Category Archives: Blog Post

Recovering and a Cyber Monday Sale!

V&A Shipping

Hey! What’s that? a new cover for V&A Shipping? Why yes, yes it is. (recovering, see what i did there?).

Now don’t get me wrong. I LOVE the cover that Starla did for me. I love all the covers she did for me. But i ran into an issue and it had to do with cost. I have a lot of books and need a lot of covers. So rather than wait until i have enough money for new book covers, i decided that the best thing to do was take a the time needed to learn enough about PhotoShop and build my own. I also took the time to rebrand all the covers so there is a common theme not only for the books in a series, but across all titles. So I’ll be posting all the covers here over the next few days while i get ready to post new titles in the coming year. I have three books done, written, complete, ready to rock and roll. So while I spend some time posting those covers here, I’ll be getting those ready to post for sale.

It’s an exciting time. I can’t wait to get these news books out there. I hope you’re excited as well.

Now, for the sale!

For Cyber Monday week (sure, why not. All week long) if you buy any one of my books and email me your receipt, I’ll send you any two of my titles FREE! Just let me know what you’d like and what format, and I’ll send it on over. So what are you waiting for? Get on over there and buy a book!

Until Next Time!

WOO WOO!

Hello.

Hi

Hey, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? Sorry about that. It’s time to get back on track, I think. Life has been hectic, and hopefully has settled down to the point I can get back into a routine. We’ll see how it goes.

I won’t elaborate here as to just all that has gone on, but here it is in a nutshell.

Lost three online friends to cancer. Helped my mom clean and list her bar for sale. Stressed out about work (a lot more than I needed to). Got angry about my favorite daughter getting cut from volleyball. Allowed everything to get into my head and put all my writing and blogging on hold.

Today that all stops and as I said, it’s time to get back into a routine.

Before I fell off the writing wagon, I was way up on my word count for the year. I was on target. I was feeling great. I got a great start on Asteroid Bunnies. I had gotten back into Almost-Super Heroes. I’d redone and resubmitted my short story Dans le Ciel and retitled it Contrat d’Oliviver. I was in the middle of getting edits done.

Yes, all that and then I fell off the map.

I started making my comeback when I looked at my book covers as a whole and decided they weren’t getting the job done. They were okay, but as a collection, too disparate. I needed something more cohesive. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be releasing those covers and gearing up for the release of Jack Kane (hopefully later this year). I’ve redone most of my covers and am in the process of getting my blurbs also redone. I’ve found terrible grammar, typos, just a big old mess that I can’t believe I missed. So I’ll be fixing all of those when I drop the covers.

Then I’ll be re-reading all my books and getting them cleaner. This will be a big task, but needs to be done.

Speaking of Jack Kane; The editing process on that one, for me, was brutal. I began to question my ability and everything I’d done up to that point. Was I as good of a writer as I thought? Was I making far too many mistakes in my writing? Did all that red me I just plain sucked?

Well, no. What it was, for me, was a learning experience. I learned that I’m terrible with two things. 1) Commas. 2) Word Echo. 3) dialogue tags. (okay, okay, three things).

But you know what, that book was picked up by a publisher. Mike and I pounded though those edits, cleaned it up, did some needed rewriting, and, in the end, came out with a much better manuscript.

Publishing with a publisher is a partnership. Something in a manuscript that doesn’t bother me (like word echo) might be like needles in the eyes to an editor. It was an education that I needed and feel much better for it. I can’t wait for Mike and I to start working on Jack Kane 2!

So now that I’m back, I will be writing once again. I need to look at the unfinished manuscripts I have. I need to look at what I want to work on next. I really need to take stock in what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, and get my nose back to the grind stone.

So I apologize for dropping off the map. Look for future posts about what I plan on doing with my books. As a hybrid author, I have the ability to do what I like with my self-published books, and in doing so, I hope to have an impact on my publisher produced books.

For now, I should be writing.

Until Next Time!

WOO WOO!

V&A Shipping now only 99 cents!

