Monday, January 30, 2012

Goals for writing

Y'know, I'm not the most organized person in the world.  That honor goes to a girl I know who color-codes itineraries for weekend trips to New York City.

Lately, though, I've been setting what I think are manageable goals for myself.  Through the magic of Google Calendar, I've created tasks like "Write for 1 hour" several days a week, and it feels rather good to check those off.  A lot of times I'll sit down to write and find myself distracted by Facebook or YouTube or god knows what else.

But setting easy goals seems to help more than I anticipated.  For example, tonight I set the simple goal of "Write for 1 hour," but that was at 8:30 and now it's 10:40 and I just stopped.  Obviously, that's not going to happen every night.  I'm usually at work right now, but if I can rejigger myself to do that in the afternoon before I go into the office, it should work out nicely.

Writing is like going to the gym.  Get yourself into a routine, and it becomes easy.  Break that routine, though, and heaven help you.

Current Soundtrack
"Fast Five" by Brian Tyler

Review: 'Price of a Bounty' by S.L. Wallace

I've noticed that my increased writing has led to an increase of reading, along with the new Kindle I received for Christmas.  I have therefore decided to devote a portion of this blog to reviewing books, since I do it so well for movies and TV.

Price of a Bounty
By S.L. Wallace

Keira Maddock is a Freelancer - she takes jobs as they come, and doesn't think too much about the morality of what she does.  She lives a dark future ruled by the elite, where normal people get by on little more than scraps and technology is reserved for those who can afford it.  But when she takes a job to retrieve stolen money and to kill a young man who supposedly robbed a powerful industrialist, she finds herself drawn into the world of the resistance which holds personal revelations for Keira and her family, and could change the face of society.

"Price of a Bounty" is the debut novel by S.L. Wallace.  It's a light, brisk read with some interesting ideas rattling around in its head, a few well-told action sequences and some intriguing world-building.  The characters are mostly well-drawn, though some come across as a little too basic.  Only Keira and her sister really seem to go through any kind of changes in the book, the others are merely there to facilitate those changes.

Where "Price of a Bounty" really succeeds is the strength of its premise and ideas.  Though the world-building can occasionally be a little vague (we never really learn just how far into the future this is, and few details about the 'war' that left things this way) it's generally well-described.  It reminds me a bit of the dirty future of the second "Highlander" movie, though only in its tone and description - this book is nowhere near as bad as that movie is.  But in this book, aside from the "techno" owned by the elite, technology and appliances for the rest of us are old, broken down and unreliable.  In one scene, Keira is delighted to find a working whirlpool tub, of all things.

The political ideas put forth are reminiscent of my own, which I suppose made me more predisposed to enjoy the book.  Here, the ruling class of uncaring elites is opposed by a resistance made up of those who believe that people have a basic value, which is a theme I can identify with.  Wrapped up in a story that is one part sci-fi, one part espionage and probably two-parts romance novel, there's a lot of stuff floating around in "Price of a Bounty" for probably almost anyone to find something they like.

The romantic subplot works well enough, though there's one twist midway through the novel that didn't work for me, and I even saw it coming too far in advance.  I'm certain the novel would be better off without it, since it doesn't even seem to affect the rest of the plot once it occurs.  Still, I applaud the author for the attempt.

Probably the biggest problem I had with the book was initially one of style.  Each chapter is told in first-person from different characters' perspectives.  So one chapter will be from the mind of Keira, one from Scott, one from April, one from Guy, and so forth.  In the beginning, several scenes are repeated from different points of view, but I didn't feel like this was adding much to the proceedings.  This feeling of redundancy tapered off fairly quickly, though, and the book builds up steam toward its ultimate goals.  I say don't let the first few chapters turn you off.

As I said, "Price of a Bounty" is a quick read, and at only $2.99 for Kindle (or free for AmazonPrime members) it's hard to argue with.  Despite some minor problems, I found it enjoyable enough to recommend if you're looking for some romance with a sci-fi angle.

