Finished out week in revisions

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Remember on my Wednesday update when I said I’d written 3,750 words to that point in the week, and hoped I’d blast past my 6,000-word goal?

I didn’t. Not officially. Not on EyeCU. I’m still in the same spot.

But that’s okay because I spent most of that time editing and tightening up and readying for release my new short story, which will begin life as an Amazon-exclusive, UNDER CONTRACT. I’ve given my author site a wonderful UNDER CONTRACT-inspired makeover, as the eye-catching book cover design for the eBook by Glendon Haddix of Streetlight Graphics is just so yummy, I wanted to share the look of the book for a while.

While my last book, SHADA, had a dark blue-green, luna-like look, the UNDER CONTRACT cover is bright and red with plenty of white. I think it’s a winner.

With some hard work and good fortune, I’ll be announcing the book is live on Amazon for $0.99 by my midweek update.

So, EyeCU starts out this week at 12,250 words. And counting…


Review: Alexander Death by J.L. Bryan

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Alexander Death wraps up J.L. Bryan’s trilogy of novels that began in Jenny Pox and continued in Tommy Nightmare. The series, now called “The Paranormals,” delivers more often than not when it comes to satisfying resolutions to character arcs.

The first half of the novel is taken up by establishing the new player introduced at the end of Tommy Nightmare, Alexander, who finally wakes Jenny up to her past lives and her almost-godlike nature. After that, the novel moves at breakneck pace toward a final resolution for all concerned.

Most satisfying were the clear fates laid out for key players Seth, Jenny, Ashley and Alexander. Less satisfying was the somewhat murkier, more suggested than detailed, fates of Tommy and Esmerelda.

The story reaches all the way to Mexico and Central America, and eventually returns to where it all started: Fallen Oak.

The story offers believable motivations throughout, and ends with a sense that the tale is at last complete. A mostly-satisfying read that should please those who enjoyed the first two installments.

As before, Alexander Death focuses in young-adult-aged characters, but is not a young-adult novel. It’s content is a bit more mature than that, though with all the climactic action, seems to benefit from a lighter touch of the intense stuff this time around.


Getting more detailed about progress

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I’m finally starting to roll on EyeCU. The story’s falling into place and the characters are taking on a life of their own. Progress should come easier now. And since I passed my first milestone, it’s time to start getting more specific about where I am on EyeCU, so I can track my progress more accurately.

On Sunday, my word count on EyeCU came to roughly 8,500. As of today’s mid-week update, I’m at just over 12,250. That means I’ve written approximately 3,750 words of new progress this week, or just under two-third of my goal.

We’ll track it more specifically like this from here on out.

In current form, I’m writing much longer, multi-scene chapters, so I only recently began Chapter Two. I doubt I’ll keep the current structure intact once revisions begin, though. But for this stage of writing, longer multi-scene chapter just feel right.

But I know modern readers prefer shorter chapters, and even section breaks in those. But that’s a concern for later, for the revision stage.

For now, I’m just happy with my 3,750 words of progress at this point in the week.

See you all Sunday.

ROW80 writing

Didn’t reach goal, but not in a bad way

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Well, at the end of the week, I didn’t reach my goal this week, but not in a bad way.

It wasn’t that there were medical issues with Dad this week that kept me distracted. Also, there was no gloomy shadow over me, making me feel reluctant to write. In fact, I’m really jazzed about my horror novel, EyeCU, and the soon-to-be-released short story, Under Contract.

But in the final analysis, I only wrote about 2,000 words of new progress this past week. Beyond that, I had some hefty responsibilities. First, I’m readying Under Contract for release by reading over beta-reader and editor feedback, revising accordingly, and testing out Serenity Software’s Editor program at the same time. (That program is to writers what I suppose Pintech is to musical types.)

Plus, Saturday night I had to edit two long papers for my wife, who’s in the middle of graduate school in counseling, plus I’ve been busy with my day-job.

Am I saying I’m happy I didn’t reach 6,000 words this past week? Not at all. I’ll get there this week, though, when my plate’s less full. The important thing is, my enthusiasm is up again, and that means a lot. It’s a huge difference maker.


REVIEW: Bad Doctor by John Locke

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Sometimes I let my interest in the next Donovan Creed book interfere with my pleasure that indie crime-thriller writer John Locke has released something new that’s not a Creed novel. In the case of BAD DOCTOR, the first in what appears intended as a series of Dr. Gideon Box novels, indulging in disappointment would be a mistake.