V&A_Shipping

I must be losing my mind! Why else would I price a book at 99 cents? I mean, really. Who does that? It’s almost like giving it away! Well, this is your chance. If you haven’t picked up V&A Shipping yet, it’s now on sale at all your favorite ebook retailers for only 99 cents. That’s right, pick one! It’ll be 99 cents. If it’s not, send me a link, I’ll send you a free copy.

If you paid full price for V&A Shipping, email me. I trust you. I will send you a free copy of V&A Shipping II. If you already have V&A Shipping II, I’ll send you one of my others title (that I’ve published myself, this doesn’t include the anthologies). So drop me a line and say “Hey! Murdock! I feel like I got ripped off for paying full price!” and BAM! Free ebook for you just for being awesome.

Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/V-Shipping-J-R-Murdock-ebook/dp/B00B1MVTYM

Barnes and Noble – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/v-a-shipping-jr-murdock/1114148500?ean=2940044254480

Kobo – http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/v-a-shipping-1

Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/275220

So check it out. Let me know what you think. Don’t forget, that V&A Shipping II is also out there (and only $2.99). That’s right, you can get 2 books for only four bucks (well, $3.98 if you want to be picky about it). So what are you waiting for? Head on out there and pick up something to read!

Until Next Time!

WOO WOO!

The business of shipping little white bricks.

Back around 2000 I discovered the Palm Pilot. By 2004 I had a Dell PDA. On both I had downloaded and read books from friends and books that were free from some author sites. I’d even read books from the very few authors that were selling their ebooks. I was hooked on reading on an electronic device far before it was something easy to do and as popular as it is today.

One of the people I read on those devices was Mike Stackpole. For a long time I read his series “The Secrets” where he discussed a lot of things. One of his many topics was fighting with his publisher to get his rights back to his books. He did this so he could publish them electronically himself. The publisher (at the time) didn’t want the hassle of a noisy author and reverted his rights.

Mike had the foresight and the tenacity to get the rights back to his books in a time when publishers didn’t see any profitability in the ebook market.

Why?

As Mike put it, big publishers weren’t in the business of selling stories. They were in the business of shipping little white bricks.

And that’s what they still do to this day. They don’t sell a good story. They sell mass-manufactured little white bricks, and make a good amount of profit from selling ebooks, but that’s not their main focus and they still don’t understand it.

Many times reading author blogs, I’d see an author complain about the fact that they’d written a 190,000 word book, and the publisher was making them cut it down to 100,000 words. They’d have to edit, and cut out subplots, and trim their story down. They’d eventually say “It’s a much better book for the cuts.” Well, why did the publisher want they to cut the book down in the first place?

SPACE!

They’ve already sold that story to distribution houses. They need X number of books to fit into a box. If they story is bigger than 100,000 words, they would need ship more boxes and that costs money. So they need a shorter book so they can fit more books into a box.

The edits have nothing to do with improving a story and everything to do with shipping the most books per box. It’s all about the bottom line and nothing to do with selling the best story they can. The publishing industry (specifically the big 5) know exactly how many words a book needs to be to fit a perfect number into a case so they can ship the most books.

Now I know what you’re going to say, look at all the books that are bigger by authors like G.R.R. Martin, Patterson, Sanderson, etc. You need to understand that those are established authors. Their books can be any size they like because they know those books will sell and make a good amount of money. Probably never enough to cover the advance the author got, but they’ll make a good amount of money.

So where do they save the money those big authors are getting? You guessed it, saving in the shipping costs of authors that don’t sell at those levels. Trimming those books down so they’re small enough to pack more little white bricks into boxes.

What does all this have to do with ebooks? More than you might think.

Again, Mike Stackpole had foresight and pointed out many of the things I’ll be repeating here. From talking to him at conventions, to reading The Secrets, to listening to him on podcasts, he saw all this happening years before anyone else. Many of the things he’d predicted have happened and now others are predicting.

He saw ebooks becoming a big thing. This is why he got the rights back to his books. Publishers still didn’t see this happening and even around 2007, didn’t care. Certain noisy authors got their rights back easily just be complaining and sending letters to their publishers. The publishers didn’t care about ebooks because they were busy shipping little shite bricks.

