing tool. This all takes time. So WoW has been put on the back burner (though I still show up to our Thursday night raids to wipe on Hodir :-)

The next few posts will focus on how I break up my writing schedule.

So how have I allotted my time? I have four main things that I do on a daily basis that have filled in all those extra gaps of time:

  • Blogging
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Research

The next four blog posts will go into more detail on these four subjects. As always, comments are welcome and encouraged. 

Monday, August 31, 2009

My History on writing

So how did I get into writing in the first place? 

I started writing when I was 15. My Sophomore English teacher gave us an assignment to write a short story. As usual, I procrastinated the assignment and threw together some drivel about how bleak the world around me was during those first few minutes awake. The dreary shadows, the somber mood, how much better it would be if I wasn't alive... you know, happy normal teenager stuff.

It wasn't anything special in my mind, but I after reading to the class, my teacher was nearly in tears and asked to see me after class. At first I thought she was going to turn me in to the School Counselor, but it turned out that she loved it. She praised my story and reccomended that I join the Creative Writing Club. Fearing repercussions for getting beat up for going to that geek-filled club (I was a nerd at best) I turned her down initially.

Once I realized the girl to boy ration in the club however, I finally relented and started showing up once a week to share in student's writing. I ended up enjoying it quite a bit and by my Junior year I had decided to write a novel. I came up with the basic outline and first eight chapters over the next year in between numerous short stories. 

I was clearly very naive about what made good literature, and the glad-handing nature of the writing club didn't help either. Students who don't know how to write themselves hardly make good critics. Most important was us having fun and we all kept writing and sharing. I developed a love for listening to new ideas, and telling stories of my own. I started writing everyday, keeping a free-write journal as well as scouring all the books I could find about the craft. I would carry around a notepad and pen everywhere I went to jot down notes whenever an idea would pop into my mind. 

Unfortunately, life took a different turn after leaving high school and I stopped writing shortly afterwards. My voracious reading habit slowed significantly the more children we had. 15 years and four children later I was barely reading a couple novels a year. The trigger for me was when my oldest daughter started reading what I would consider her first "grown-up" book, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. Not wanting to be outdone by an 11 year old, I beat her to the punch by reading all 4 books in that series before she could. 

Reading up on Stephanie's bio online got me thinking. Here is a housewife with small children, lives in my area (Phoenix), and wrote a book in three months while juggling normal family life. 

I was impressed. So much impressed that I couldn't stop thinking about all the dreams and goals I had made in my youth. A little research later and I knew getting something published and making out like Meyer did would be near-impossible, but I still wanted to write. I needed to finish telling my story. I wanted to see my book in hardback whether I was the only one who bought it or not. 

The time was right, I pulled out my old manuscript, and promptly gagged when I read what I had written so long ago. It was horrible, and someday I'll post up the original manuscript. Suffice it to say that about the only thing staying is a couple of the names of the characters and some basic plots. Past that, the baby's been thrown out as well as the kitchen sink and I'm starting from scratch.

I look forward to the upcoming months. I know it will be a lot of hard work, but the end result will be worth it. I'd love to hear anyone else's experiences with writing or comments on my blog!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Initial Thoughts on Self Publishing:

Do I think I can really publish my book?  Hell yeah I can!  With today's myriad of self-publishing methods, especially the POD (Print on Demand) services, I can publish my book quite easily. Only problem is, I might be the only one who purchases it! In this blog posting I'll talk briefly about the two main methods of getting your book published. These will be high-level overviews that I plan on expanding in future posts. These are initial thoughts in regard to the subject. I hope to come back to them later so I can see how my ideas have changed either internally or externally in regards to self-publishing.

Traditional methods of publishing generally require you to: 
1. Find an agent.
2. Said agent finds an editor to buy the book. 
3. Editor makes tons of changes to the book.
4. You get setup on a schedule, sometimes a year and a half later, for when your book will be published.
5. Books get printed, shipped and you sit back and let the money roll in.  Usually there's a bottle of Remy Martin's and a couple cubans involved.

Did I get it all correct? 

Well almost, this is an oversimplified method of the publishing process, but the more I research traditional publishing, it's becoming more and more clear that unless you're already an established author, the chances of you getting them to even pick up your book and making enough money from advances to live on is pretty damned slim.  

Your involvement as an author doesn't stop once they send you a check and the book hits the printers. There's still marketing which as a new author is almost entirely left on your shoulders if you want your book to be a success. I'll get into that later in another blog post.

