On the feeding and caring for your favorite authors VERSION 2

Because it’s the internet, and because we just can’t leave good enough alone, Amazon has once again changed the way they go about letting you support and interact with your favorite authors. It used to be you could actually Like individual books, then for some reason (maybe it was too much like Facebook) Amazon took that away, making it so you could only Like the author. Now that Like button has been replaced by a big yellow Favorite button right underneath the author’s profile. Sometimes you have to actually search for the author to find this.

 

amazon favorite

See it? That big yellow button with Favorite on it?

You click that now. This lets Amazon know the popularity of their authors and can sometimes open up opportunities for the lesser known writers, like myself.

So, if there’s an author out there whose work you really enjoy, be sure to swing by their Amazon Page and show your appreciation. It takes only a click or two.

On the caring and feeding of your favorite authors

THIS INFORMATION IS NOW OUTDATED Check instead this version

Amazon changed the way you “Like” authors. I’ve updated this method and it’s a little easier now.

So, there’s this cool little thing you can do if you have an author you like. It only takes a few steps to do and it makes a lot of difference when it comes to Amazon’s algorithms and whatnot. I’ll show you:

1. On Amazon, search for their author page. Mine looks like this:  http://www.amazon.com/Martin-Kee/e/B007D53P8O/

2. In the upper right corner you’ll see a Like box. It looks like this. Amazon Like page3. Click Like.

You’re done! And you just told Amazon that this author is important to you and if enough people do this, sometimes Amazon takes note when suggesting titles and whatnot.

Anyway, it’s a really nice thing to do for an indie author because exposure is something we often have difficulty coming across.

Things I do when I am not writing

So, I’ve been feeling a little guilty lately. As you have hopefully heard by now, my sequel to A LATENT DARK is up for pre-order on Amazon. This is all great, and while it sort of puts the publishing side of things to rest to a degree, I still have to sit each morning at my computer and make words, because one of the things a self-publisher cannot afford to do is simply lay back and throw money into the air, rolling around on cigarettes and fresh kittens. This is because most of us do not have money to throw in the air, nor do we have a fresh supply of kittens.

I am working on a new project, which is still in its this-is-pretty-good phase but not in its holy-shitballs-I-love-this-book phase. It’s an ugly awkward, teenage phase for my books, where they show me a little promise, but still fall short. It makes writing feel like work.

What I end up doing, are a lot of things that are not writing, while I think about what I am doing wrong, where I need to change direction. Maybe Ethan needs to not simply do that thing he was going to do, and maybe he needs to do this other thing, and maybe that other character is flawed beyond repair, and maybe this whole premise is just one huge cliche trope and maybe I need to broaden the scope a little. Also more gunfights. Zombies?

These conversations are endless in my head when I am gnawing on a story that just isn’t there yet. It lingers like some canker sore you can’t stop chewing on. The only really good comparison I can think of is that it’s a lot like being in love when you’re a teenager and you just can’t stop thinking about that other person. You think about them pretty much every waking moment, when you’re doing the most mundane things, trying to figure out how to make it work. If I could just say the right thing. THen they’d like me back. Then I could ask them to the prom.

But this also means that I am not making words when I am thinking about this. Because sometimes the writing does its own thing. It’s a wily horse that just can’t be tamed some days, and you could sit down for an hour and come up with 2000 words that go a completely different direction. Once that word count is met, I sometimes have to take care of real life things, and then try to figure out what I wrote, was it good, where it goes from there.

So here are the things I do when I am not writing (in no particular order). Because some days everything is easier than writing.

