First real check-in of 2013

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Last week, I set my goals, but I skipped the mid-week check-in, so this is my first real check-in of ROW 80 2013 Round 1.

I’m pleased to report that my word count on EyeCU currently stands at 83,149 words. When I checked in a week ago, that count stood at 79,694 words.

That means that in the past week, I’ve written 3,465 words of new progress, and I’m only 1,851 words away from my minimum length goal for EyeCU. It’s not quite a 5,000-word week, but I’ll sure take it.

While I’m close to my minimum length goal, the story is going to need more space to play out the climax and closing action. Things are definitely happening fast-n-furious right now, but I don’t want to rush the payoff, so I’m thinking 95,000 words is a more realistic end-length, prior to editing. Give or take a few thousand words.

Still, it’s a strong first week of the new ROW80 year for me, and I’m happy to have the light at the end of this tunnel so close at hand, finally. See you at the next check-in I can make time for.


New ROW 80 – 2013 Round 1 Goals

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So, here we are at the beginning of a new round of ROW 80 and the beginning of a new year.

As I write this, my never-ending novel, EyeCU, stands at 79,694 words.

At my last report, which came during the ROW80 Winter Hiatus, that word count stood at 75,165 words.

That’s 4,529 words of new progress since December 28.

My original word-count goal for EyeCU was “at least 85,000 words,” so there’s no danger now of not reaching that total. The question is how far I’ll go over that goal.

Right now, it feels like 95,000 is around where it’ll end up. But I’ve taken my readers on a 79K+ words journey thus far, so I definitely do not want to disappoint them with a rushed ending.

As the new year dawns, though, I finally have the end of EyeCU in sight, and will be able to move on to other projects. Hopefully, ones that will write faster than EyeCU has.

With that in mind, here are my goals for the first quarter of 2013.

1. Write at least four nights a week, 1,250 words per night minimum. That would put me at 5,000 words a week, which would be good to achieve given my schedule.

2. Finish EyeCU.

3. Move EyeCU into MS Word, revising as I format it a bit, and get it ready for my first-readers.

4. Act on wise feedback from my first readers.

5. Place a nice, clean manuscript in the hands of an editor for a small press that, at this point, I’m not going to name unless something good happens.

6. During breaks in working on EyeCU, work on Holiday Horror Trilogy. (That’s my next project’s code-name, until I’m ready to reveal it to the world.)

7. That is all.

See you during my regular-to-semi-regular check-ins.


I will return to ROW80 in 2013

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So, I had three weekly update reports filed in a row and then, like magic, my reporting stopped cold for the rest of Round 4, 2012.

Did I have a health crisis? No.

Did I stop writing? Absolutely not.

Did I just come down with a case of forgetfulness? No, not really.

Here’s the thing: I needed to get serious about finishing EyeCU and as I’ve been very short of time in the fourth quarter of 2012, even the time it takes to write a quick update on this blog became precious writing time. And I found that when I spent twenty or thirty minutes doing a blog post about my progress, I often felt exhausted enough (since I write during graveyard shift hours to begin with) that I’d call it good enough for the night and not get any writing done at all.

As in, actual progress on EyeCU.

So, here’s the deal… last time I checked in, I was at 68,075 words. As of this writing, I’m now at 75,165. So, in the last two months, I’ve made about 7,100 words of new progress.

That’s not staggering. That’s a good week’s worth of writing for me, back in 2011.

But had I kept updating my status, I’d have been fortunate to get half that much progress done.

The good news is, I’m now in the home stretch. I’m less than 10,000 words away from my length goal, and the novel has entered Act 3, the climax and closing action of the story. While the real amount of writing left in front of me might be closer to 20,000 words than 10,000, the light at the end of the tunnel that has been this slow-progress process of writing EyeCU is nearly done.

I’ve written almost half of my new progress in the last three nights alone, which means my free time is opening up again. So, with a bit of good fortune and discipline, it’s my hope to have EyeCU out to beta readers and in revisions by the time the first round of ROW80 begins, on January 7, 2013.

Will I be a regular progress-reporting participant in 2013, as I was in 2011, or will I be sporadic again, as I was for most of 2012?

I don’t know. But I do know that regardless of how often I post, ROW80 has been a help to me in getting more disciplined about my writing.

I’ll put off talking about my plans for 2013 until we do goal-setting for Round 1, but let’s just say that the plan for the coming year is sure to include getting more works written to completion, and publishing more than one new short story over the course of the year.

But I’ll go into detail on that in a week or so. See you all then.