Then Amazon came out with the kindle. Suddenly buying ebooks was easy. It was quick. People wanted to read on their computers, their hand-held devices, they bought kindle ereaders (which the first generation of ereaders really sucked). The big publishers still didn’t care about ebooks. They made half-hearted attempts to get books out there and if you were an early adopter, you know how bad early ebooks from big publishers were. Why? They weren’t in the business of producing electronic editions. They were in the business of shipping little white bricks.

Readers have NEVER come first with big publishers. With smaller presses, yes. I love me some smaller presses. Big publishers? They’re all the same now. They all produce the same books with the same luke-warm plots. You want a good book? Pick up something by a small press or an Indie. They look at readers first and will take a chance on a daring story.

So big publishers had the opportunity to get onboard with ebooks early. Very early. They warning signs were there. A few authors demanded their rights back, Amazon came out with an ereader, but still they did nothing to stop the march of technology. They could have sold direct from their websites. They could have gotten together and made their own ereader. They could have done anything. Instead, they put their heads down, put their fingers in their ears, and sang “la la la this isn’t happening.” They allowed Amazon to become a monster with the largest, world-wide distribution of ebooks. Why? They didn’t want to deal with selling ebooks. They were focused on getting their little white bricks to bookstores. Amazon wants to deal with ebooks? Let them.

And that is why we have the issue we have today. Hachette had dug their heels in against what Amazon is doing. Yet if you go back six, seven, eight years ago, Hachette and the other big publishers missed the boat. They not only missed it, it’d sailed years before they realized they needed to be on it. They continued (and some would argue still continue) to focus on shipping little white bricks to book stores. They try to convince gullible authors (and some of them very smart people) that they’re not making any money off of ebooks and that it’s actually more expensive to produce an ebook than it is to produce a physical book.

Think about that for one second. It’s more expensive to take an author’s digitally produced book and upload it to Amazon than it is to typeset, print, package, warehouse, distribute, taken in returns than it is to upload a file? Big publishers think their authors are really stupid.

Authors that are buying into this myth deserve what they get. I’m sorry. I said in a post earlier this week, I feel bad for authors stuck in this, but being that you don’t own your books, I have a hard time thinking you’re not getting what you deserve. There are a LOT of authors and a lot of information out there. Go do some reading. Ask for help. I’m confident that if you’re a popular author with a big press and you ask for help getting your books out on your own, you’ll get that help. You’ll get pointed to resources for doing it on your own. You can still “just write” and pay for services to get a book published. You can read and learn how to get your books into bookstores on your own.

I know it’s scary. Here’s where I’m coming from. I know some hybrid authors. I know authors with books that come from multiple publishers. Guess what, I couldn’t tell you which books came from where and I honestly don’t care. I never have. I couldn’t tell you which publisher produced which Chuck Wendig book, I buy Chuck Wendig books. I don’t know who published Mike Stackpole’s books, I buy Mike Stackpole books. I have no idea who published Stephen King’s books through the years, I buy Stephen King books. It has nothing NOTHING to do with the publisher and everything to do with the author.

I know I’m not alone. There are a lot of people like me that, when looking for a book, look for an author. Let that sink in. If you’re an author with a big publisher, think about what I just said. I buy an author’s book because of the author. Not because of the publisher.

Now I need to go make some words happen.

Until next Time!

WOO WOO!

Why I’ll never win an award for my writing.

I have no delusions of grandeur. I don’t write me no high-falutin’ works of art. My books won’t sit on the shelves of bookstores across America (or any other country). My stories will never be studied in school to determine their symbolism. I’ve never included any social commentary (at least not intentionally).

I write stories that are designed for one reason; to entertain.

It really is just that simple. In the land of big, rich chocolate candy bars, I’m an M&M. Just one among thousands. You might not even notice me as you look me over for something bigger and better. You may even sneer and say “Who really wants an M&M when I can have a Snickers?”