Of all of Locke’s characters to date, Dr. Box is perhaps the most villainous; he’s a doctor. More specifically, he’s a doctor in the same rough mold as Fox TV’s Dr. Gregory House, only unfiltered for television.

Dr. Box is a man bent on revenge against anyone and everyone who ever crosses him in even the slightest way. Whether the slight is bullying him in high school or selling him mobile homes that aren’t made of only the best materials, if you’ve ever crossed him, he’s waiting to make you pay. Even if it takes decades. As a medical doctor, he uses his position to exact that revenge in a way that could cause more sensitive readers to swear off medical care forever.

Eventually, over the course of this slim novel, Locke allows us to see past the gruff exterior to realize that Dr. Box, while monstrous, is not the worst creature walking the planet; unfortunately, there are far worse monsters out there and at times, he is the cure to their existence.

Creating empathy is in short supply here, which offers Locke perhaps his biggest challenge to date. In order to compel his readers to go for this ride, he must find a way other than “Dr. Box isn’t such a bad guy after all” or “Dr. Box is a victim himself” reasons to follow his adventures.

Most creative writing classes will instruct young writers that creating empathy for one’s main character is a writer’s greatest task, because “if you don’t like the narrator, the reader won’t stick around to find out what happens to him or her.”

Like the producers of HOUSE, M.D., Locke rejects that advice as being universally true. With the Fox TV drama, they were able to rely on Hugh Laurie’s significant charm and humor as an actor to make Dr. House “like-ably despicable.”

In a prose novel, such charm is difficult to pull off; yet Locke’s primary approach may be just as workable. His Dr. Gideon Box may be even less appealing than Dr. House, but Dr. Box, so far, is one thing every interesting main character must be: compelling.

If Locke can maintain that quality without softening Dr. Box into someone more likable, he may not need the charm of Hugh Laurie to pull readers along for the ride.


Midweek mush

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Hey all.

So far this week, I’ve found time for writing only one day. I met my daily goal of 1,500 words (just a bit over, actually) that day, but I’m behind pace for the week. I still have 4,500 words left to write and not that many days left to write them in, before the week is over.

Now, of course, when I get rolling, I can easily run off 3,000 to 4,500 words in a single day. Not a problem. But EyeCU hasn’t quite caught fire just yet. This is probably because I’m dealing with some scenes involving courtroom stuff and I’m relying heavily on my journalism background to capture a realistic courtroom tone.

Which means it’s nothing like David E. Kelly or John Grisham or Scott Turow have ever written. Ever.

See, legal fiction, whether it’s in print or on screen, relies on fiery courtroom oratories that even Daniel Webster couldn’t live up to. They rely on tricky, edgy legal tactics that any competent judge would toss a lawyer from his courtroom for.

And all those “push the witness until he cracks and admits it was him, not the defendant, all along” scenes? That never happens in real life. It just doesn’t.

So I’m trying to portray a legal proceeding in a more realistic way, yet keep it compelling for the reader. And that’s tricky, because often real-life courtroom stuff is, well… boring. And that’s the one fiction-writing sin most readers don’t forgive.

My courtroom stuff will be part of the narrative for a while, and then, joy of joys, I get into an area I’m even more stressed out about: writing about a medical procedure. Specifically, an eye transplant.

And this is a horror tale for older readers. With a mild paranormal touch. Really, it is! But between jail scenes, courtroom scenes and hospital scenes, there’s a lot of stuff in the early going that stresses me out and makes me how I’m pulling off the old “willing suspension of disbelief” trick with my readers.

Oh well. Such is life writing about my fictional small city of Hope, Wisconsin. A person never knows where exactly a tale will take him!

Hope to have a decent “fourth-quarter rally” post for you all on Sunday.


Finally focused

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Well, my ROW80 friends (and others), I’m happy to report that I’m emerging from my funk.

This week, I met my goal of 6,000 words.

During revisions, the story I stumbled into writing earlier in the week grew from approximately 4,000 words to around 5,300 words. The project, which will be called Under Contract, has already passed by my editor and I’m only waiting on beta-reader feedback and my cover designer. If a mixture of satire and horror is your thing, Under Contract delivers it.