working out

biking

cleaning litter boxes (2 cats and a rabbit)

dishes

laundry

Reddit

Facebook

Feedly

all the distractions that come with Feedly

movie trailers

sweeping

staring out the window

chat with friends

reading books

reading articles

critiquing other writers on Critters.org

critiquing other writers in my own head

critiquing TV shows

critiquing comments

reading comics

reading about science things

realizing how hard it is to write science fiction in a world where science fiction happens every day

get super depressed that I can’t think of an idea that won’t be invented next week, or has just been invented last week

pound head on desk

hate my project

wish it could be better

try not to read about writers my age who are hugely successful

look at artwork

look at porn

look at the trees outside my window

read some more

think about my favorite movies and what I like about them

think about my favorite books and what made them great

hang out with my wife

buy groceries

pet the cats

pet the rabbit

consider playing video games

decide that games would be a waste of time

tweet something

post an article I like

pimp my books a little

research self publishing resources

contact reviewers

consider outlining the current project

change my mind; it’s better if it’s organic

eat

poop

go for a walk

go back to the gym

OMG SUCH A GREAT IDEA AT THE GYM–WRITE A NOTE AND USE IT WHEN YOU GET HOME

put another 500 words into the draft

pick up wife from school

talk to wife some more

run an errand

read more

nap

email

vaccuum

refill birdfeeder

watch any of the shows with the wife while we eat (currently into The Knick, Boardwalk Empire, Bob’s Burger, Doctor Who)

talk about what I love/hate about the episode

do game writing stuff when needed

landscape the yard

update blog

 

All these things are like background noise when I’m in the middle of a project.  They might add up to an extra 1000 words, or they might add up to nothing. Maybe I barely make my wordcount that day. Maybe I go way over. Either way, they are all accompanied by a crushing sense of guilt. I should be writing. I should be pushing ahead, I should be exceeding all that wordcount. It’s not going to write itself. Look at all this squandered time. I hate myself.

In reality, the work is the writing. It’s fine and all to think about a book all day–it’s fun!–but it isn’t going to write itself. At the end of the day, I am still adding up my wordcount and if it isn’t at least 2000, I get my ass in the chair and make it add up. Because even 2000 bad words are better than 0 words. Even when doing all these non-writing things might lead to the muse tapping you on the shoulder and pointing to a great idea, you still have to get your butt in the chair.

Writing is work.

Sometimes everything seems like more fun that writing.

Sometimes it is.

But that book ain’t going to write itself.

So get writing.

 

Audio shorts

So, my friend Russ is getting into voice work.

This is great on a number of levels. He never has time to read as much as he’d like, and prefers audio books. He’s not alone.

I loved audiobooks when I used to commute. A great audiobook is, in some cases, better than the read version. There’s nuances and inflections that you might not have even imagined with your eyeholes. To have someone read these things aloud not only exposes certain angles of the prose, it also provides a flavor you might not always get when reading silently. Take for example, Stephen Briggs narrating any Terry Pratchett novel. Or take the audiobook of THE DIAMOND AGE.

Reading aloud is also one of the go-to suggestions when editing your own work. Your brain picks up things your eyes miss when you hear the words aloud.

The last and best part was that Russ chose one of my own short stories to read, my most recent one, in fact. This story.

You can check out his fledgling voice narration here.

worststory: A dot matrix printer as big as the moon

THE UMBRAL WAKE is coming along and should be up for preorder soon if you’re interested. In other news I am writing things. Which is maybe not really news, but some days getting words out there is like pulling teeth for me. It’s easy after a few million words to start feeling like you are just spinning your wheels writing the same crap day in day out.  So sometimes I spend time on reddit. That’s where I found /r/worststory.

 

Worststory is a subreddit where people provide the most terrible idea for a story and challenge people to write it. So a writing prompt grabbed me and I went with it. A dot matrix printer as big as the moon appears in orbit, driving everyone mad with its noise.

 

I figured what’s the point of writing it if I don’t share it.

Direct link here if you’d like to upvote and feed me karma:

http://www.reddit.com/r/worststory/comments/2h8mcr/a_giant_really_really_huge_like_as_big_as_the/ckqnjsq

 

Otherwise, enjoy.

Ginny was concerned. Not because of the fact that it was there, but because nobody seemed to be asking the right questions: How did it get there? Why can we hear it when it’s in space? Where did it get the paper?

The neighbors were to first to be effected as far as she knew. The Barkers had been usually pretty quiet, for the most part, an elderly couple who read their newspaper and sometimes drank lemonade out on the porch. Gerald drove an old MG which he babied for as long as Ginny could remember. Margaret liked to crochet.

