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.

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Thanks Dad

My dad’s message about purchasing a copy of VERVE STONES for his library at the middle school he works at brought a smile to my face.

“Look, your book now sits on our library shelf for students to read.”

Thank you for your love, generosity, and support, Dad!

Superhero Stories in Disguise

VS Wallpaper NO TEXTI believe many popular shows, movies, and books are superpower stories in disguise.

I LOVE superpowers! I grew up watching Spiderman, Batman, and the X-men cartoons just to name a few (otherwise the list would be too long). I wait eagerly for Superhero movies to be released and try to watch them in theaters as soon as they come out. I have always enjoyed learning how each hero got their powers. I am captivated by the evolution of the characters, watching them fail, train, and then grow into the heroes they needed to be to save the day. I love superheroes so much that my wife helped me decorate my classroom with a superhero theme. (She has tried to decorate it in all sorts of things before, but cutesy doesn’t work for me. This is much more my style! Thanks, Wifey!)

Every super hero has an origin story depicting how they obtained superpowers. Spiderman received his powers from a radioactive spider. Wonder Woman discovers she’s a demigod. Tony Stark keeps shrapnel out of his heart by building an arc-reactor that he later uses to power a suit of armor. Captain America receives super soldier serum. Batman trains his mind and body in order to gain superhero abilities. You get the idea.

I see other popular shows, movies, and books in the same light. In Harry Potter, characters use wands to produce superpowers. The Lord of the Rings, the rings of power give their wearers superpowers. The Stormlight Chronicles have superpowers in the form of shardblade or bonding with a spren. Mistbornhas superpowers from burning metals in their bodies. Naruto uses chakra. Gummy Bears use gummy bear juice. Ninja Turtles use ooze. Dragon Ball Z uses ki. I could go on and on. I have a feeling I could find superpowers even in some of those cheesy Hallmark movies my wife watches.

My love of superpowers means that I can’t help but have them in my stories, too. When I go to write a story, they are usually the first thing I research. I create worlds and storylines with superpowers in mind. In VERVE STONES, rare characters can access verve stones which give a variety of superpower abilities. In NINTH NIGHT, I included the mystery of a mythological creature so there is at least a possibility of a superpower. In UNDER, Boyd uses a superpower from the Glide-Suits. In a story in production, superpowers are passed down from descendants. For example, King Midas passes on his golden touch.

I nerd out about superheroes. What is your thing? What could you talk for hours on end about?

 

Actual Ending

So excited BACK OF BEYOND has an actual real life ending! No jarring cliffhanger without a resolution for a rookie writer like in VERVE STONES. A climax that provides resolution to Spoon’s dilemma, wraps most plot points, and gently lays the groundwork for THE LEGEND OF SPOON #3. Now to send it to Robin Puelma for revisions and editing to see if she agrees.

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.

Happy 1ST Birthday NINTH NIGHT

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I self-published NINTH NIGHT on August 11, 2017. This time last year I was packing our stuff in Bellevue in preparation to move into our friends’ house in Olympia. Our plan was to live with them so our daughter could go to the neighborhood school with our friends’ kids while we attempted to purchase a house in the same neighborhood. At my new school, I worked unpacking boxes and organizing bins of books in my new classroom. Pretty much August was a blur of boxes.

Publishing NINTH NIGHT was a needed distraction during a stressful time adapting to a new house, job, and town. I wrote this story for my wife. She edited it twice in order to make sure it passed her high expectations. I wanted to create a story she’d enjoy. (Added by the wife editing this post: she loves it!)

I chose Cannon Beach as the setting because of its beautiful beaches, familiarity, and small-town feel. I lived in Quilcene, Washington from kindergarten through second grade. I enjoyed using my firsthand knowledge of small-town living to help bring Cannon Beach to life in NINTH NIGHT.

Thank you to everyone who read this book and especially to those who reviewed it on Amazon! NINTH NIGHT is a summer love story for young adult readers. It has a hint of fantasy because I can’t write a story without some kind of superpowers. (My wife says superpowers may be a bit misleading, but my definition of superpowers is a bit broader than hers.) Now is a great time to read this book if you want that summer feeling to last a bit longer. Be sure to check it out!