And since sending that story off to my editor and beta readers, I’ve also chosen a project to focus on. It may be deemed a controversial choice by some, but I’m sitting Ember on the back burner for now so I can focus in on finishing EyeCU.

I have some good reasons why.

First, it’s a strong concept and makes a solid follow-on project to Under Contract. Like that book, EyeCU is a horror novel for older readers. (Older than YA, anyway.) Ember will get its time in the sun, and that series will continue, but for now I have a lot more energy around EyeCU, so I want to leverage that enthusiasm to get that book finished before coming back to Ember.

Another reason why I’m focusing in on EyeCU like it’s a Morgan silver dollar is more practical: I’m drawing some interest in the project from a small press.

I can’t and won’t share details at this time, but I’ll just say that while I love being an independent novelist, the idea of having some other people involved, working at least as hard as me to make one of my novels as successful as it can be, sounds like a pretty good deal. Like any indie, I’m careful about terms and such. But once I finish EyeCU, if all goes well, I should have a pretty major announcement on where it’s landed.

But before any of that can happen… and there are no guarantees yet… I have to finish the novel. The fact that it’s the project I’m most excited about writing at the moment is icing on the cake.

(The rest of my progress toward my weekly goal was made last night, working on EyeCU, by the way.)

CU all at midweek!


Midweek ROW80 Update: A Big Turnaround

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Here we are at midweek and I’ve had a big turnaround in productivity.

A couple nights ago, I found myself too tired to write, yet not tired enough to sleep. This happens once in a while and often what works best is to hop onto a message board like Kindleboards’ Writers Cafe and post something there.

This particular night, I was in a snarky mood. I’d read perhaps one or two too many “here’s why traditional publishers are evil” and “here’s how trad-pubs messed me over” threads and I decided to add my ironic voice to the din.

What started out as an intention to write an obviously fake confession about traditional publishers accepting one of my novels, and proceeding to torture and murder all my friends, soon morphed into a more elaborate concept.

I started treating each new post as a “chapter” in a relatively short, short story. And I had people entertained and laughing along with it.

Then someone suggested I had the first draft bones of a pretty good short story.

And what do you know? After sleeping on it, I looked at it again, and it held up after a good stretch of sleep.

Short fiction isn’t my specialty, but it’s the only thing I’ve written so far this week, and mercy me, it was nearly 4,000 words and after some revising, editing, and getting a cover done for it, I’ve decided to make it my next eBook.

The title is going to be UNDER CONTRACT: A Tale of Horror and Satire.

It might be a couple weeks before I get the cover, revisions and editing all squared away, but I’m counting this one as good toward my weekly goals as it will become the third eBook I’ve published … hopefully by the end of this month.

The story, when published, will be polished up and revised, with a new prologue and some extra content.

And since EyeCU and EMBER are longer works that won’t be ready for a while, it’ll be nice to get something new out there under my name. It’ll be my first published work for an older audience.

So: One short story completed. Four thousand words down, two thousand to go to meet my weekly goal.


Sunday ROW80 report

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Hey all.

It’s Sunday and I’m here.

Midweek, I wasn’t around much. Health complications with my father that, for now, have settled down again. But I lost a day and a half to making sure he got the care necessary and pulled through all right.

Anyway, week one report?

Number of days I set to write, as a goal: Four.

Number of days I actually wrote (including today): Two.

Number of words I have as a goal to write, on days I write: 1,500 per day.

Number of days I wrote, where I actually met that minimum: Two.

So, I produced a little over 3,000 words this week. Goal was 6,000.

What’s that mean? It means it’s a new week. Start over.

Four days of writing out of the next seven; 1,500 words per day on those days as a minimum. Goal: 6,000 words.

Barring health complications with my Dad, I’ll check in mid-week to let you know how it’s going.


ROW80 2012 Round 2 Goals

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I’ve given this some deep thought.

Pondered my options. Mulled things over in my mind. And come up with a concise set of goals.

1) Write 1,500 words a day.

2) Write at least four days a week.

3) Therefore, write a minimum of 6,000 words a week.

That is all I’m going to hold myself to this time out.

Simple. Straightforward. Completely focused on productivity.

Let’s roll.


Time off almost over

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I’ve been enjoying the time off since ROW 80 Round 1 2012 ended. It’s allowed me to really consider what I want my goals to be for the next round, and how to get back to using ROW 80 for accountability on my productivity.

