I’m Back to Writing

Robin Puelma returned my second set of edits and feedback over a month ago. My excuses for not diving in as soon as possible include the Seahawks, fantasy football, school stuff, spending time with friends, rewatching The West Wing with my lovely wife, walking to the park with my daughter, and a lot of family time. I’ve reached the part of the school year where I don’t need to stare at a wall every night to recover the energy I lost teaching third graders in the middle of a school remodel. (So glad to finally have finally passed the “beginning of the school year exhaustion” and happy that my classroom remodel is almost done!) I can’t spend the hours on it that I want to, but I can now at least squeeze in ten minutes of editing here and a thirty minutes of revising there!

Things I’m looking to make happen in my writing world:

First, placing UNDER, NINTH NIGHT, and VERVE STONES on the local author’s shelf at the Lacy Timberland Library. Next, finishing Robin’s feedback and changes and sending the polished draft to another friend who wants to edit and revise. Last, I’m very excited to share the finished BACK OF BEYOND’s cover finished art from Jake at J Celeb Design. He created my VERVE STONE cover art. He outdid himself with his new latest cover. Truly, it is always even better than I can imagine (and I imagine it being very cool).

Do you have a time of year that you are least productive? Fall is obviously mine! I am so glad that that time is passing.

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Inspiration Can Come from Anywhere (Vol. 1)

Like I tell my students, Inspiration can come from anywhere. You just need to be on the lookout.

Everywhere I turn I see and hear inspiration. I can often be seen jotting down a quick note in case at some point I want to use something I’ve observed in one of my books. These notes help me to enhance a scene, a character, a setting, a plot, or even a book title.

Sometimes there is a scene from a movie or show that I love so much that I can’t wait to put my own twist on it. During an old Jurassic Park movie, the people fled from raptors through very tall grass. Several people were pulled below the tips of grass, never to be seen again. I loved that it was not gory and yet more terrifying than if it had been. It was so intense. I wanted to create a similarly powerful scene in VERVE STONES. If you’ve read it, you may recall a leaping nygar (a giant lizard) attacking from beneath the cover of tall grass. I hope that others get that same tense feeling from my story that I got when I first watched Jurassic Park.

Fellow writers, where do you get inspiration? I’d love to hear.

Self-Publishing is NOT for the Faint of Heart

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Self-publishing is not for the faint of heart. I struggle with distractions, finding time to write, finishing drafts, and writer’s block. Not to mention, the need to be a teacher, dad, husband, and follower of Christ. When I decided to self-publish I really had no idea what I was getting into. It is a lot harder than I ever imagined (and I knew it would be hard). There are a few things I really dislike about it, but there is one part that I truly hate.

Accepting negative feedback from my editor friends (even when it’s essential) is high on my list. To help make this step easier on my heart, I’ve developed a system. First, I read through the entire edited manuscript and correct the easiest corrections like spelling and grammatical errors. Next, I read over the plot and character comments because they usually require only minor changes to the story. Finally, I address the meaty-feedback that calls for me to add or delete a scene, make major character adjustments, or rework my plotline.

Receiving negative reviews on Goodreads or Amazon is also high on my dislike list. Getting ratings and reviews is paramount to having any success as an author. For VERVE STONES, it was mostly my friends and family memberswhoreviewedthe book. These reviews convinced other readers on Goodreads and Amazon to purchase the eBook or paperback, or read the book on Amazon Unlimited. Negative rating and reviews are a painful part of putting my creation out for the world to judge. But I also believe that they demonstrate the authenticity of a book’s reviews. (After all, not everyone is going to like any given book. I mean, every book from the Harry Potter series had some one-star reviews so I’m certainly not alone.) That said, when you get a whopper like this review, it takes a few days to calm down and try to laugh it off.

Formatting. Formatting is the bane of my existence! (Spoiler alert: there is one thing I hate even more, but boy is this a close second.) I often joke that formatting is a curse word in my house. As a self-published writer, I am in charge of getting all the formatting just right. I must select fonts, sizes, and spacing. I add chapter titles and headers. I insert maps. I add gutters for the binding. I make sure everything you see (or don’t see) on the page looks as perfect as possible. When I first started, I naively thought this step would be easy. I mean I wrote a whole book. Surely, I can just upload it and it will look great. Nope. I spent over a week uploading a manuscript (over and over and over again) to CreateSpace Digital Proofer, which allows me to view my fully-formatted book in an online virtual environment. It must detect no errorsin the document. After pulling out what I little hair I have, I finally begged my technologically-gifted-wife for help. She discovered that I made a small error that was messing everything up. GRRR! As frustrating as formatting is, I still don’t consider it to be the worst part of being a self-published author.

