Oh, Deadlines

There is nothing quite so motivating as a deadline.  I’m down to under 2,000 words to meet my Camp NaNoWriMo for April, 2019, which – bonus – I probably wouldn’t be this far into my next book had I not joined up to do a camp NaNo.  But sometimes you write and write and write, and can only get so far.

There’s a fine line when it comes to writing; are you telling a story, or are you just putting words on a page.  Sometimes it’s okay to put words on a page, as long as you can edit it to a coherent story later on.  And sometimes working with deadlines does make you feel like you’re just putting words on a page.  I didn’t feel that when I’d first gotten into this Camp NaNo event, but I indeed have the last couple of days.

The good thing is, I’m following my plotlines as I’ve laid them out, so at least it seems to be working for me.  And I’ll more than likely get those last 2,000 words in before midnight tonight and beat that deadline.  But even if I don’t, it’s not the end of the world.  It’s making progress on something I love.

My original deadlines for writing were a lot more arbitrary than the ones I have now.  Before, I said I wanted to finish one book in the first quarter of 2019, and then finish this book that I’m currently writing in the second quarter.  Good, noble goals.  But the fact that there was no external element to the first set of goals, but there was for the second (e.g. Camp NaNo) made all the difference for me.

So here’s to goals and deadlines.  They get us to where we want to go – sometimes.

I think the best representation of how I sometimes feel about deadlines was said eloquently by the late, great Douglas Adams:

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by. -Douglas Adams

Oh my

So I am on Twitter talking to other authors about websites, and – ding ding ding!  I realize that I haven’t posted anything on here in nine months.  That’s long enough to conceive a baby, bring it to term, have it, and contemplate the next eighteen years as a caregiver to a child I didn’t know I had until the start of this blog post.  Yeesh.

Not that Boo and I are capable of having children, what both being dudes and all.  But I digress.

Things have been going slow on the writing front for the last few months, as evidenced by the fact that I haven’t published anything since Migration: Beginnings was re-published in the Summer of 2018.  Thing is, I have so many ideas, that I told someone who is helping me with getting my professional head on straight, that it’s almost like overload paralysis.

But I’m making progress.

I was supposed to be writing the prequel and first book of the romance series that I’m writing with my coauthor Lisa (who wrote ‘A Million Miles Amok’ with me).  But the bug to work on a new Migration book has really captured me.  So that, plus the fact that I’m taking part in CampNanoWrimo with my friend Nazri, means I’m working on that series.  I hope to get the sequel finished by the end of June, and I should be able to make it.  I’m nearly 20,000 words in, and have everything plotted.  It’s just that I throw my own roadblocks up from time to time with how I think the story should go.  Oh well, more time to work out the details with Shavonne (seriously, she’s a great sounding board and instigator of wonderful ideas.  Here’s her website if you’re interested!).

Still have a couple of hours to go on today’s Migration chapter, so back to it.  Catch you all on Twitter!

Book Re-Release!

Migration: Beginnings has been re-released!  The long overdue task of completely rewriting from scratch, as well as including updates that brings it into alignment with the principals of the awesome book, ‘Take Off Your Pants’ is complete.  So the newly edited book, along with the gorgeous new book cover, is live at the online bookstore of your choosing.  Links are below, or you can click on the new book cover below to head over to Amazon if that’s your store of choice.

Migration: Beginnings

Buy it on:

Beta the new version of Migration: Beginnings

Okay, so when I first got to publishing, I had no idea what I was doing. Then I got a few pointers from people, read some books, etc. And now I still have no idea what I’m doing, but at least I think my writing has gotten better!

As such, Migration: Beginnings was rewritten from scratch for two reasons. First, many people like me who tend to read in present tense can read either present tense or past tense without issue. But people who prefer past tense typically (at least from the feedback others have given me) detest present tense written books.

I know, right? Who knew?

But beyond the entire rewrite, I also went through the principals of ‘Take Off Your Pants‘ by Libbie Hawker and realized that hey – Migration wasn’t ready. So after the rewrite, I then went back and added in stuff that Hawker extolls in her book. And I think it’s made all the difference.