I can’t blame you. That isn’t the reason I write and sell my stories.

I’m not writing for accolades, acceptance among my peers (many who haven’t even read any of my works), or even for awards. I write firstly for myself. I’ve always wanted to write books and having written 17 books, I’m happy with what I’ve done over the years and how I’ve progressed as a writer. Making myself happy with my stories comes long before any other reason for writing.

The other reason I write is to make anyone who reads one of my stories happy. It doesn’t matter if it’s a chuckle and a tweet, or someone that gets a hold of me years later and says “Oh, man! I still remember, ‘Junior, bring me a hamburger.’” Yes, I still get people telling me that. I released V&A Shipping on Podiobooks.com back in 2008/2009. Five years later, people still remember my characters. I think that says something.

I also have people who’ll get a hold of me and ask me about a girl that rode a dragon and had to learn science or magic and what was the name of that book? Well, that’s Astel. It’s one of mine. It still make me smile when friends or readers ask me about that one.

Another reason I’ll probably never win an award is that I’m not traditionally published. Yes, I’ll have a book out later this year from an actual publisher, but that’s a different story for a different day. Being that most of my works are and will be self-published, I can’t even put them in for an award. If I could, I’d still have to go through the submission process and get the work into the award people’s hands. For now, that just sounds like a lot of work I don’t want to go through.

Me? I’d rather see a reader buy, read, and review three of my books in one day (this happened earlier this year with My Teacher is a Zombie, My Teacher is a Werewolf, and My Teacher is a Vampire). This is the kind of response I write for. People who want to devour my books and leave reviews explaining why they did so and how much they enjoyed them. Their joy in reading my books is compounded 100 times when I hear back from them.

All these things mean more to me than any award will ever be able to accomplish. Sure, it’d be nice, but readers expressing how much they enjoyed something that I pretty much wrote for myself…there’s nothing more powerful than that.

And, hey. I give away books for FREE! Check out how to get one. Sign up for my email list, email me and just ask, leave me a review, help me spread the word. I’d love to share more of my words with more people. If you like what I’m doing here, and I’ve given you a free book, leave me a review, buy a copy for a friend, write me an email and tell me what you loved (or hated) about the book you got. I’d want to hear from you.

Speaking of words, I need to go make some happen.

Until Next Time!

WOO WOO!

From 263 to 193: What these numbers mean to me.

Our lives are filled with numbers. Some good, some bad. 42, for example, is a great number. 263, for me, is a very bad number. It’s a number I’ve wanted to change for quite some time. And, I have. 247 is another bad number and we’ll talk about that one in a minute as well.

My LDL Cholesterol (That’s the bad one) has been at 263 for several years. At 264 doctors usually put you on medication, so I’ve been borderline for a while now. I knew I needed to do something, it was just a matter of literally getting up off my duff and doing something.

So I started walking off and on over the past couple of years .Never enough as my levels never really changed. Last year when I went to the doc, my cholesterol was still the same and I weighed 247 pounds. I didn’t feel great, but I didn’t feel awful either. I had been heavier, but I figured I’d never get there again. I just wouldn’t. How could I allow myself to get back up to 260? Wasn’t going to happen. All I had to do was eat less, right?

Well, turns out I needed to do a little more than that. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know my favorite daughter has been trying to get the wife and I on a more vegetarian diet (and closer to vegan). I honestly thought this would be more difficult. I really did. I’ll go more into my meatless adventures in future posts.

So I’ve been eating a lot more salads, drinking a lot of smoothies (both green and fruit), and I’ve almost completely eliminated meat and dairy from my diet. I’m still trying to walk, but that doesn’t happen as often as I would like. Hopefully that’ll change in the near future as well.

What happened?

So since sometime in January I’ve been on my new diet. I don’t mind. I honestly don’t. I’m still eating as much food as I want. I like to eat. I really do. But I’m never hungry even with eating a mostly plant-based diet. I also drink a lot more water than I had been.

My weight, by just changing my diet alone, has dropped from 247 to 230. My size 36 shorts fit again and I’m not popping buttons!