When the tapping began, most people ignored it, listening to the news with mild curiosity, and taking to heart the news that despite the noise, the orbital object was really nothing to be worried about. Pictures had begun to arrive on the news feeds and aggregators–a large, blocky shape with a round nodule at one end. It was feeding on something wide and flat. Scientists estimated it was somewhere around the size of North Dakota. And there was the noise.

Thump! Thump!

And of course, the biggest realization of all. That we were not alone.

The tapping was thick, ponderous, like a jackhammer in slow motion. It wasn’t a consistent sound either, hammering an almost random pattern, making the birds panic and crash into windows, causing deer to run into traffic and whales to beach themselves, causing insects to sometimes be unusually active at night.

Thump! Thump! Thump! Thumpity-Thump!

Ginny began to lose sleep.

As did the Barkers.

It’s funny, Ginny thought, how when something completely unusual happens, people seem to react in two ways: adapt and accept it as the New Normal, or blame something, anything, anyone.

In the case of the Barkers, she guessed Margaret was maybe a little of both. Maybe it was just one more thing to break the camel’s back.

Thump! Thump!

“DON’T TELL ME YOU DON’T SNORE!” The screams soared over the picket fence and into Ginny’s living room window. “YOU SNORE LOUDER THAN THE ORBITAL! YOU SNORE LOUDER THAN A BEAR!”

“And how would you know what a bear snores like?” Gerald said, his voice almost a whisper between Orbital thumps on the night air.

“YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHAT I MEAN!”

Thump! Thumpity-Thump!

“Margaret–“

“DON’T MARGARET ME! FORTY THREE YEARS! FORTY THREE!”

“Margaret… Margaret! Put that down! Don’t be daft!”

There was a moment where Ginny thought maybe she had listened to him, putting down whatever it was, a moment where maybe the Barkers would go back to the New Normal the way they all had. But it was the gunshot that got Ginny to put her coat on.

Thump!

The night air was humid, the Thump! Thump! Thumpitty-Thump! of the orbital just loud enough to be heard, too deep to ignore. It rose in the evening sky, a second, boxy moon, its form swallowing a full quarter of the night sky. Ginny almost stopped there on the driveway just to stare at it, until she heard the sobbing.

“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!” More sobs followed, obscuring the words as Ginny pushed the door open.

Gerald lay there on the floor, bathed in the glow of the TV, his eyes open, mildly surprised as he stared up at and beyond the ceiling.

“I’m sorry!” Margaret called, one hand on her mouth, the other hand hanging limply at her side. The gun hung from her finger, swaying just to the point of slipping. It fell, hitting the floor with a clatter, and Margaret looked at the door, at Ginny.

Thump!

“Margaret…” Ginny took a step inside, her throat closing on itself in fear as Margaret looked form her, to Gerald, to the TV.

CNN was on, the banner scrolling below, the anchor speaking about the Orbital, what it could mean.

“I don’t know why I did it,” Margaret said. “I just…”

Her voice trailed off then, her eyes fixated on the screen. Ginny turned too.

The thumping had ceased. A cameraphone pointed at the sky showed the giant sheet had emerged from the other side, slowly rotating into view. Ginny didn’t wait for the TV. She didn’t want to see it on TV. She wanted to see it for real.

Outside the sheet glowed like snow against the purple sky, the stars a backdrop to the image slowing working its way into view.

“What… what does it mean?” Margaret asked, her voice almost rising to a hysterical pitch. “What is it?”

Ginny knew. She’d known what it was for years. She took Margaret’s hand and whispered in her ear.

“Dickbutt.”

http://i.imgur.com/tzgxM5R.jpg

 

 

 

 

Free books and updates

 

So.

I am finally wrapping up production on the second book in the Skyla Traveler series, entitled THE UMBRAL WAKE. It should be out in the next month and I’m both relieved and a little exhausted. YOu can get the first book, A LATENT DARK for free this week.

