Feature Friday #2 (Bloggers & Books)

feature-friday

Welcome to another Feature Friday!  Today we’ll cast a glow on some bloggers who are consistently generating insightful posts about the written word.  As always, I try to dedicate time to broadening my understanding of the craft, and these folks seem to deliver on a regular basis.  As usual, I’ll also be compiling the books I used to generate my blog posts this week into a one-stop-shop.

spotlight-facing-rightThe first spotlight shines for Jan, over at Writing your first novel – Things you should know.  Jan is always writing informative posts and it’s a shame she hasn’t been generating more views and comments.  She covers a number of different topics on her blog.  She also does an outstanding job of offering examples of writing, and then showing how it can be improved through the application of the tip she is providing.

One post she recommends (and I would agree), is her post about, On-the-nose Writing.  Surprisingly, this isn’t a topic I’ve ever covered here at QE.  As she points out, this is a common issue many writers grapple with.  I would encourage you to swing over and give her space some love.

spotlight-facing-rightThe second blogger I wanted to talk about is Steve, over at Red String PaperCuts.  This space is unique because it’s a collaboration between three individuals: Steve, Jessie, and Marcy.  They work together to provide a range of creative content for their viewers.  Depending on the day, you may find a haiku, poem, book update, musing, or solid piece of writing advice.

Steve recently introduced the topic of marketing (an area where he has personal expertise).  The post is titled, Marketing Your Novel: Where to Begin?  For me, marketing has been an area where I have been struggling to find useful, writing specific, content.  I know from the interactions I’ve had with many of you here at QE that this is a subject many of us are trying to figure out.  I encourage you to swing by and sponge up some of the information they are offering.  It should be noted this post is introductory, and we’ll likely see more marketing tips from them in the future.

spotlight-facing-rightThe last blogger I want to feature today is Thomas Weaver, over at North of Andover.  Thomas is a hilarious and exceptionally knowledgeable mercenary proofreader (freelance editor).  His page is almost a daily ritual for me.  His “Writing Glitch” series (which is up to #156 last time I checked) snags a sentence, breaks it down, and corrects it.  It’s simple, it’s often humorous (not in a mean way), and it’s a quick way to get a grammar fix.

I normally point people to a specific article when I feature them.  I’m not doing that with Thomas because I don’t even know where to begin.  If I had a recommendation, it would be to go to his home page and check out his Grammar Rants section.  If you dare, he also will take a look at an except from your story and incorporate it into his Writing Glitch series.  Click here, and become a willing participant.  In my opinion, you’re crazy to not accept free copyediting from someone as experienced as him.

thanksI wanted to take a moment to thank Jan, Thomas, and the folks at Red String PaperCuts.  It’s humbling for me to be able to share other people’s work and learn from them.  One of my overarching goals with creating this space was to build collaborations with other creative minds.  You all are helping me achieve this goal.

 

resources

These are the resources I used this week (Friday to Friday) to create my posts.  I’m a voracious eater of greens and believe in the power of self-study to improve writing skill and understanding.

Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott [Amazon] [goodreads]

The Writer’s Journey, by Christopher Vogler [Amazon] [goodreads]

A Writer’s Guide to Active Setting, by Mary Buckham [Amazon] [goodreads]

For a more comprehensive list of books I have utilized to build content here on QE, you can refer to this post.

hourglassThat’s it for today!  If you would like to be featured next Friday, contact me.  It always helps if you let me know what specific post you would like to be featured.  My goal with Feature Friday is to connect like-minded individuals with one another.  The blogoverse is a giant place, and it’s nice to be able to provide some navigation. Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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Wasteland Wednesday #4

*Language and Content Warning*

skull and crossbones.jpgskull and crossbonesUnlike QE’s normal informational blog, Wasteland Wednesday is potentially full of foul language and post-apocalyptic nonsense.  I’m talking f-bombs, thrice-bosomed mutant women, and buckets of gore.

Wasteland Wednesday

Welcome to the fourth edition of Wasteland Wednesday!  I’m glad to see you have managed to survive yet another week.  Today you’re going to get a glimpse at one of the many threats that populate the wasteland.  Those stuck surviving in middle-America call them inbreeders.

Inbreeders go by many names: bone munchers, cannibals, flesh eaters, and some others.  It’s important to note, they are not zombies.  Here’s the concept.

When the United States fell to ruin, it did so to the tune of electromagnetic pulses followed by a chorus of nuclear warheads.  Some of these warheads detonated above the ground and some of them made landfall.

dna_repairWhen a nuclear warhead made landfall it destroyed the area, but it also left behind areas that were lousy with radiation.  Areas where bombs detonated prior to making landfall became habitable over time.