So now that that’s done, I have one last read-through before I’m done. But I’d also like to get other’s feedback as well. So if you’re interested in a pre-release copy of the Migration: Beginnings rewrite, drop me a note and I’ll be happy to get you one as long as you promise to send me feedback.

Why I chose to unpublish Migration Beginnings

One of the most difficult things you have to do as a writer is the editing process.  I have a wonderful little magnet that says:

Write Drunk – Edit Sober

And that’s a good philosophy, even if you don’t take it literally.  Write as uninhibited as you can, but when you go through the editing process, a careful, analytical hand is called for.

Migration: Beginnings has been published for just over a year now to minor success – and that’s okay.  It’s my baby, and I’m happy with it, for the most part.  But what I wasn’t happy with stemmed from feedback received after the book was published, as well as information I found out just about the same time.  First, the overall feedback from a couple of readers was that the book would flow better if it were in past tense instead of present tense.  Now for me, tense doesn’t make that huge a difference.  I can read either.  But I consider that personally, I don’t like to read things written in first-person.  Very few writers can get me to read first-person written works.  So thinking about it from their perspective, it just made sense that I should rewrite it as a past-tense written book.

Beyond that, I read Libbie Hawker’s “Take Off Your Pants” – and realized all of the stuff that I left out of the book.  The good thing is, not only can I see the holes that I need to fill, but I can also see how to fill them.

But the problem isn’t the rewrite – it’s the time it’s taking me.  Real life gets in the way a lot, leaving me precious little time to work on my writing.  I’m carving out time to get it done, but sometimes it gets missed because life happens.

So I unpublished Migration: Beginnings from Amazon.  It’s still published in a couple other spots, but because the volume of sales is so low, I’m not worried about it.  I’m giving myself until May 31st to finish the rewrite, and then I’ll get it published again.  And if you’ve purchased a copy, it will get updated to the new version.

Here’s to meeting deadlines and productivity!  Once Migration is completed, I can start on what the Muse strikes me with on any of the half a dozen other books that are running through my head.

On Music

One thing that hits every single aspect of my life is music.  Be it the background noise while I’m writing, what I do to keep me just distracted enough to keep me focused while doing my day job, or what I bounce to while I’m cleaning.  Music is in just about every aspect of my life.

Stephen King writes to artists like Metallica.  I was talking to another writer about music (Soren Summers) and he mentioned that he listens to artists like Gesaffelstein.  I, personally, listen to classical music for what I need in my environment when I write.  But it’s not just the music that’s there – it’s the music that enhances what you’re writing.

For instance, Soren’s choice of Gesaffelstein is something that I could definitely listen to if I was writing erotica.  There is something sensual in the beats, the rhythm, the trance that the music puts you in, and that overall it just gives you the chance to let go of yourself.  And if you’re writing an effective sex scene – not a lovemaking scene, a sex scene – then why not listen to something that’s raw, and a bit animalistic?

When writing parts of A Million Miles Amok, I actually chose to write without music, and used the noisy aircraft cabin as my ambience.  But when I wrote Migration: Beginnings, I actually varied what I wrote.  In the “setup” type scenes, I listened to regular classical music. But in a couple of pivotal action sequences, I actually put “O Fortuna” on repeat.  Why?  Because it’s one single piece of music that has been used in critical action sequences in multiple movies, and I wanted to see if I could capture that same type of energy as I wrote.

Music is pretty big for me, and as I don’t have much to blog about right now (because rewrites kinda suck!), I thought I’d start a little side bit here about music.  Not just music when it comes to writing, but also music in the movies.  Because music can make or break a film, turning a cinematically-filmed marvel into a two dimensional piece of entertainment.  I mean, when it came to films from 2005, the cinematic marvel was “Brokeback Mountain”, though it would not be as successful if Gustavo Santaolalla hadn’t penned the beautiful piece “The Wings“.  What would Close Encounters of the Third Kind be without the pivotal “Dialogue” scene?  And the movie Jaws wouldn’t have been half as scary without those few low notes from a tuba and woodwinds that started it all.