It’s no secret I was an infrequent contributor in this last round. I think I posted barely half the time, and had little progress to report when I did post. My writing efforts have been unfocused at best during that same period of time.

Thankfully, a new round is around the corner. An opportunity to start fresh, recommit, and hope that all the “off-court distractions” that plagued me from January through March don’t repeat themselves.

Considering I’d rather be writing that helping my wife browse for anniversary gifts for a man online, I’m thinking I’ll do better this time.


Writing Tips: Overpunctuation and Capitalization

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Possibly my biggest pet peeve occurs when writers of fiction overuse punctuation and capitalization. In a vain attempt to make a scene seem dramatic and possess impact, they do everything they can visually on the page to get their point across.

Whether it’s the use of bold text, italic text, underlined text, and capitalization, or the use of multiple forms of punctuation at the end of the same sentence, too many writers are writing with the maturity of grade-schoolers, depending on visual emphasis of word on the page to get across their point, rather than relying on powerful writing.

Here’s an example of what I mean:


“I have BAD news! You have cancer!! YOU HAVE THREE MONTHS, AT BEST!!!!” (Incorrect)

Now, you may think I’m exaggerating with this example, but I’ve seen plenty of fiction that does this sort of thing in even more prevalent form, often several times per page in some manuscripts.

The unfortunate result of all this capitalizing of words, adding of bold and italics effects, and extra exclamation points is that it turns what should be a serious moment in a story comedic. It’s hard to take such passages seriously, precisely because they’re taking the scene too seriously, and in doing so, are relying on the crutch of visual cues on the page to communicate something tragic.

It’s also treating the audience as, well… a bit dumb.

Who reading this blog would not understand that being told you have cancer and perhaps three months to live is a grave and serious matter? I’m guessing most of us would get that without any of the histrionics such effects on the page create.

But see, the core writing isn’t bad at all. Let’s take away all the visual-on-the-page melodrama and look at it again:


“I have bad news. You have cancer. You have three months, at best.” (Correct)

Strip away all the all-caps, overpunctuation, capitalization and other text effects, and at the core you have an impressively powerful piece of writing.

Those thirteen words, completely unadorned by any special formatting, get the message across in a serious and life-changing way. This is how a serious-minded doctor would break this sort of bad news to a patient.

And it’s the sort of dialogue that is strong enough to use as the kick-off to a short story, novel, or whatever sort of story one chose to build off of it.

So when I see things like the first version, what I deduce immediately is that I’m seeing the work of an inexperienced writer who lacks confidence in the power of their own writing.

But here’s the core truth: Anyone who writes poorly enough to actually need all that extra decor to communicate the impact of a scene, probably hasn’t written that powerful a scene to begin with. And if they have, they’re not experienced enough to realize it, and understand they don’t need all that visual melodrama on the page.

Now, some people will defend all-caps in instances of shouting. It’s true that this is sometimes used. But even if one chooses to use it, it is more powerful used very sparingly, rather than overdoing it.

For example:

Example 2:

Beth saw her son wobbling along on the cement railing of the bridge. “COLE!” she shouted, sprinting toward him. “DON’T MOVE! I MEAN IT! YOU COULD FALL!!” (Incorrect)

In this example, the writer is more under control in narration, but has overused exclamation points and capitalization. Again, it robs the scene of its potential power and drama. Much more effective would be this, allowing for a little of each effect for maximum impact.

Example 2:

Beth saw her son wobbling along on the cement railing of the bridge. “COLE!” she shouted, sprinting toward him. “Don’t move. I mean it. You could fall.” (Correct)

Some might prefer the first version because they’re used to seeing writers who are lacking confidence write that way. But think about it.

The first and more important word, the one a concerned mom would scream, is her son’s name. Then, she’s sprinting toward him. I doubt sincerely anyone could maintain that kind of volume and panic while also running as fast as she can to save him. We’ve indicated that she’s shouting both by the capitalization of her son’s name, and the exclamation point following it. We’ve also indicated she’s running toward her son.

The reader will figure out she’s probably still speaking loud enough to be heard. They’ll intuit her concern. They don’t need to be hit over the head by the writer. And that’s the net result of making the rest of what she says all-capped and followed by exclamation points.

A character can shout at another character without the writer shouting off the page at the reader.


Write smart.