Back to EyeCU…


Third midweek check-in in a row! ROW80, that is…

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The important stat first.

Last week when I checked in, my word count on EyeCU stood at 65,843.

As I write this, my word count is at 68,075.

That’s 2,232 words of new progress. Still not great, but for three weeks in a row, I’ve made about that much forward progress every week. So, I’ll take it. It’s better than nothing.

I’m less concerned at this point about reaching 85,000 words than I am about not rushing the climax and closing action of the story. I want to maintain the nice, tense pace I’ve set, so if that means it stretches in the 90K range, then that’s what it means.

See you in a week, unless I’m inspired to do an update on Sunday. (I’m usually not.)


Better a little late than never

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Well, my midweek update is going up Thursday morning instead of Wednesday morning, but here I am. Two weekly updates in a row! It’s not two per week, but it’s something!

When we talked a week ago, I revealed my WIP, EyeCU, stood at 63,754 words. As I write this, it now stands at 65,843 words. That’s 2,089 words of forward progress over the last week. Which is roughly the same amount of progress I’d reported last week.

Well, there’s something to be said for consistency. It’s at least a stepping stone toward the 6,000-word a week goal I’ve set for myself. If I can’t reach 6,000 words a week these first couple weeks, at least I’m regularly producing progress, which was a huge stumbling block for me most of the third quarter.

Next step? Increasing my output, now that I have output to increase.

See you next week, even if I blow off Sunday again.


Midweek Check-In

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Well, here’s a change of pace: I’m doing a mid-week update within a week of my last update. That’s better than I did all of Round 3 of ROW80. So I’m keeping myself accountable, so far, and that’s good.

I’ve not been especially productive, though.

When I started this round, my word count on EyeCU stood at 61,457 words. Tonight, as I write my update, EyeCU stands at 63,754 words, or 2,117 words of forward progress.

That’s about one-third of what I was shooting for this week, but I’m not going to complain at this point because at least I’m back in the habit, so far, of holding myself accountable. And it’s enough progress to officially put my at three-quarters of the way toward my minimum word count goal. So that’s nice.

Now it’s time to dig in. The action in the story is picking up. Things are getting both sticky and interesting. All the groundwork is more or less laid, and now it’s time for things to get chaotic and fun for a while, before we wind the story toward its inevitable conclusion.


Final ROW80 round in 2012 begins

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Ahh, so it begins.

The final 2012 round of ROW80 is underway and I’ve been so slack about checking in that I missed the final check-in for round 3, as well as missing the first check-in of round 4, where I’m supposed to state my goals.

So I’ll do it now. Better late than never, I guess.

Goal 1: Finish EyeCU. Just finish it, dang it.

Goal 2: Release audiobooks for MOST LIKELY and SHADA. (Currently in the works, with great narrators for each.)

Goal 3: Polish up EyeCU and submit it to *CENSORED FOR NOW*, and hope for the best.

Just those three things. That’d be enough, at this point, to make me jump for joy.

If there’s any time left in the year by the time I get those three things done, I’ll add more goals.

But for now, this is enough.

Weekly writing goal: Still 6,000 words per week. I know I’ve been falling short a lot. But it’s still the right goal to have.

Where things stand as Q4 starts: Right now, as I write this post, EyeCU stands at 61,457 words.

That’s the beginning point for this round of ROW80.

My minimum word count goal is 85,000 words, so I’m three-fourths of the way there, or just about. But I have a feeling the narrative could go longer than 85K. Like, closer to 100K. We’ll see. Let’s just make sure I’m pumping out 6K a week and THEN we’ll worry about where the story ends.

Right? Right.

Excelsior! (An old Stan Lee-ism, which means, basically… Onward!)


REVIEW: She Smells the Dead by E.J. Stevens

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A few days ago, I wrote an review about She Smells the Dead on

At that time, I gave it only two stars because while I found the concept and the characters interesting, the edition of the book I’d received when I bought it suffered from what I assumed was a bad formatting job. To alert readers to this… because it was a problem that created enough troubles that it hampered my enjoyment of the story, or even my ability to finish it… I wrote the review, even though I don’t typically write reviews of books I don’t finish (for one reason or another.)

Well, I’m pleased to report that shortly after my review was up, the author kindly contacted me, thanking me for pointing out the problem. It gave her a chance to correct a keystroke error (identified as the source of the problem) and update the book. I was also offered an early corrected edition by the author, which I found to be both courteous and professional as a gesture.