I had an appointment with the doc and said she’d call only if she needed to discuss anything. Well, she called. It was to inform me that my LDL Cholesterol was currently at 193 (down from 263) and to keep on doing whatever it was I was doing and come back in a couple months for another checkup.

Color me surprised. I was not prepared for that! I figured it’d have some health benefits, but wow.

Another thing I’ve noticed, and this surprised me even more, is that every day I would take an allergy pill. EVERY DAY! Even with taking the pills, if it would hint at raining, I’d be stuffed up. If the wind blew the wrong way, I’d be stuffed up. I’ve had sinus issues ever since I was a little kid and just figured I’d have them for the rest of my life.

Well, I don’t have those issues any more. I haven’t taken a sinus pill in 3 months and haven’t had a sneezing attack, sinus migraine, or anything else I used to get on a regular basis. This, by far, has made me happier than anything. You can’t imagine what it’s like to wake up and actually breathe through my nose. To not have to worry if I have enough Kleenex or tissue around to keep cleaning my nose. To not have to take pills to control these things. It’s freeing in so many ways.

I will be keeping you up to date on my progress. It’s an interesting journey thus far and I’d like to see what happens next. To think, I have my favorite daughter to thank for pushing me in this direction. Maybe I should listen to her more often. Hmmm…

Until Next Time!

WOO WOO!

My take on the whole Amazon v Hachette debacle.

If you’re an author, or follow authorial type blogs, you might have seen some noise regarding a big old mess between Amazon and Hachette. If not, let me sum it up for you in a few words. Amazon and Hachette are negotiating on who will get what when the monetary pie is sliced up from the sale of an ebook and just how much will be charged for those ebooks.

At this point in time, that’s all that’s really known. There’s been much speculation, but that’s all it really is at this point; speculation. Much of it is good speculation on the side of those pointing out that Amazon is a business and doing what a business will do in order to make more money. They want to set the price of a product they’re selling through their marketplace. Plain and simple.

On the other side, Hachette wants to force Amazon to charge a higher price so other sales avenues will be able to compete.

Again, this is all speculation.

So Amazon has decided that since they cannot come to an agreement with Hachette, they’ve removed pre-order buttons and from all of Hachette’s titles until they can come to an agreement. They’ve also raised the prices on the books to the LIST price. That’s the price the publisher has asked for the ebooks to be priced at, and not the discounted price Amazon would like to list them for. On the surface, it’s all business. Nothing personal. Just trying to make sure that all parties get the most money they can. We live in a capitalist society and that’s what business is all about, the money. It’s not about the readers, it’s not about the authors. It’s about a product and where the money goes.

Amazon is very silent on this matter and that works in their favor. There’s no need to get the details out there because it’s no one’s business other than Amazon’s.

On the other hand, there are a LOT of authors out there crying about Amazon being bullies to this publisher. Lots of hand wringing, calling to arms, complaints, etc.

Um… if you’re an author with Hachette, you have nothing to complain about. Nothing. Zip. Nada. You’re a writer. You sold your rights. You’re a widget. You’re replaceable. You are no more important to Hachette than a box of thumbtacks (and probably less so). If you fail, regardless of whose fault it is, they can have another you tomorrow (if not sooner). If you don’t own the rights to your book, you have nothing to complain about. You signed a contract with Hachette allowing them to do whatever they like with your book(s) including allowing it to wither and die on the vine if they so choose. You don’t own the book any more.

Yes, I’m sorry if this will hurt your career. I think that really sucks. Honestly, I feel for you. I just don’t see where you have any room to complain. No one owes anyone a living. The fact that you can make a living from your writing is awesome. I would love to do the same. But if you don’t own the rights to your work, then you’ve already been paid for your part of the bargain.

