Category Archives: Writing and Publishing

Finally, A Place of Honor…

In a previous post, I mentioned that I was just finishing the final home renovation project for the year which entailed removing the last of my home’s wallpaper and repainting. The room in question is one that houses my SF collection, and when I began putting the room back in order, I decided it was finally time to display a piece of artwork that absolutely deserves a place of honor on the wall.

Illustration for There Be In Dreams No War

ReDeus: Divine Tales

The fabulous illustration you see above was created in 2012 by renown Spanish comic book artist Carmen Nuñez Carnero for my story “There Be In Dreams No War” published in ReDeus: Divine Tales (left), book one of the ReDeus series by Crazy 8 Press. It was a privilege to be published alongside writer pals Aaron Rosenberg, Bob Greenberger, Paul Kupperberg, Dayton Ward, Steven H. Wilson, Lawrence M. Schoen, and so many other fantastic writers in this series.

Illustration for There Be In Dreams No War

 

“So Hungry…” For A Terrifying Tale

Ladies and gents, my paranormal short story, “So Hungry…” is now available for your free reading pleasure in the autumn edition of the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable.

When a married couple hikes up Starvation Peak near Las Vegas, New Mexico, they encounter a jarring phenomenon, one that might be related to legends of cannibalism from the days of the early settlers…

Click here to read! 

Starvation Peak-Bernal, NM

Getting Back on Track

So I recently finished a short story about a young man who buys a haunted Camaro—and inadvertently destroys the life of a paroled car thief. The story is now in the hands of critique partners and happens to be the only writing project that I actually finished this year. If you followed any of my previous updates, you’ll know that 2017 has kicked the shit out of me and in doing so, caused my writing output to plummet. 
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Going into 2017, I promised myself not to write any more short stories this year so I could focus on the first draft of the SF novel I started writing last year. Four chapters into the first draft by April 2016 and the novel ended up on the back burner for a home renovation, a Kickstarter to fund a new anthology, the release of said anthology, and writing six new short stories for contests and anthologies.
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As productive as that was and as proud as I am of those stories, the SF novel languished. Then came 2017 and I set my sights on finishing the first draft by December. Four more chapters were written between January and May… and the novel was again sidelined while I edited submissions to a new anthology, finished a month-long home renovation, then watched my summer collapse along with the roof at my workplace as a result of a severe storm. I want my summer back, damn it!
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So, to get my writing chops back in shape, I cranked out the aforementioned short story about the haunted car—just so I could feel good about finishing something this year.  I thought I would then return to the SF novel…
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Instead, I’ve spent the past week crafting the plot synopsis for my next full-length Miranda Lorensen novel. Almost there. I spent more time working on it in my sunroom this evening—and peeking up every so often to watch a tiny bunny roam around my neighbor’s shed. Who can resist bunnies?
If all goes as planned, this novel will tie directly to the novella that my publisher accepted back in June. The novella, Like Mother, Like Daughters, addresses some aspects of Miranda’s life mentioned in my novels Testing the Prisoner and By Your Side
 
I jotted down a quick jacket blurb for the novella recently. It needs work, but…
 
Psychic-medium Miranda Lorensen and her daughter Andrea set out for a “girls night of ghost hunting” at the home of Andrea’s closest friend, Wendy. When Andrea Lorensen stumbles over Wendy’s dead body in the woods, the shock triggers Andrea’s own latent abilities as a medium. Against her mother’s wishes, Andrea decides to ensnare Wendy’s killer with help from the other side.
Meanwhile, Miranda travels to Salem, Massachusetts to speak at a paranormal investigators conference. When she is invited to participate in a local ghost hunt, Miranda encounters a spirit that leads her to the truth about her past life.
Like Mother Like Daughters title
Now, hopefully, the novella will be released next year with the novel to follow a year or so later. My concern is that as of 2018, it will have been FIVE years since my last novel. Yikes!  
 