I share all this in the interest of full disclosure. That taken care of, here’s my new review, which is now based solely on the book, characters, and story of SHE SMELLS THE DEAD, rather than being a reaction to some troublesome formatting issues. Yay!

First of all, what initially drew me to trying out this book was the uniqueness of the concept. A character who detects and communicates with the dead through only one sense, and one of the harder-to-interpret senses at that? Okay, I’m intrigued. Having been a fan of Charlaine Harris’ Harper Connelly series, I figured this book might be playing right into my interests.

Also… I’m rarely influenced by covers in making a purchasing decision, but the goth influence of the cover art, I must admit, helped push me over the edge to OneClick this book and try it out. It signaled to me a certain tone for the novel.

The author did a solid job of introducing characters and the supernatural conflict. She also set up the “romance” part of her “paranormal romance” well.

The mystery involving a vinegar-smelling ghost plays out well, though I was hoping for a bit more conflict to it. Most of the challenges Yuki faces, however, are purely paranormal ones.

So, if you enjoy tales of a young person learning how to control her powers, and conflict with disembodied spirits, there’s plenty here to please you as a reader.

For this particular installment, though, I found myself wishing there were some additional levels to the conflicts Yuki faces.

For example, Yuki’s attraction to Calvin takes her by surprise one day, after seeing him as a friend for quite some time. Yet what sparks in her that new romantic interest element? Does another girl try to catch his eye? Nope. It just happens out of a mutually-expressed interest that just springs up.

Now, that’s how I imagine a lot of young men and women fall in love in high school. It’s a reflection of real life, which is a strength. However, it’s not as intense from a dramatic point of view as it might have been if there had been a rival introduced, either for her affections or his.

That may happen later in the series, but the lack of it in this installment left me feeling like the character was having things develop maybe just a bit too easily for her, on the romantic front.

Even so, there was a hometown sweetness to their naturalistic romance that is sure to appeal to fans of romance. So it’s not necessarily a weakness in a story, just a conflict between my own expectations and the story the author set out to tell. Well, it’s the author’s story, and it’s well-told, so that’s a wash.

The only other piece of the novel that left me less than fully satisfied was the sort of pacing so common to novels in this genre. (So, again, what bugs me might be totally irrelevant to another reader.)

But here goes: much of the story foreshadows a coming conflict that Yuki must ready herself for, to survive. That event is Halloween, referred to in the novel more often as Samhain. Sounds interesting, and especially challenging for the smell-sensitive Yuki… how do you handle tons of spirits out and about, trying to communicate to her on a night when they all roam free? I’m ready.

But, because this book is part of what is currently a trilogy of titles, the last chapter ends without Samhain even arriving yet.

Ouch. Build it up, build it up…. and no payoff? Not even a cliffhanger ending? That’s fine, but it did elicit an “Ugh” from me. As in, “Ugh, now I HAVE to buy the next installment to find out how this whole thing they’re building to turns out.”

But I’d be even more excited to grab the next installment with a cliffhanger ending where it looks like Yuki, Calvin, and friends are, at least, in over their heads.

Then again, not everyone likes cliffhangers the way I do. And SHE SMELLS THE DEAD is no different, in this regard, than many other highly successful series.

And those are the only two minor things where I had problems with the book’s story. They’re not huge problems, and for some readers, won’t be considered problems at all. It’s just more about my tastes.

But at this point, what I can say is this: those two minor issues aside, SHE SMELLS THE DEAD delivered the goods on many levels. Not only was it a fresh concept, but by and large it played out well and was executed with skill by the author, as a story.

The cleaned-up edition of the book I received (which should be live now, on Amazon, to first-time purchasers) is sharp-looking, well-formatted, and offers up a quick, satisfying read. I found myself largely pleased with this installment, on balance, and I do plan to acquire the rest of the books available in the Spirit Guide series.

I want to see how things turn out for Yuki and Calvin. And in the end, that means the story did its job.


REVIEW: Box by John Locke

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Box, the second novella focusing on Dr. Gideon Box, from author John Locke, is a bit of a letdown following on the heels of the series’ impressive debut, Bad Doctor. While the concept was solid and the action comic, it simply seemed to be a bit directionless.

It’s not clear how the tale in Box advances the tale of Dr. Gideon Box, focusing as it does on his out-of-hospital activities. The installments will seem even more disjointed to those readers who read Bad Doctor, but did not pick up Callie’s Last Dance from his Donovan Creed series of novels.