A growing trend for new authors is to make a name for themselves first by self-publishing their own book. Sure there's a little more up-front work involved with finding your own printer, and choosing layouts for your cover, but you also have much more control over the entire process. Most publishers won't even allow you to choose your book cover, after all the work of writing the book, how frustrating can it be to hand off nearly all the creative rights to your masterpiece?

Since the bulk of the marketing will be on your shoulders anyway, you're really not spending more energy there than you would with traditional publishing methods. There are many websites springing up with information on the process to self publish, one of the ones I like the best is from the How Stuff Works website, I love those guys! A blog I found is one woman's journey into self-publishing. 

The options you have while self-publishing can take any form of involvement you desire as well. You can hand off almost your entire book to services like Lulu (while still retaining full-creative control), or do your homework and hire out only the parts that you need that you can't do yourself. Very flexible, and you can customize exactly how involved you want to be in the process.  

The How Stuff Works site I linked earlier follows the story of one man who self-published and ended up doing quite well for himself, very inspirational story. Some authors choose to remain self-published, as they end up getting (usually) a bigger slice of the profits, others might use it as a marketing ploy to get a big-name publisher to pick them up. Either way, you've made a name for yourself if the book (and your marketing) is a success, and next time you might be able to just sit back on your piles of cash!

So my thoughts? I really like the self-publishing method. I haven't fully formed my thoughts on the changes to the publishing industry, but the my initial reactions is "there has go to be a better way." Since I'll end up doing the majority of the marketing on my own as a new author anyway, I feel it better to test the waters with a more customized solution for my book. 

Print on Demand machine products like the Espresso Book Machine might make it incredibly easy for authors to not have to keep stocks of books at distributers or in their garage. Have one of these machines sitting at your local mall and any customer might be able to pull up your book, insert some cash, and 4 minutes later they have your book in their hands. Another option, and one I'm particularly fond of, is e-books, like the Kindle (which I own btw) or places like Smashwords. I foresee a day short-coming where students will be carrying around an e-book reader instead of 60 lbs of books, that will be an awesome day indeed!

Since I've always concidered myself a "Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves" type of guy, I'm personally looking forward to being a self-published author. The jackass part of me wants to thumb my nose at the big-business publishing industry, but we'll see what I do if they wave that paycheck in front of my face.

So what are your thoughts?  Any recently self-published authors want to share their experiences? What about someone who made the jump from self-published to paid to write?

Monday, August 24, 2009

What are my goals?

A long time ago, in a High School far, far, away, I had a dream.

I dreamt of being a full-time author, making my living holed away in a cabin perched atop a small mountain purchased with my mountains of cash that I received from selling my 19 bestsellers by the time I was in my 30's.

Well, life has a way of changing your perspective. Here I am IN my 30's, spent the last 12 years working in the IT industry supporting Windows servers. We live in an abnormally small house by today's standards, 4 kids in grade school, and the only time I see piles of cash around my house is when the kids spill the Monopoly game on the floor.

Today my dreams have changed. I dream of being able to afford my children's college. I hope that I'm putting away enough so that I can actually retire when I'm in my mid 60's, and not having to work well into my 70's like I do today.

But changing dreams can be a good thing. When I was 15 and had my first aspirations as an author I didn't have a full understanding of the world around me. As I gain wisdom in my few years I realize that life isn't all about being hid away from the world as a reclusive author. Rather I'd prefer to be abreast of the latest happenings on the internet, updating a blog, posting on Twitter and watching my fans grow on Facebook. Course I'm still not an author, but I am working on that.

As far as my goals for this site, they're pretty basic. I just want to update a couple times a week. I hope to keep a log of my frustrations, hits, misses, successes and thoughts about the path to becoming a published author. If it's entertaining for the reader, so much the better. I'd love to get some other authors or hopefuls to follow me and we can work on our goals together. Being social is the norm nowadays. I think it can truly help us grow and support each other in our endeavors.

As far at the goal for my book: I plan on being a published author. I realize that's rather vague, but I'm being realistic and not setting my sights on a bestseller, but I want to dip my foot in the water and come out unscathed.

As long as I can complete it, learn from my mistakes, and come out a better person I think it will be time well spent. If I can encourage or assist another would-be author along the way, so much the better.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

What are my qualifications?

Quite honestly, none.

I don't have an English degree, I never studied literature in college. I skimmed my way through High School English with C'd and D's and even flunked first semester English my senior year. I had to take correspondence course to pass and graduate.