As for Amazon doing things that you don’t like, as I said, this is business. You don’t have a contract with Amazon that says they’ll carry your books forever and ever. Amazon can carry whatever books they like. If they’re not getting the terms they want, they do NOT have to carry that product. Plain and simple. They distribute. Nothing else. I don’t hear any of these authors complaining because every bookstore in the world isn’t carrying their books. It’s only about Amazon. Why not complain when you don’t see your book in my local bookstore? They’re also just a distributer. Should they be required to carry every title of every book that was ever written? Should every online retailer of books carry every title no matter what the publisher is demanding?

For me, the argument falls apart every time I read an author all up in arms over what’s happening.

I get the frustration, but I think they’re looking in the wrong direction. Amazon is just a distributer. If they’re not getting the terms they want, they’re under no obligation to continue to distribute a given work. Just because they’re the world’s largest distributor of books, I understand the desire to attack them. They’re a monster. They’re also a business.

If publishers are all upset about what’s happening, they need to look back over the years and figure out where it all went wrong. They had the chance to make their own Amazon-type website to distribute their books. They had the chance to take advantage of the technology. They could have even taken advantage of Amazon’s platform, signed a licensing agreement, and SOLD DIRECT and delivered to the kindle. They still could. Instead, they’d rather just complain they’re being treated unfairly by a distributer.

I don’t personally know any of the authors affected by this. I know some of them as friends of friends. I do honestly feel bad for this speed bump. Like I said, once you sell your rights, you sold the right to complain about what’s happening to your work. If you don’t like what’s happening with your publisher and how they’re dealing with the situation, find a new publisher.

Better yet, self-publish. All those things that you think you NEED a big publisher for are a fallacy. You can pay for a cover and get the cover you want (or learn how to make your own covers). You can pay for editing. You can pay an agent to help you get your book into the marketplace. You can pay a promoter. All of these will be a one-time cost. Done. Over. You make all the money. You can still spend your time being a writer. You will have a small staff doing work for you and only pay them once the work is done. You can write what you like, when you like, how you like. Your readers won’t care if your next book comes from Tor, Hachette, or you. I can’t remember the last time I looked to see who published a book before I bought it and I know I’m not alone. It’s called freedom and many writers are making a living being free to do what they want.

And they want to help you. All you need to do is educate yourself, and ask for help when you need it.

It sounds so simple, but it’s change. Change is scary. That’s why so many authors will continue to complain, bemoan, and defend their publishers. They’re scared of change. It’s scary when things happen that you have no control over. Unless you make a publisher millions of dollars a year, you’re replaceable. Unless you own the rights to your books, you have no recourse. Unless you take charge of your career instead of selling away the rights to your work, you’ll continue to have no control over your career.

There’s a lot more on this topic around the web. http://www.jakonrath.com/ (J.A. Konrath) has a lot more information including posts from other authors and him take on what these authors are saying. I agree with a lot of what he says (in some case almost everything he says.) If you’re interested or if you’re an author, go read what he has to say. There is a lot of wisdom in his words.

Until Next Time!

WOO WOO!

 

Getting back to a routine.

It’s not easy to admit when you’ve fallen out of a routine. There are many reasons why this might happen, but it happens. You’ll be trucking along doing awesome then BAM! You wonder how you could have allowed it all to just slip.

Well, I have. I haven’t written in about 60 days. I have looked at my spreadsheet in about a month. It’s not that the desire to write has gone. I do want to sit and actually write. It’s that the drive has left me. Many life events happened that have clogged up my brain and aren’t allowing me to do what I used to do; sit and write.

I’ve mentioned many of the things that are draining me as of late. Some of those things have eased, some have increased, some have stayed the same. Work is pushing into my free time, my favorite daughter is getting busier with after school events, there’s a new vehicle that’s had to go back to the shop to make it even better, training for work that’s eating up my brain space.

Sitting here I could make excuses all day as to why I’m not currently writing anything, but in the end, I’m just not. I’m making up a lot of excuses as to why I’m not doing anything. My biggest excuse is that I’m writing two different stories at the same time and both have far larger casts than I normally write. They’re all new characters that I haven’t written before. The stories are quite different (super-hero with gods, and military sci-fi). Both are making me stretch my writerly muscles and I’m resisting that stretch.