These pockets of isolated and lingering radiation have broken the continent into pieces.  The impassable areas of radiation are referred to as the Red.  The Red has landlocked the area where this story takes place.

Those who survived the initial destruction, but suffered radiation exposure, passed mutated genes on to the next generation.  I also incorporated the idea that these people, and their children, would be ostracized by the small pockets (settlements) that sprung up in the aftermath.

Wastelander Inbreeders

A concept sketch of inbreeders from my book, Wastelander: The Drake Legacy. This image was created by me and is copyrighted.  If you would like to use this image, contact me.

 

Here’s an unedited excerpt from Drake’s journal regarding inbreeders.  (This is the journal that Lex encourages Drake to write in hopes of monetizing it someday.)

Bone munchers. Cannibals. Flesh eaters. Inbreeders.  If somehow you are unfamiliar with these freaks, it should be noted they are not the zombies the pre-fall world was so obsessed with.  They are still human, sort of.  Radiation exposure led to pockets of people being pushed away from the remaining settlements.  Those rejects who survived, bred, often times with those close to them.  Survival is a strong motivator and those poor souls had few options.  Inbreeding, in addition to mutated and damaged genes being passed down generationally, led to smorgasbord of bizarre physical and mental deformities.  I had heard drunken rumors of some of the knuckle draggers having almost “supernatural” capabilities.  I hadn’t seen it, thus, I didn’t believe it.  After all, I’d been around the wastes for a while and I’d seen some crazy shit, but not that crazy.

These groups of inbreeders typically only grow large enough for one physically or mentally dominant male (or female) to control them.  While some have mentally degraded to the point of being feral, there are varying degrees of intelligence.  However, to the normal humans who live in the wasteland, they are all considered scum.  (People seem to get butt hurt when they get knocked down a notch in the food chain.)

Due to this animosity, many settlements offer rewards for inbreeder heads.  It’s their way of managing the growing population.  Needless to say, people who collect those heads don’t really care if you’re feral or not.  If you have even the most minor physical deformity, or your eyes glow just the slightest shade of green (a common way of spotting an inbreeder), you’re fair game.  This particular story opens with Drake conducting a scouting mission of a small inbreeder camp, which leads to some Drake-style shenanigans.

Baseball and Journal.jpg

I mentioned Drake’s journal above.  You can see it here sticking out of his back pocket.

That’s today’s glimpse into the wasteland.  I’m still about three weeks away before I begin my first rewrite.  Often, when I’m laying in bed trying to sleep, my mind comes back to the story and ideas for revision spring up.  I hastily write them down in a journal.  To be honest, it’s taken every ounce of willpower I have to stop myself from starting the rewrites early.  But I’m trying to practice what I preach.

As for the corresponding novella, The Wastelander Survival Guide, I have outlined it in it’s entirety and plan on starting the writing process within the next week or two.  On top of all of this, I am currently talking to an artist about drafting a graphic novel.  This story takes place thirty years after the fall and there is a lot of potential for a Drake backstory.  If that goes through, I’ll also have a Drake Origins graphic novel to bring to the table.

I hope you all stop by next Wednesday for more information about Wastelander: The Drake Legacy.  In the meantime, I’d love to know what you think about inbreeders.  Until then, keep hiding, keep hoarding, and as always – stay alive.

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Using Conventions to Sell Books (Reblog)

The Finished Masterpiece.jpgOne area of infernal mystery for me is marketing.  Many of us blog, tweet, tumble, and war our way to market our books and products.  There is an essential element missing though; the human element.  By this I mean word-of-mouth exchanges.

A great way of reaching the customer directly is going to conventions.  Going to conventions, getting face-to-face with customers, selling your book, and generating author buzz always confused me.  I’ve been to Comic-Con and I’ve seen the rows of tables with artists offering their wares.  It’s intimidating.

How do you get behind one of those tables and how do you sell your product?  More specifically, (1) which convention to choose,  (2) how do you get a table,  (3) how many books to bring,  (4) what do you put on your table, (5) what kind of extras to bring, and (6) how do you focus your message?

matt at his booth.jpg

Matt at his booth.

My good friend M.L.S. Weech (author, gentleman, and fellow Brown Piper) recently wrote a post that cuts away some of the mystery.  Weech frequents conventions and bookstores in an effort to promote his books and I consider him to be very experienced in this subject.  He’s figured out a lot of amazing information and he shared it recently on his blog.  As my blog is also about demystifying the writing process (from start to finish) I felt you all might find some amazing tools and tips in his words.