My number one, worst, most difficult part of being a self-published author is—SELF-PROMOTION! Ew. I despise asking anyone for help. Especially my friends and family. I also loathe bragging about myself. (Those compliments you read on my blog are usually written by my wife. She reminds me to be proud of what I’ve accomplished. I’d rather crawl under a rock, but I try.) The number of books for sale on Amazon is overwhelming. With so much competition, I struggle to find ways to promote my stories. Giveaways on Amazon work a smidge. Giveaways on Goodreads are expensive. Advertisements cost more money than I wish to spend on a hobby. I want to get my book into the hands of not just friends and family members, but strangers. I want my books to excite people to read and it brings me great joy when I hear they do.

I dream of a day where a team can do all these things for me, but for now, I continue to be grateful for a way to get my words out of my journals and into a book.

Any other self-publishers out there? What was the most frustrating part for you? Feel free to explain in the comments below.

My Writing Habits this Summer Break

img_6586As an elementary school teacher, I’m blessed with a sizable chunk of time off in the summer. These weeks I can enjoy camping, barbecuing, and vacationing with friends and family. I also have a lengthy list of chores to accomplish. Thankfully I am able to get in some good writing time. Writing over the summer fills me with joy because I feel like I’m a career author.

This summer, I’ve found I do my best writing between 6:30 and 8:00 AM. Writing magic happens the moment my loopy-morning-brain is infused with a cup of coffee. This combination allows my creativity to flow. I also type far more words per minute than any other time of my day. It’s amazing!

Currently, I’m three chapters away from finishing my current draft of BACK OF BEYOND. I’m wrapping up Spoon’s dilemma and planting seeds that will grow within THE LEGEND OF SPOON #3. I can’t wait for everyone to read this book.

When are you most productive? Do you get time off to enjoy summer? I’d love to hear from you. Please leave your answers in the comments below.

Question: BACK OF BEYOND

Brady asked, “How is Back of Beyond looking? I’m just itching to read more of The Legend of Spoon!”

I wish I could say it’s ready today. Best guess, four to six months. I’m making changes to the last few chapters, which I’m working on most mornings. I’m going to have my friend, author, Robin Puelma, read it over again. Then I will make any changes needed before I have two more friends read it over. These edits can take three weeks to three months each. I am super excited for this next book! Hopefully, the final edits will go faster than expected. They often do. Thank you for your patience! I’m working hard to finish BACK OF BEYOND, even while I’m on summer vacation with my family. I have it formatted and the cover complete so when editing is finished, I’ll be able to publish it quickly.

When reading a new series, I hate waiting for the next book to come out. When I first started reading Harry Potter, only the first few books were out. It was torture waiting for the next book! What books have you found yourself waiting impatiently for the next in series?

 

How a Date Night Lead me to the Title for NINTH NIGHT

Early in our marriage my wife and I instituted a Thursday night date night. We were too tired from work by Friday to go out, and if we went out earlier in the week we were too tired at work. (Any other teachers find this to be true?) Our favorite local date night spots to dine were the Cheesecake Factory, Maggiano’s Little Italy, or Ricardo’s Family Mexican Restaurant.

One of our inexpensive destinations was Costco. We could both eat dinner and dessert for under six bucks. We’d then walk through the warehouse store to do our shopping and inevitably make a couple impulse buys. THE FANTASY ENCYCLOPEDIA was one of those impulse buys.

I had recently finished early drafts for what would become VERVE STONES and UNDER. I sent them out to publishing houses, literary agents, and even submitted it to a writing contest. Everyone passed. Being new to writing as a hobby, I desired to push myself and write a new genre. Something my wife would enjoy reading. Something for her.

When I flipped through THE FANTASY ENCYCLOPEDIA at home, I discovered something mysterious to include in my summer romance story set at Cannon Beach, Oregon. This discovery also allowed me to produce adversaries to influence Liam’s growth as the main character. A detail from this book ultimately became the title of my book. (I left that vague on purpose. Don’t you want to read the book now? Wink wink.)

Do you have a favorite date spot or a fun memory from a date? Writers, where have you found your inspiration? I’d love to hear in the comments below.