With great trepidation (in case my old English teachers find out where I live) I can proudly say that I never once read a single novel that was assigned to me for English class in High School. (I should go back and read them now though).

"But Tom," you say "how could you possibly have passed your classes if you didn't even read the books?"

And I'd respond "I got lucky."
I'm one of those that can get better than average results by just taking a test. I look for patterns in the questions and answers and base my educated guesses off those. Half the time I'm able to find the answer to question #4 contained in the text of question #19. Half-assing it through school seemed to be a passion of mine and I performed admirably.
I did publish a few articles in the local small-town paper when I was in high school. So I can say I was published...but only barely.

I took some college classes for an IT degree (I'm currently employed as a Systems Engineer at a major IT firm.) But like in High School, college didn't appeal to me, I really did give it the "college" try but I never felt comfortable. See my bio post for more information.

So I have no formal education in writing, English, or publishing. I've never done any for a career, so what makes me think I can write a novel? Well, I think anyone can. As I've been reading up on the writing profession, I see some common threads: first off was tell everyone you're a writer; second was write as much as you can so you'll get better; and third was everyone has a story to tell.
I believe I have a story to tell too. It's been mulling over in my head for nearly two decades now and I think it's about time I got it down on paper and did something with it. I'm not afraid of learning new skills. I know my grammar, typing, punctuation, and organizational skills are very lacking but I'm hoping that with daily diligence and lots of practice, I'll get better each day.
My main motivation in this regard are fulfilling a life goal (you know those lists we all make when we're teenagers?) of being published. I believe marrying a french lingerie model was on there too, but I can't let Victoria's Secret detract me from life goals, can I? Of course I'd also love it if this launched into a new career for me, but I'm worrying about spewing out hundreds of pages, let's see how much work it is first.
Here's for dreams!

Monday, August 17, 2009

A little bit about the blog.

So I started a blog.

This isn't the first time, oh no.

I've never been good about sticking to blogging in the past. Usually things come up, I get bored, start playing World of Warcraft again. I've got every excuse in the book why I gave up on my three or four blogs in the past, but none of them matter now.

This one has to work. I promised myself. This time, I'm a writer.

As I'll get into in future posts, writing nowadays is half writing, and half marketing. This blog will hopefully become my portal for marketing my name, my brand, to whoever is looking.

I'm also a rabid researcher. I can spend hours scouring the internet, browsing bookstores, talking to friends, reading posts and other blogs to find information on what I want.

Since I'm a new writer, and greatly under-qualified at that (check my other posts), I have to do a ton of research on all aspects of writing. From the basics of grammar, increasing my vocabulary, the mechanics of writing the actual novel, and even which hardware and software to use while doing so, I have to start from ground zero.

This is where the blog will come into play. I'm a big believer that the best way to learn something is to teach it, and while I don't fancy myself as much of a teacher, the act of researching, collecting and organizing my thoughts, and posting in a blog will help me learn what I need to know better than if I just surfed the net or read about it in a book. By spending the time researching and writing this blog, I also hope to provide a trove of information for other aspiring authors, and maybe even entice some already-published ones to come and comment to help build up a community.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I'm a writer!

I had to write that, I was told to write that.

Apparently I can't become a writer without stating it.

I'm a writer. So I did it.

So I've been reading some books about writing and many of them say the same things: if you want to be a writer, tell everyone you know that you ARE a writer. If you tell grandma, your parents, the guy down the street, and the mailman that you're a writer, you're building up a network of people that are now expecting you to actually follow-through with your promise.
Now I'm too embarrassed to go running down the street yelling at the top of my lungs that I'm a writer, (I might do it naked though, cause if I'm going to embarrass myself I might as well go all the way). So this blog is going to have to suffice. It's more of a journal to document my trials, tribulations, wins and losses as I write the great-American novel. At some point I will broadcast to friends and family about this blog, but for now I hope that it stays under the radar until I've gotten more into the groove of blogging and organizing my thoughts better. My main goal with it is to just detail a couple times a week  the trials and tribulations of the project I'm undertaking. I'll talk later about what else I hope the blog can be, but for now it's a good journal.
It's the journal of my journey that I will leave open on the table rather than hiding away.
If it becomes entertaining watching me wriggle and writhe in pain, then I'm glad. It'll be a good release for me and a good chuckle for you. So sit back, grab a latte if you can afford it these days, and we'll get started.