What do I need to do?

This I’ve given a lot of thought as I’ve gotten caught up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Game of Thrones. I do mean a lot of thought. Like, why am I watching TV when I could be writing? Why as I spending time doing A when I should be doing B? Rather than spending so much time reading Doctor Sleep, why am I not writing my own book? Yes, a writer needs to read, but a writer also needs to write.

I did do a couple guest blog posts. I was happy with how those came out. I did a short story. I was also happy with it. I was a guest on a podcast and that was great fun to talk about the writing I’ve done and the writing I plan to do. In the end, I’ve just allowed my writing to fall by the wayside.

So, starting today (not tomorrow, not Monday, not the first of the month) I will get my 1,100 words written. I will not focus on getting caught up, but writing forward. Yes, I’ve fallen behind my annual goal, but if I sit and start to write daily once more, I know the words will come. I’ll have days where I’ll write far beyond my 1,100 words. That’s just the way my brain works.

I had said in my last post that I would start to post my daily word counts. That will still happen. I’ll start to blog more often as well. Maybe not as long as this, maybe not as thought out as this, but I’ll start to get something into the feed more often.

For now, I need to go make some words happen, then get a jump on my day!

Until Next Time!

WOO WOO!

Check out @thegamesmenrpg’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/thegamesmenrpg/status/463007048574447616

Writing Process Blog Hop

Oddly I’ve never been tagged in a blog hop. Not sure why, but recently I was tagged by a close, personal friend of mine, Michell Plested to do a blog hop interview about my writing process.

Mike is also my writing partner on our upcoming project, Jack Kane and the Statue of Liberty. Beyond our project (which we hope will grow into a series), he’s also written Mik Murdock: Boy Superhero, His podcast novel, Galaxybillies, and his award nominated writing podcast, Get Published.

Mike was tagged by Robert Runte, who was tagged by Joe Mahoney, who was tagged by Susan Rodgers, and if you’d like to follow further back than that, by all means, surf the blog hop (as it was intended to be surfed).

As for my interview, here we go!

Mike: You have some very aggressive writing targets. Can you talk about what they are, why you made them and how you are managing to work on them.

JR: Last year I wanted to write something I thought would be a modest number of words: 1000 words per day. When you look at that small number, it doesn’t seem like that many words. When you add them all up at the end of the year, that’s 365,000 words. When looking at a number that large, it looks daunting. For some people it looks nearly impossible. To me, it looks almost like a challenge.

I took it on head first and failed miserably. I only managed roughly 180,000 words. Just about half my original goal. I say ‘failed’, but is 180,000 words in a year a failure?

A long, long time ago I worked doing door-to-door sales. Our motto was shoot for the stars, you just might land on the moon. I don’t see hitting the moon as a failure.

This year, I upped my goal. Yes, I know that sounds crazy when I missed my goal for last year by a lot. Well, a lot of life happened last year that preventing me from writing for nearly seven months. This year, fates willing, I will have a lot more time to actually sit and write. So rather than just 1000 words per day, I’m shooting for 10% more (1100 words per day).

To get to my goal for 2014, I make sacrifices in order to write as much as possible. I watch less TV, I don’t go out to the movies, I cut back on a little sleep here and there, I cut back on the online games I play. If I’m to hit my goals, I need to spend time actually working on hitting those goals.

Mike: How do you balance having so many projects on the go? Do you work on one at a time for each one: or a certain number of hours; or a % of your writing time; or is it just a matter of focusing on each deadline as it comes up? Or do you switch from one to the other as you get blocked or bored with what you’re currently working on?

I won’t lie; I have a number of unfinished projects. One of the goals I set for this year was to revisit all those projects I left behind and either finish or toss them. I know I do the best when focusing on one at a time. That’s what I am doing. I’ve already completed one novel and a couple short stories this year. I plan on completing a few more novels and a few more short stories.