I, personally, was ready to dismiss the remake of the 1950s classic “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” – until I not only saw the movie, but the accompanying music.  Sure, the scene with Walter Mitty jumping on the helicopter as Kristen Wiig and David Bowie sang “Space Oddity” was a turning point not only for Walter, but for the movie itself.  But to me, both the cinematography and lyrics to the song “Far Away” do the most when it comes to non-verbal communication with the audience.  Mitty, a guy who has a nonplussed life, suddenly is feeling alive again as he skateboards down a deserted road.  Even the lyrics are there.  “Step in front of a runaway train, just to feel alive again.”  There’s a link on Youtube, but unless you see the whole thing, it doesn’t impact you as much as the whole film does.

So here goes.  A dialogue on music that’ll happen from time to time.  Because why not?

On Writing and Writing Books

One of the overwhelming things they tell you when you want to be a writer is that you have to read a lot. So I’m reading in my professional writing genre quite a bit, and enjoying it. Even the recent series that I stumbled upon, which has zombies (something I don’t like only because zombies are the only thing that can give me nightmares) is amazing. If anyone is interested, check out it’s called the Vertex series by Soren Summers. I didn’t know there were going to be zombies going into it, but it is oh so worth it.

Getting to the meat of my post, I wanted to talk about writing books. I don’t read books about writing. Rather, I listen to them (thank goodness for audiobooks!). I’ve only listened to 4 so far, but there’s something I took away from each.

Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down The Bones” and “Thunder and Lightning”. I listened to Bones first, and then after another book, Thunder and Lightning. There’s a bit of good that comes from each book, though they mostly talk about process and background. Goldberg is an old fashioned type writer, if I may say so. She talks about writing practice, and filling up stacks and stacks of notebooks. Writing practice is where you kind of let go and get in touch with what kind of writer you are. There’s a general guideline she has of “Maybe do writing practice two years before you attempt anything professional” and I can see that. But she goes on to say that the two year rule is more of a guideline than anything. The thing about Goldberg’s books, especially Bones, was that I would listen to them as I went on long afternoon walks – and whether it was her cadence or voice or just being inspiring, I spent a lot of the time with ideas for stories flooding my brain. How to work out a specific detail about the next Migration book? Well, it came to me as Goldberg was talking about a writing workshop in Minnesota, or the time she spent writing short poems for people at a farmer’s market for $1 per page. In all, I did enjoy both books, and though my mindset is more in the Thunder and Lightning realm, I enjoyed Bones much more.

Stephen King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”. This book confused me when I started it. King talks mostly about his childhood for the first 20% of the book. But the way he can tell a tale is amazing. His time discussing how he missed a lot of school and ended up in the doctor’s with an ear infection multiple times just creeped me the hell out. But the overwhelming thing about King’s work is the lesson that comes natural through the discussion of the book. Think you might have an idea? Go ahead and write it, because you’re meant to. Nobody can tell a tale in your voice but you. And even some of the most well known stuff by King started out when he was processing laundry for hospitals and doing other menial tasks. Even in those bleak moments of his life, he was able to get something written down on paper that changed the world. The book is almost like a list of do’s and don’t’s on writing, but sprinkled around an interesting life so that if you’re not paying attention, you might miss them. One thing he has said that bugged me, though, was the lesson “If you have a possessive apostrophe and the word ends with the letter S, it’s still an apostrophe S in your writing.” Of course in Migration there’s a lot of stuff done by Rhys – so that would mean I would have to go back and change them all from saying things like “Rhys’ voice was soft behind the roar of the waterfall” to “Rhys’s voice was soft behind the roar of the waterfall.” I think that’s the only thing I don’t agree with – but who am I to say? Maybe I just no longer have names that end with S in my writing as a way of getting around it? ::grin::

Annie Dillard’s “The Writing Life”. Oh man. I had high hopes for this book after listening to just the very beginning, especially after the inchworm story. I’ll leave it here:

Dillard writes a passage about an inchworm, the proverbial inchworm, that inches its way to the top of a long piece of grass. It gets to the top and says, “What? No Further?” It starts panicking, it starts wriggling, it starts looking for somewhere further to go. Finally, it bends the grass over to another piece, it attaches itself, and it starts climbing to the top again. But when it finally gets there, it exclaims, “What? No further? End of world?” “Why don’t you just jump?” asks Dillard, “disgusted. ‘Put yourself out of your misery.'”