While the character-crossover elements between Locke’s series is normally a fun Easter egg for fans of his narratives, rarely have the elements of Locke’s narrative so strongly demanded reading all his series simply to keep track of who’s who.

While virtually no one from Locke’s other series appear in Box, how the novel follows on from Bad Doctor will be frustratingly mysterious to those who only read those two novels and fail to pick up Callie’s Last Dance. Only by doing so do some plot threads left dangling at the end of Bad Doctor get picked up for any sort of resolution between Book 1 and Book 2 in the Dr. Gideon Box series.

This sort of disjointedness is exactly the morass Locke has avoided until recently; vague signs of it were detectable in his failure to properly introduce Donovan Creed readers in Callie’s Last Dance to Willow Breeland, even though I believe she debuted in Bad Doctor.

What Locke could use is a good continuity editor to help him keep all his characters straight; if hiring such a helper is good for Charlaine Harris, it’s good for Locke, who’s juggling quite a few more interconnected series… and writing them far faster.

The other disappointment was the vague resolution, which felt more like an, “I’ve hit my word-count goal” point than a satisfying tie-up of the novel’s action.

Box is enjoyable, but not as fully so as previous efforts. Hopefully it’s a temporary slump from which he’ll quickly emerge.


A fresh mid-week update for ROW80

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Well, I’ve actually found time to post a new midweek update. Will wonders never cease?

When last I checked in, I was at 51,915 words on EyeCU. Now, a couple weeks later, I’m at 56,094. That’s 4,179 words of new progress in the last couple weeks, or around 2,200 words a week.

Since my goal is supposed to be 1,500 words a day, and at least 6,000 words a week, that’s disappointing.

However, at my last check-in, I had averaged about 200 words a day between check-ins. This is closer to 300. It’s a fifty percent improvement, and since I’ve also been busy uploading freshly re-formatted versions of my novels to date, I guess I can say it’s an improvement.

And considering most of those 4,179 words were written in the last two or three nights, it’s actually not that bad. I just need to carve out more writing time into my week. I’m officially two-thirds of the way toward my goal of an 85,000 word minimum on EyeCU, so I should be starting the home stretch soon. Things usually pick up pace right around now; all that’s required is some self-discipline.

I’ll check in again soon and we’ll see how I do on that front.


A midweek update, at last

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Well, turn your back for a second and half of ROW 80’s 2012 Third Quarter sessions just slips on by. Wow.

I’ve been busy, though, with a lot of things; some of those things include writing.

But let’s tick down the non-writing list first:

1) I’ve quit blogging for pay to concentrate on my writing, and put five of my “extra baggage” blogs up for sale. I only mention this because it took some time to arrange all that. Hopefully the domains sell quickly, but at least I don’t have to feel bad about not maintaining them very well anymore.

My new blog line-up is slim-n-trim. I have as the home of my author-related stuff. There’s this one, which is a more involved writing blog, where I interview other writers, post the occasional book review of books I read simply because it’s what I’ve been reading lately, and post writing tips and other related stuff that I don’t want to bog down my promotional site with.

After these two, I only have two remaining blogs. is where I post my theological work and thoughts. And is a politically-slanted blog that will now also become home to whatever strikes my fancy. So it won’t be purely political anymore, but it’ll always be somewhat political.

So if any sort of discussion of matters religious or political offend you, those are the two sites I have you’ll want to avoid.

2) I signed up with Tout, the 15-second video blogging service that is kind of like the video version of Twitter. I’ll be focusing my Touts on my writing career, so no one following me as a writer will need to worry about off-topic posts that might be better suiting to my other two blogs.

3) Just the usual personal stuff having to do with my Dad’s health.

Okay, all that out of the way, right? Cool. Now let’s talk about ROW80 and my current WIP, EyeCU.

When last I checked in, my progress stood at 43,088 words. As I write this, my word count on EyeCU stands at 51,915. That’s progress of 8,827 words… or about 220 words a day for the first half of ROW 80.

Not great, but it’s what’s there to count, right now. My ideal goal is for EyeCU to reach 85,000 words or better. The plot’s ticking along, so that’s going well. I just need to start the “final 40-percent push” to the end of the novel.

I know that I could be doing more. But for now, this is what I have.

Hope to check in again sooner than last time. I’m slowly shedding some of my “over-commitments” so hopefully that’ll produce some improved word counts soon. Enjoy the journey!


My first Tout

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Well, I finally jumped feet-first into the latest and greatest in social media, Tout.

Tout is to YouTube as Twitter is to blogs. I’ll be updating through Tout when I don’t have time to post a longer article from now on.