During that time, I’ve been focused on short stories and editing anthologies, which has proved fruitful. My publisher and I have released two volumes of the Middle of Eternity speculative fiction series, my work has placed high in a few local contests, and I’ve been published in a handful of other wonderful collections such as the ReDeus mythology series and Beach Nights. I firmly believe that short stories and novellas are nutritious parts of a well-balanced writing career. 
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As much fun as those projects have been, a few solo publications are definitely needed within the next year. While Miranda has earned a modest fan following–and several readers have contacted me to ask when to expect her next adventure–people have short memories these days so I hope all of this works out as planned! 

About This Writing Stuff…

This week, Maggie Doonan counsels us on when to throw in the towel on a writing project while Julia Munroe Martin opens up about why she abandoned one of hers.

Anne R. Allen warns new writers against mistakes that could leave them prey to publishing scams. James Scott Bell offers two methods to jumpstart your writing session. Over at MythCreants, Chris Winkle advises us on ways to better give and receive criticism.

Writer pal Kathryn Craft shares her experiences with exploring and pitching new ideas after her first two novels were published. David Gaughran provides tips on how to maximize the benefits of Kindle Unlimited. From Writer Unboxed, Steven James waxes eloquent about the “agathokakological” nature of humanity.

All that and a little more… Enjoy!

4 Signs It’s Time to Quit a Writing Project by Maggie Doonan

7 New Writer Mistakes that Make You Vulnerable to Predators by Anne R. Allen

What Happens When You Run Out of Novels? by Kathryn Craft via Sandra Hutchison

The Visibility Gambit by David Gaughran

Two Writing Mind Tricks to Get You Rolling  and Weaving Backstory into Frontstory by James Scott Bell

Telling the Truth in Fiction by Steven James

Seven Things I Learned from Wrecking my Novel by Julia Munroe Martin

A Storyteller’s Guide to Criticism by Chris Winkle

Memoir or Fiction? Should You Novelize Your Real Life Experiences? by Anne R. Allen

 

About This Writing Stuff…

My attempt to restore this weekly feature on my blog was thwarted a few months into the year by a series of challenging, distressing, exhilarating, and generally overwhelming events—from editing a new speculative fiction anthology to the death of my mother-in-law, from a six-week home renovation to a partial roof collapse at my place of employment that caused 100-hour work weeks, from caring for a sick bunny (he’s better now, thankfully) to building a new website for one of the small-press publishers I work with.

My bunny, Peanut!
My bunny, Peanut!

Despite such “interesting times,” I managed to write four new chapters in my SF novel-in-progress and hammered out a 7K-word short story just this week. Honestly, that’s paltry progress compared to my usual output, but I’m grateful for anything given the mayhem of 2017—and we still have four months to go!

On a high note, my paranormal mystery novella, Like Mother, Like Daughters, was accepted by Firebringer Press and should be released next year as an eBook, audio book (recorded by yours truly), and in paperback paired up with a vampire novella written by Steven H. Wilson, fellow scribe and owner of Firebringer.

So much about this excites me beyond the obvious thrill of a new release. We plan to produce the paperback in the fashion of the old ACE doubles where you read one novella, then flip the book over read the other. Readers of a certain age (ahem) and older grew up enjoying those and I relish the prospect of producing a book in that format today.

Ace Double Novels

Additionally, the speculative fiction anthology I’m editing is actually volume three in the Middle of Eternity series, also published by Firebringer. This third book, Meanwhile in the Middle of Eternity, is also slated for a 2018 release.

Back on topic, About This Writing Stuff… might end up appearing on a monthly basis rather than weekly as I try to balance my life and catch up on my writing, editing, and publishing schedules, not to mention maintain my health and sanity. Until then, I hope you find the articles below useful.

From Digital Book World, Beth Bacon teaches us about Creative Briefs, while Gordon Warnock urges not to disregard libraries when marketing our books.  Over in the Kill Zone, James Scott Bell talks tough and Jordan Dane wants us to keep it real.

Kristen Lamb and Janice Hardy sub for Jami Gold on her blog with a deep dive into antagonists and conflict.  As an aside, Jami is battling a health issue that she openly discusses on her blog and I want to take a moment to wish her the best.

All that and a little more… enjoy!