This little passage spoke to me so much.  Why?  Because I sometimes go into a bit of a creative tailspin thinking I don’t have anything creative in me.  It’s like a tree branch that grows into my prison cell.  I took and took and took from the branch, plucking all the wonderful creative bits and ended up snapping the branch in half.  And even though I can reach through the bars of my cell, and brush my fingers against the stub of creativity that hovers just far out of reach, that’s all I get.  Yes, I feel like I get a morsel every now and again, most mostly I sit there staring at the branch, wondering why it’s so far gone when I need it the most.

I am the inchworm.  I’ve reached the tip of that blade of grass, and wail back and forth because creativity is gone.  I’m at the end of my world and don’t know what to do next.

But that’s where Dillard’s book left me.  After the first ten minutes, it was just a mishmash of semi-connected stories on what she did when she wrote.  What cabins she rented.  The weather.  That time she went up in an airplane with a guy who ended up dying doing a barrel roll.  For someone to inspire me so much in the first ten minutes, and then let me languish so much for the last three hours…  Well, it was so disappointing.

So those are the four books I’ve listened to on writing.  I’ve taken away something from each of them, and I’ll keep going.

If you have suggestions for writing books, please let me know.  What was your favorite?  What worked for you, and what didn’t?  I enjoy listening to writing audiobooks as I deal with mundanity like weeding the yard or working on my 10,000 steps per day, because it brings a bit of brightness to a task that’s just shades of grey.

When Writing IS Your Business

I’m at a point in my career where I get a chance to write, but it’s not my primary job.  I’d love it to be; get up in the morning, spend a few hours writing, have some time to do marketing and just fun interactive stuff with writers and readers, and then a few more hours of writing.  But that’s just not the case right now.  My primary job is in Medical Information Technology, and I truly love it.  But one day…

Thing is, Boo and I are going to India in August.  Since we’re on the US West Coast, we’ve got multiple looooong flights (14 hours SEA to DXB, 4 hours DXB to BOM, 8 hours BOM to LHR, and 10 hours LHR to SEA) that would be perfect for getting quite a bit of writing done.  Especially since I think August is a Camp NaNo month?  Or maybe that’s July…  Anyway, when you get paid to write, you cherish any time that you can spend on your craft.  So it’s hard to read that the iPad/laptop ban may be extended to more countries.  That means I might be able to travel with my laptop TO India, I wouldn’t be allowed to travel with it back to the United States.

We shall see what the fallout comes.  But here’s hoping it’s not an all-out ban, because that would suck even worse than sitting next to a screaming toddler that just filled their diaper for a fourteen-hour flight.

Not a fan of the Kindle? That’s okay!

So many people like and use the Kindle format, either on a Kindle reader itself or within the Kindle app.  I tend to read that way, because it can keep track of your progress in a book, sync with Goodreads, among other things.  But the thing for me is, it doesn’t sync between devices – at least not for books that you don’t get from Amazon.  And if you take part in ARC (advance reading copies) programs or downloads from Instafreebies or the like, then that book stays on the device you downloaded it to and doesn’t get shared with your other devices.

Which is why I’m happy to announce that Migration: Beginnings is now available on not just Kindle, but iBooks, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and even libraries starting Tuesday, March 7th!  The book is live in many of these bookstores, but get delivered to Kobo and libraries starting tomorrow.  And as a special for libraries, I’ve made the books free.  So if you’re interested in reading from your local library (many of which take advantage of the Overdrive reading app), you should be able to download a copy and read it from your libraries starting soon.

Hope this makes people’s Mondays just a bit better!