Matt’s post is hilariously titled, The Wrath of Cons; An Indie Author’s Guide to Conventions

Shameless Promotion.jpg

In the way of cyber-tastic interweb promotion, if you are into paranormal fantasy books involving beings who moonlight as soul shuttling reapers, you will likely enjoy Matt’s book, The Journals of Bob Drifter.

Below are a few of the marketing books on my shelf right now.  As I read them I will break down applicable information and share it with all of you.  After all, that’s what I try to do here at QE.

book in handMy goal is to isolate and develop tips that will allow us to reach down and grab readers by their ankles and shake out their pocket change.  Matt’s post (this reblog) will be the first “Marketing” category post on QE.  I plan to start populating this category with relevant and timely information.

Anyways!  Here’s the list:

  1. Do it! Marketing, by David Newman  This is more of a general marking book, but contagious cover artcovers some pretty sound technology aspects.  I picked it because it has 275 ratings and is sitting at 5 Stars.  That’s cooking with fire!
  2. Contagious: Why Things Catch On, by Jonah Berger.  First of all, this book has a beautiful cover.  Secondly, it has 4.5 stars with 600+ reviews.  Lastly, it’s an amazingly insightful read that goes way deeper than simple advertising schemes.  It looks at how people think and spread information.  It’s a brilliant read and one I will likely blabber on about more in the future.
  3. I’ve already talked about Write to Market, by Chris Fox here.  We had some good discussion on the idea of writing a book tailored to market on that day.  (I just moved that post into the newly created marketing category.)

That’s a wrap for today.  In short, check out Weech’s post!  I found it immensely helpful and it was just the kind of information I was looking for.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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Book Blurbs: A Quick Question

book blurb problems.jpgFor those of you who were worried I was blown away by Hurricane Hermine, I’m still here.  We weren’t forced to evacuate but we sure did get pounded by wind and rain.  There’s a little bit of flooding here and there, but nothing too extreme.  With that being said, I wanted to jump right into today’s post.  It will be a short one (I’m going to drive around the neighborhood and help pick up debris).

What makes a good book blurb?  If you can get someone to pick up your book thanks to the awesome cover art you’ve won a single battle.  The second battle comes when they flip it over and read the back blurb.  I need to train for the back cover battle.

Now that Wastelander has been drafted and I’ve started working on the other facets of the production, I’ve began to research different book blurb styles and techniques.  I thought I would share a few of the more solid sources I’ve located that seem to offer useful information.

Side note:  All of the following places I found seem to be pretty solid sources of information for self-publishing if that is your arena of conflict.  They talk about many of the production (printing, typesetting, cover art, etc.) aspects.

  1. From the BlurbBlog I found, The Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Book Blurbs for your Novel
  2. From CreativePen I found, How to Write Back Blurb for Your Book
  3. From WritersHelpingWriters I found, Blurbs that bore, Blurb that Blare

I‘ve also found a couple of book sources to check out.  I’ll be ordering these books here from Amazon and will start burning through them with my typical QE flair (highlighters and pens to desecrate the pages).

  1. The highest rated (and seemingly most legit looking) was Book Descriptions That Sell by Gary Webb
  2. More of an impulse than rating fueled I also purchased How to Blurb: (And how not to), by E.M. Lynley.  The author bio seems very legit, hopefully the content rock too.

There is certainly some repeat information in these offerings and in some of the other sources I found that didn’t make the list.  That’s a good thing.  I think of those massive repeats as high priority items.

book in handThere are some variables though for sure.  I’ve seen book blurbs written as (1) giant quotes from the book, (2) a partial quote and partial blurb, (3) full blurb, (4) no blurb and only “stellar” reviews, (5) first person weirdness, (6) a single line of text, and (7) the list goes on.

My plan is to create three different blurbs, each featuring a different style of delivering the information.  On one of my Wasteland Wednesday’s, I’ll present all three and get some opinions and toss a voting poll into the mix.  That way you can vote on the one that would most likely get you to open the book and give it a try.  It will give you another peak into the book, and provide me some essential post-production feedback.

question mark.pngMy question to all of you is what makes a good blurb in your opinion?  If you can remember a book, and could refer it as a prime example, that would be superbly helpful (I tend to sponge style when I read).  If you just tell me what the title is I can search for the blurb.  This is an area where I am learning as I go!

Well, I’m going to drive around in my truck and clean up branches and toppled trashcans in the neighborhood.  I’m behind on comments from yesterday and will start getting back to folks once I finish saving the world and getting my baby boy through the ol morning routine.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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Wastelander: First Draft Finito

Wastelander Layout

The first draft of Wastelander is finally finished!  It took a lot longer to finish than I thought it would.  I’ve been told first books are like that.  To highlight this point, here is a post from June 13, 2016 where I thought I would be done with the book in just a few weeks.  Whoops!