How to Write a Creative Brief So Your Graphic Designer Creates an Amazing Book Cover by Beth Bacon

Libraries Gone Digital: 4 Ways Libraries Expand Your Reach as an Author by Gordon Warnock

Conflict: Why It Isn’t Just About Fighting by Janice Hardy via Jami Gold

3 Ways to Add Depth to a Novel by Jody Hedlund

How to Talk Tough by James Scott Bell

How a Professional Editor Can Improve Your Writing by Jim Dempsey via Writer Unboxed

Dialogue: Ten Ways to Make it Real by Jordan Dane


Antagonist Series by Kristen Lamb via Jami Gold

What is an Antagonist?

“He’s His Own Worst Enemy”

What’s Driving Our Story?

Inner and Outer Demons

The End-All-Be-All of Our Story

 

Help! I’m drowning! Or: How much detail is too much?

It’s always an honor and a pleasure to welcome Howard Weinstein, New York Times bestselling author of the new historical novel GALLOWAY’S GAMBLE (releasing September 20, 2017).Galloway's Gamble by Howard Weinstein

Howie, as we call him, has had a long and enviable writing career that includes scores of novels and comic books in the Star Trek universe, three novels from the original V television series, a bio of baseball legend Mickey Mantle, and Puppy Kisses are Good for the Soul, the true story of Howie’s journey to become a professional dog trainer inspired by his adorable Welsh Corgi known as Mail Order Annie.

Howie became a professional writer at age 19, when he sold a script called “The Pirates of Orion” episode to NBC’s Emmy-winning animated Star Trek television series in 1974—while still a college student at the University of Connecticut.

Today, he’s here to chat about research, credibility, and how to avoid being overzealous when including facts in your fiction. Take it away, Howie!


In fiction, details convey credibility—but can there be too much detail? Personally—as both a reader and writer—I say yes. Not all details are created equal.

Moby Dick PosterTake MOBY DICK (please!). Like most of us, I read “The Great American Novel” in school. Like most of us, I recall little beyond “Call me Ishmael.” What I do remember is more from the abridged but vivid 1956 movie (starring Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab). Like most of us, I never read the book again.

But my friend Ross Lally did. His impression: Herman Melville wrote two books—one about Ahab’s obsessive pursuit of the white whale, the other a 19th-century whaling text—and smooshed them together. So the plot literally sails along, until—bang!—long detours about whales and whaling. Even done seamlessly, would less have been more?

Prepping for my first historical novel, GALLOWAY’S GAMBLE (Five Star Publishing, September 2017), I did 6 months of research into the time period (1845-1875)—collecting waaay more detail than I could (or should) ever use. To whittle down that bounty, I asked 2 questions:

1) What would my characters know?

2) What does a reader need to know?

I think fiction has more impact and intimacy when readers see through the eyes of characters, not authors. It’s not the writer’s job to dazzle with vast amounts of scintillating research—just because you found it doesn’t mean you have to use it! Details should be included if they either orient a reader in time and place; or illuminate characters’ lives by affecting what they do, and how and why they do it.                                                     Captain Jean-Luc Picard

For instance: I knew very little about 19th century firearms. So I learned a lot—and discarded most of it. The risk of writing “gear porn”—lovingly-excruciating but ultimately incidental minutiae on a given topic—is that readers who already know it don’t need it, and readers who don’t know probably don’t care, especially if the digression bogs down the story. For my story, when it came to guns, I chose a few things that mattered. The typical six-shooter popular in western movies and TV wasn’t even available until after 1873. Civil War-era black-powder revolvers didn’t use the familiar, pre-made metallic-cartridge ammunition, so they were slow and finicky to load. Repeating rifles weren’t widely available until post-Civil War; the single-shot muzzle-loader muskets used by both sides required soldiers to stand up in order to reload—less than ideal in battle. And the gunpowder of the time produced a great deal of smelly smoke.

Civil War ActorI used those facts because they shaped the story. My narrator Jamey Galloway has a visceral wariness of firearms, and questions the wisdom of standing up to reload a musket when you’re being shot at by the enemy. His older brother Jake is a marksman adept with weapons. And all that musket fire could turn even a minor skirmish into smoke-blind chaos. The details I chose sculpted the characters, in turn influencing their actions (and attitudes) that forged the story.

So, what’s the lesson for writers? A selective dash of the right details can season your recipe—but a deluge can spoil the broth.

Civil War Reenactment