Saturday, March 14, 2015

Searchin' for the Groove

Scott D. Parker

Last night, the Energy City New Horizons Big Band—in which I am a member, playing alto sax—performed our annual spring dance/concert at my church. It’s a fun gig and this is, I believe, the third year in a row we’ve been the music for a dance. The chairs in our contemporary worship space, The Well, were pushed to one side to allow half of the area to be open for dancing. It’s no surprise that we do attract some older folks for whom this music was their music. It’s wonderful to hear their audible response when our director announces a tune from, say, Glenn Miller. It’s a thrill.

The band was about as tight as we’ve ever been. We don’t just play the old oldies. We mix it up, throwing in some 60s Latin tunes (The *Boy* from Ipanema on account of our lady singer), 70s rock (Chicago), 70s funk (Earth, Wind and Fire) to go along with timeless standards (My Funny Valentine). It was a 27-song setlist so there was something for everyone.

We’ve been playing together…well, I think it’s been six years or so. Maybe longer. I can’t remember. The jazz band only rehearses when we have a planned gig. That leaves those of us in orchestra or other various ensembles freedom to attend those rehearsals. Whenever the jazz bands assembles, however, it doesn’t take long to get back in the groove.

How does this pertain to writing? I’m glad you asked. Now that WADING INTO WAR is available as an ebook, I wanted to make sure those folks who prefer a paper copy the opportunity to read the book. I am going through CreateSpace and, while the steps necessary to create an ebook is rather straightforward, the process for creating print ready PDFs is something quite different.

You see, like my jazz band getting back together to play a gig and not taking long to find the groove, the ebook formatting is not difficult. I can get into that groove pretty easily. Once I’ve done everything there is to do in publishing and distributing WADING INTO WAR, I’ll have done everything a first time.

And boy am I looking forward to that second time. I’m in Year Zero with this publishing adventure. I’ve learned a ton of things and have a list of Lessons Learned that’ll make the second, and third, and fourth, and all subsequent times easier. I am looking forward to the publishing process to be like playing with my jazz band: get in the groove and play everything tight.

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Going to Church

By Alex Segura

With apologies to my friend Kristi Belcamino - I can’t stand the term “Church of 1,000 Words.” Maybe I'm just a grouch when it comes to phrases. But here's the thing:

It’s spot-on. You have to write. Every. Single. Day.

Let me zoom out a second. I am just now coming out of what I’d like to call a “transitional” period as an author - my first book had come out and I was now fielding questions from friends, family, fellow writers and fans about “When’s the next one coming?” On top of that, though, we (my agent and I) were trying to find a home for not only the next Pete Fernandez book, but the third and the first. A challenge, I think - but my agent nailed it, and now I’m happily part of the Polis Books team.

“Nice plug, bro, but what does that have to do with writing?”

Excellent question, imaginary heckler. It has a lot to do with it, actually. Because as writers, we don’t just sit at home and crank words out 24-7 - we promote, we do events/conferences, we network, we pitch to press, we interact with booksellers, we take meetings and, let’s face it, most of us have day jobs. That does not leave a lot of time for the biggest part of the job, which is problematic.

While in this between-book-limbo, I polished off a draft for the second Pete book, Down the Darkest Street (which was required to get out of the limbo...and now coming in 2016 from Polis Books! Such a relief to say that.), I worked up a few comic book ideas and then...waited. I had about 40k words for Pete Book 3, but with no real sense of what was going to happen, I didn’t want to push further in case things didn’t go as we’d hoped and I’d have to pivot. So, short version - I was working on stuff, but not Working on Something, meaning a specific book. That means it was much easier to do other stuff. Play the guitar. Read a lot more. The urgency and deadline pressure that motivates me wasn’t around.

Still, like any kind of exercise, if you don’t go to the gym/workout for a while, your muscles get lazy and tired and your body just doesn’t want to do that painful thing anymore. Writing is like that. 

But here’s the thing, and I can’t speak for anyone else - when I’m not writing, I become pretty unbearable. It’s like there’s too much stuff in my head and if I don’t sit down and crank it out on the regular, my mood gradually dips. It was that realization more than any external pressures or decisions that got me behind the desk again and working on stuff - anything, really. I wrote a short story. Finished that comic pitch. Edited a sci-fi short I was collaborating on. I just cranked on whatever was in front of me.

And, once the book deal was locked, I sat down and had a goal: to finish a draft of third Pete book. I was already in shape, though - having warmed up on a bunch of smaller projects. So, when I did have to face the gigantic, frightening prospect of another novel, it didn’t feel so scary. That was mainly because I was attending The Church of 1,000 Words. Sure, I was sitting in the back with a hat and shades on, but I was there.