For the most part, I’ll be writing each project one at a time from start to finish. If I don’t, I know I’ll be leaving stories behind once more and I don’t want to do that anymore. So I will take on something and I will work on it until it’s done. I want to clear the deck for future projects. Having all these stray projects causes me stress that I don’t need, so I want to put them behind me rather than leave them sitting around just waiting to be finished.

Now, I say mostly and let me explain that. I’ve got two projects that aren’t 100% under my control. Those projects include the sequel to Jack Kane (guess who the co-author is). The second is a book that I’ll be working on with the other person Mike has tagged, Jeff Hite. So I’ll do what I can when I can which means I may be working on three projects at the same time. There will be some juggling going on, but that will only make the challenge all the more entertaining.

We will see how the year goes.

Mike: What is your writing process? Where on the “just sit down and write <—> detailed notes/outline” continuum do you fall? Do you revise as you go, or first draft and then revise? Any routines or rituals that need to be followed?

I sit, I type, I hope for the best.

My process has evolved over the years. I’ve been writing nearly as long as I’ve been programming (since I was 12 or 13). When I was younger, I would write long-hand (I didn’t own a typewriter) and I would just write whatever came to mind. That lasted for a very long time.

Then I decided that it just wasn’t working. My stories weren’t getting to where I wanted them to be, so I started plotting. I’d write a page or two explaining what each chapter of a book would be about. That got me closer, but still didn’t feel right.

I got those down to about a paragraph for each chapter, then eventually down to a sentence per chapter. That’s where I’m at now. I will do a very rough outline of about 40 chapters per full-length novel. My chapters are short (around 2000 words) which makes the book read quickly as well as get written quickly as well. I do my best to not go back through a work until it is complete. If there’s a major change in the story line, I’ll make a note, know that it’s been changed, and move on. I don’t go back and re-write until the work is done.

I have no rituals. I used to. When I’d sit and write I’d eat an orange or two, or I’d take a short walk to get the blood flowing. I still walk, but not before I write. Now, I sit down, open my word count spread sheet, open the scrivener doc for the story I’m currently working on, and start typing where I left off. After 30 years of writing, I don’t need to warm up any more J

Mike: You have written short stories and novels. You have podcast some of your work and you have self-published other work. From that experience, what stands out as the most important learnings and principles or advice so far?

The biggest thing I’ve learned from podcasting was that reading my material out loud helps me find those little grammatical nuances I missed when typing. Now when I do dialogue, I will sometimes say the words out loud as I type them to help me get the flow of a conversation. I’ll find those little gasps, sighs, laughs, grunts, that some people will miss. Rather than pepper my dialogue with said, asked, etc, I will put in something that people do. To me, it’s more interesting when someone wrinkles their nose before asking a difficult question rather than just having them ask. These are things I can figure out as I’m saying the words.

If you want to get good as dialogue, talk to people. Talk to a lot of people. Talk to a lot of DIFFERENT people. People you don’t know. Watch how they react to what you say. Take mental notes on their faces, their body movement, the inflection. These are things that will help you write dialog that flows smoothly and will help give a personality to the people you’re writing about. It’s those little things that people see, but don’t notice. It’ll help the reader attach a little thing to someone they know, and suddenly your character just got that much more personal.

As for self-publishing, the best thing I can say is don’t expect to get rich quick. Get on a schedule (if at all possible), put as much money into your projects as you’re able to, and put out the best possible product you can. People will forgive little editing errors, they won’t forgive a bad story.

Mike: Anything else you’d like to add on your writing process?

I’d like to say that writing is easy. To be honest, it hasn’t always been. Sometimes, as I’ve said earlier, life happens. Your brain will want to turn off, you’ll need to take a break, and that’s alright. If you get into a writing groove, you’ll know it and it will feel wonderful. If you fall out of that groove, don’t beat yourself up. Don’t try to get caught up because you feel you fell behind. Just pick up where you left off and start again. That groove will be easier and easier to find each time you get back to it.

I’ve fallen off the horse many times. It’s not how many times you fall off. It’s how many times you get back on.

In the next day or two,  I will be updating this post with two people I will tag and interview. Thank you Mike for allowing me to join in. This was fun. :)