Now it’s time to shelf the beast and forget it exists.  When I come back to it in six plus weeks, I will do a one sitting read through (83,723 words), blast it with red ink, and rewrite the whole book all over again!  In the meantime, here are the things that will be happening:

  • I should be getting my cover art in the very near future.  Michail is doing great work.
  • Drafting of The Wastelander Survival Guide has begun.  This is the complementing novella to the book.
  • The Wastelander Survival Guide is illustrated so I need to make a story board for this and search out a good line/ink artist for rough illustrations (the drawings are created by teenage character from the main book so they shouldn’t be too spiffy).
  • I have a stack of books on writing query letters and I’ve already got a “shortlist” of agents to contact.  It’s time to start writing and polishing query letters.  Look forward to posts about this.
  • I have pre-generated a series of teasers for the book. I’ll talk about this below.
  • I have two short stories outlined that I want to write and submit to literary magazines.  One is science fiction and the other is popular culture.  I’m looking forward to writing outside of the Wastelander universe for a spell.
  • I am picking up a new client (maybe even two) in September on the business side.  So I’m looking forward to jumping into to some new worlds.  Two clients is pretty much my monthly limit as general editing consumes a bunch of time.  Especially when we are working on novel sized projects.
  • Raising my son (the tiny Thor) and helping my radioactive wife fulfill her military obligations.
  • (Oh yeah, I write a daily blog post too…)

I mentioned above I have already generated some teasers for the book.  Here is the strategy I have decided to implement with releasing information about the book.  I didn’t want to release straight excerpts from the book.  Some publishers/agents frown on this and I’m attempting to publish traditionally.

My solution was Wasteland Wednesday.  This will be a series of shorts (under 1000 words) covering different elements from the book.  I will also be offering some graphic creations as well.  Some of the shorts will be little vignettes about characters, and some will provide you background/historic information regarding the world they live in.  I will share some of my character sheets, world building tools, and “behind the scenes” information as well.  Spoiler information will be redacted.

Wasteland Wednesday.jpg

You’ll learn a lot of things about the wasteland universe through these.  However, none of it will spoil the book for you; it should enhance it.  I’m creating a new category for these shorts titled “Wastelander.”  This will keep it organized for current and future readers.  I’m redirecting most of my Wastelander universe content to this category for housekeeping purposes.

wiki page.pngMost of us know that only about ten percent of what we know about our universes, characters, and cultural histories make it into the book.  This will allow me to share those aspects, and give me a place to compile them into a wiki of sorts.

That’s pretty much all the gears that are in motion right now.  I’m sure some monkey wrenches will start raining down from the heavens soon.  No worries though!  I’m wearing a viking helmet/hardhat.  I hope some of you are excited to learn about the Wasteland!  I’m thrilled to share.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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Write to Market: Book, Blurb & Collage

Write to Market, Chris Fox.jpg

Some of my indie friends requested that I start doing more research regarding publishing and marketing books.  To this end, I recently finished reading Write to Market by Chris Fox.  At 100 pages this book now takes the top spot on my, “Shortest Books On Writing,” list (coming to a blog near you).  It edged out The Elements of Style by a whopping five pages!

Now before I talk about this book I want to say two things:

  1. This book is not about marketing a preexisting book.  It is about gauging the market and writing a book to meet market demand.
  2. This concept is probably going to make some of you want to raise a ruckus and talk about how this method of writing is an author selling his/her soul for a buck (or multiple bucks).

When I started reading this book my feet were planted firmly in the second category.  I read the first ten percent of this book (ten pages) and was less than impressed.  Mostly because I thought this was a book on marketing a preexisting book, and also because I felt like writing a book for someone other than myself was akin to punching kittens.

Ethos, pathos, logos

As I continued to read I felt myself being persuaded.  Fox was offering a sound argument packed with ethos, pathos, and logos.  Here are a few points to help you gauge if this book is for you or not.  I’m not going to share too much content because this book is so short.

  • This book is current.  It offers advice that can be applied now.  This makes it a strong reference text.
  • This book is written by a successful indie author specifically for other indie authors.
  • This book is short.  It isn’t packed with exposition.  It is packed with useful tools to leverage online sources and listing tools to examine the writing market.
  • Fox shows you how to use Amazon and other online tools to examine your genre for trends.
  • Fox explains how tracking trends in your genre and writing a book that fits popular demand isn’t really selling out.
  • Fox explains if you want to write and make money, write books people want to read.
  • If you don’t care about making money, write purely for yourself.