You see, I’d never written a sequel before, and as it turns out, there are a lot of ways to massively fuck up a second book. I am guilty of a few of them, and as a consequence, the initial Beta read was not great. You see, sequels are weird in that you already have the universe laid out for you. If your big kick in the first book was in discovering the world, then I got news for you: the second book is going to feel like a chore. Sequels force us to dig deeper, try harder, and show the reader something they haven’t already seen. Here’s a few things I took away from writing my first sequel:

 

1. Every ending is a beginning – Did everyone end up with exactly what they wanted at the end of the first book? Well, then we have a problem. See, stories need to go somewhere and when you end your book on the happiest of endings, it doesn’t leave much room to improve upon things. Every solution has a problem, so what problems does the ending of your first book set you up for?

2. People need to be reminded of just who the characters are again – A LATENT DARK (currently free on Amazon until sept 12th) had a lot of characters. I found myself discovering characters faster than I knew what to do with them. THE UMBRAL WAKE even picks up on a few side characters readers might not even remember from the first book. You have to give some point of reference so that everyone knows who is who. This could be as simple as a sentence or two…

3. But don’t obsess with backstory – The biggest problem I had with THE UMBRAL WAKE was refraining from going overboard with backstory. Yes, Scribble was a side character in the first book, but that doesn’t mean we need an entire chapter dedicated to him that takes place before THE UMBRAL WAKE even really begins. Too much backstory takes away from the momentum of the book.

4. Keep the ball rolling – The point of a sequel is to give readers a continuation. It’s about keeping the momentum of the first book and letting it move along naturally, while at the same time providing deeper insights into the characters. Not to harp on backstory, but too much of that crap and you’ve just stopped your story cold.

5. Dig deeper – Sequels are your opportunity to show how your characters cope even when they think they’ve won. It’s a chance to blindside them (and the readers) into situations they hadn’t predicted.

6. Formula can be dangerous – Your hero defeated a dragon in the first book. Don’t just give them a bigger dragon in the second. There has to be a deeper threat, one that spans the theme of both books combined. Otherwise you’re just writing stories that become as predictable as an episode of HOUSE. The HARRY POTTER series is a good example of what to do. Even thought Rowling kept the theme consistent, the threats were both new and old. Sure it was a basilisk in book two, werewolves in book four, but the deeper, consistent threat was that Voldemort was growing stronger, giving us all that slow build of anticipation to the final battle. Sequels have to carry that momentum through and leave us wanting to read the next one as well.

7. There still has to be theme- Just because you don’t want to be boring doesn’t mean you can throw curveball after curveball. You’re writing a larger chapter of a bigger story. You still have to keep things within plausibility.

8. Every solution has a problem – Your character sealed that door to the netherworld, but she borrowed the nails from a spectral hardware salesman who wants them back. Or maybe you blew up the enemy city which was about to unleash a doomsday device. Well, good job; now that city is in ruins and overrun by mutants. Maybe you finally saved the last unicorn from poachers and it’s living happily on your ranch. You’re in for a shock when that unicorn goes into rutt. Fixing one problem doesn’t mean you’ve fixed all problems.

9. It ends when it ends – The good and bad thing about sequels is that they don’t have resolve the entire story arc. They can be bridges, but they still have to lead somewhere. You don’t have to cram five books of story into it, but at the same time, you have to give the readers some degree of closure. Endings don’t have to be final, or happy, but they have to be satisfying and interesting.

10. Character is still king – Your characters are the vehicles of your story. If you are driving your readers around in an uncomfortable, stinky, shitbox of a car, or a boring beige sedan, it will matter. People stick with stories because they care about the characters. If you’ve given them nothing to care about, they are under no obligation to care about your book.

11. It must, MUST be interesting – This is maybe the vaguest and most honest rule in fiction writing. It can be a five page run-on sentence, it can be an army of prepubescent bear cubs in New York, it can be the self-discovery of a cricket finding itself on the back of a naked gigolo. None of that matters. All that matters is that it’s interesting, whether it be the writing, the prose, the structure, the character, the ideas. Boredom is death for a novel.

 

Anyway, I’ll be promoting THE UMBRAL WAKE a lot more in the upcoming weeks, including a cover reveal soon. I hope the five of you reading this blog finds this list somewhat helpful.