Which brings me to my question to the readers of the blog - what’s your process? Do you have a daily word count? How do you balance non-writerly writer things with the actual work?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Write without distraction - AlphaSmart keyboards

By Steve Weddle

Once you've done your research, gathered your notes, and you've put your butt in your chair, does the internet keep you from writing?

You just have to look up a street name REALLY QUICK and before you know it, you're looking at Travelocity and daydreaming about a trip to a Greek island in five or six years.

Well, how would you like to write easily, without distraction?

Handwrite in notebooks? But then you have to type that sucker up, right?

 (But, wait, there's more. Um, actually, no. There's less. Which is better. Trust me.)

Instead of using your laptop or tablet and running one of those BLOCK THE INNERWEBS apps, what if you could just type up the words and then load them into your document when you're done? Kind of a NaNoWriMo experience year-round. Just write. Without distractions.

Well, Laurance Friend has been posting about AlphaSmart keyboards.

Read about his experience here.

And, as Mr. Friend suggests, you can find out more over here at the AlphaSmart discussion page.

Is there a video of someone using one? Sure. Here you go:

Get off the internet and write. Good luck.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Motive–how important is it?


There’s a cop show on Canadian TV called, “Motive,” and the network’s description reads:

MOTIVE is an unconventional way to watch a crime drama unfold. Each episode of the new CTV Original Drama begins by revealing not only the victim, but the killer as well. It’s not a “whodunit,” it’s a “whydunit,” a question faced by spirited female Vancouver homicide detective Angie Flynn (Kristin Lehman) as she begins to piece together the clues from the crime. How are the victim and killer connected? What is the motive? As the mystery unfolds, the audience navigates a complicated maze of clues alongside the detective and her team.

So, do we care that much whydunit?

I sometimes say that my favourite crime fiction song is I Fought the Law because it explains itself so directly wit the lyrics:

“I needed money because I had none.”

That seems like all the motive necessary but maybe we’re past that now. Maybe we’re more interested in the why than we are in the who (or at least equally as interested).

Maybe I’m just afraid of the too cliché motive, the childhood trauma that leads to adult serial killer (maybe I see that as too much of an easy out and a slight to all the people who have overcome childhood trauma or are battling the effects of it without hurting anyone else).

Maybe it’s different depending on the crime. I like a good heist story and usually the motive for the robbery is pretty thin and dealt with quickly so we can move on to the real story.

In my novels there are a lot of criminals who commit crimes because… well, because they’re criminals. I like that approach, the idea that someone has looked at the opportunities available and decided to break the law. One marijuana dealer I spoke to more than ten years ago told me that laws change, someday his business would be legal and he’d be as respected a distiller or a brewer.

So, when it comes to the non-murder crimes, the drug dealing and bank heists and art thefts, how important is the character’s motive?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Five Rules for Debut Authors

by Kristi Belcamino

Since my debut mystery hasn't even been out a year, I'm probably not qualified to write this post, but here goes:

1. The day your book comes out is going to be anticlimactic. Guaranteed.

That is not to say it won't be a great day, but besides getting carpal tunnel from refreshing your Amazon page, it's best not to expect too much on that first day.

The best thing to do is have zero expectations and then anything that happens is a bonus. And better yet, plan a small, private celebration for yourself to mark and celebrate this moment.

The highlight of my day was my husband bringing our kids into my bedroom that morning and saying, "Look at your mama, she's a published author."

There were other bright moments, including a bestselling mystery writer calling me on the phone to congratulate me and telling me his sad story about having high expectations on his launch day that didn't come true.

2. Do not compare yourself to other writers.

Don't compare yourself to other debut writers in the field. This is not a competition. There are enough slices of this pie for everyone. Jealousy will only hurt you. Your goal is to concentrate on your writing. Not on what everyone else is doing. There are enough readers in this world for us to support other writers.

3. Don't be broken-hearted if your baby doesn't win any "debut author" awards.

Don't get me wrong, awards are a nice stroke of ego and God knows I'll dance like a banshee if I am ever nominated for one, but the reality is, for me, I'm in this game to build a career. Awards are nice ego strokes, true, but probably don't make a huge difference in the big picture.

4. Prepare for negative reviews. If you can, appoint a "troll buster" to read reviews and pass along ones that might be helpful instead of just hurtful. Follow Don't Read Comments (@AvoidComments) on Twitter for daily reminders to not read the comments!

Be realistic. You can't expect every single person who picks up your book to love it or even like it. have you loved every single book you've ever picked up and read? I didn't think so. If you want a career in this business, now is the time to develop a thick skin.

5. Write that next book without delay and don't look back. Don't rest on your laurels. Successful writers never stop working. Your future depends on you keeping your butt in the chair.

The only real piece of advice that matters in this post is this one: Keep writing.