Those last two bullets probably have some of you getting ready to beat on your keyboards.  I’ve thought about it over the last few days and this is what I have come up with.  If I would apply this books principles this would be my basic process (there’s more to it in the book).

  1. I outline my book premise.  Then stop.
  2. Use tools provided in book to research genre.
  3. Find the top 20-100 books of my genre.
  4. Read reviews and examine story elements.
  5. Find what unites these books in popularity.
  6. Take the story I was already going to write, and apply some of those elements.
  7. I have written to market.

lookingExample:  I write post-apocalyptic fiction.  So I research the market and see what is popular.  Not just now, but over the last few months.  I look at those books and find what the repeat elements are.  Standard zombies are out, mutant zombies are in.  City scenes are out, fantasy lands are in.

I look at the failed books.  Again, what are the repeat elements?  A group of survivors led by a male protagonist is a story line that is getting old.  They are also getting tired of the whole, “Ushering the mad scientist to the lab of glory to save the world story line.” Okay cool.

I take the story I was already going to write and tweak it in just a few areas to fit market demand and write it.  That’s really it.  Is writing the story you wanted to write, but adding an element readers want to read make you a sell out?  That’s for you to decide.

[Begin Rant Here]

Fisticuffs.jpgHere’s my opinion.  I want to tell my story and I want people to read it.  I also would like to make money.  Because money is good (i.e. pays bills, feeds my family, legitimizes the time spent slaving away).

If I’m cracking some beers open with my cop or military buddies, our stories often turn toward past exploits.  If I would tell my parents those same stories, I would likely tell them in a slightly different way (less vulgarity, drunkenness, and belly laughter).  I want to share those stories, but I also want to be mindful of the listener.  To do this I place a filter on the story.  It’s the same story, but with slight modifications.

I think if we are honest, we all do this to some extent.  At least in the context of how we conduct ourselves with different people.  As long as we aren’t sociopaths about it, it’s normal.  We do this in our daily life, but for some reason we are compelled to take an ethical stand on the stories that could put bread on the table.  If the story is designed to be read by others, shouldn’t we ensure we know what others want to read?

I understand that I’m a noob writer.  I’m not going to sway the market with my stories.  Maybe when one of us is a multi-platinum New York Times best-seller of destiny we will be able to push readers one way or the other.  So for now, I’m not going to try to change the flow of a river.  I’m going to test the waters (market) and float explosives (books) down it to blow the dam to smithereens (readers minds).  At least that’s my plan…

[End Rant]

write to marketAt 100 pages this book is thought provoking.  Your alternative to gauge market trends is Writer’s Market 2016, which is a soul crushing 868 pages.  It can also heat your home the following year because it will be outdated.

If you are curious about market trends, marketing a future book, or just want to be more educated in regards to authors who write to match market trends, I would encourage you to pick this book up.  What are your thoughts?  Do you feel matching a book’s content to meet market trends is bad mojo?  I’ve shared my thoughts, I’d be curious to know yours.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

Copyright Info (final)

Copy Editing Marketing E-Books

online search.jpgSearch around freelance haunts for copy editing gigs and sooner or later you are going to find a few requests for editing marketing material.  These work requests are typically a mega-boring standard advert with an overly ridiculous parenthesis at the end saying, (URGENT MUST BE COMPLETED WITHIN 24 HOURS!).  Don’t stress!  These are (typically) short order jobs, living in 2,000 word land.  They are also relatively low paying, but hey, snap enough of these guys up and you can make some quick buckaroos.

Pros

  • Quick turnaround!  Is your bookie looking to break your legs?  Grab a few of these and pay those debts.
  • No story to deal with.  Unlike novels, you are typically dealing with straight up business hoopla.  You won’t be looking for plot holes, because they don’t exist.
  • Do a good job and you might be able to net some continuous work from the company.
  • A potential entry point for new freelancers to snag good reviews and bolster their online portfolios.

Cons

  • Some of the companies (or at least the poor soul tasked with hiring a freelancer) have no idea what they really want other than proofreading and formatting.  Here is a good article, 6 Tips for Copyediting E-Books, written by Joe Gillespie on the Business 2 Community website that gives you an idea of what they are looking for on their end.
  • Some freelance websites only allow you to do so many jobs per month *cough* Upwork *cough*.  Lots of little jobs for little money can exhaust your monthly jobs and leave you with empty wallets and empty bellies.
  • Can cause you to weep tears of boredom.

I’m sure more experienced hands than I could write volumes, but this is a taste.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

Copyright Info (final)

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