Current Soundtrack
'The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift' by Brian Tyler

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Adoration is a drag/drug

I tend to think I'm a pretty humble person.  I honestly don't like to be in the spotlight, and I rarely take compliments well for my work.  Anything beyond, "Nice job" starts to make me feel uncomfortable.

This, of course, is problematic when you release a book that people are enjoying.  So I get things like coworkers who pass it around the office, and then start asking me questions about it in front of people.  Or, perhaps, I have a friend who tells his bartender in New York City about it, and the bartender proceeds to write my name down on a napkin.  And so on.

On the one hand, this feels good.  People are obviously enjoying my book, which I'm proud of, and are proud of me.  On the other hand, I'm uncomfortable with a level of celebrity.  It felt weird when I was down in Baltimore signing autographs at Shore Leave in 2006 for "Strange New Worlds" and it feels kinda weird now.  But why?


It seems strange to me that I want people to read and enjoy my work, but that I don't particularly want to get lots of compliments on it.  If people want to discuss the stories with me, I'm more than willing to do so.  I'd love to hear which ones people enjoy, which ones they didn't, and why or why not.

Whatever, I'm a weird person.  It's very late at night, and I haven't written much this week.  I spend the weekend in New York City (which was awesome) and then I've been all off-kilter on my schedule and splitting time between my apartment and my parents' house helping out with some stuff there.  It's making me a little anxious.  I've been so productive lately that taking this time off feels... bad.

Current TV:
'30 Rock' Season 6

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Lost Tale

When I was putting together the stories for "Show Me the End of the World," there was one story I'd written a few years ago that I knew I wanted to include.  It had the ultra lame title "The Box" but I was really proud of it.

In terms of its themes, it was very close to a lot of the other stories in "Show Me," in that it had a rather "Twilight Zone"-ish sort of ending.  It had a little bit of action, and what I thought was a pretty nifty hook to it. 

So, of course, as luck would have it, I could not find this story anywhere.  I'm sure there's a copy of it on some hard drive packed away in my closet (of which there are several) but I couldn't find it anywhere in my email, and it predated my extensive use of Google Docs.

Since I wasn't willing to start digging through old drives, and I had given myself a pretty hard deadline for getting the book out, I made the decision to just leave it behind on this one.

But it bothered me.

 I liked the story!  I really did!  Or, at least, I remember liking it.  Since I don't have it to re-read, all I have is that memory.  But what to do? 

The obvious answer, of course, is to go digging through--

Nope.  I decided to re-write the story from scratch.  I started last night, and I'm probably about a quarter of the way through.  I haven't decided what to do with it when I'm done.  Certainly, I'll release it in some fashion.  In what format, I don't know.  Certainly, only one story won't be worth putting out a hard copy, but somehow, this story will get out there.

But one of the things I do know for certain is that releasing the book has really jazzed me up, creatively.  I spent much of the last couple years languishing, not really sure what direction to go in with anything.  I'd been trying to get out my graphic novel, but the progress on that is almost nonexistent, with only about a dozen pages penciled in two years.  At that rate, it may never get finished.  I've given some thought to simply writing it as a novel, which seems far more doable considering the experience I've just had with "Show Me the End of the World." 

And that feels good.

Current TV:
"Stargate SG-1" Season Four (DVD)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

'Show Me the End of the World' now in paperback!

It's here!  It's happening!  The paperback version of my first self-published book, "Show Me the End of the World," is now available from!  The paperback version is a nice, trade paperback sized volume.  I'm very happy with the physical quality of the book, and I hope everyone else out there is, too.

You can order it here, and please feel free to rate and review it when you're done reading!

You can also check out a free sample here.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Free sample of 'Show Me the End of the World'

Today I have decided to begin offering a free PDF download of one of the stories in my first book, "Show Me the End of the World," which is available now for your Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook and (almost) in paperback!

So please feel free to download and check out one of the stories, and if you like it, try the full book and tell all your friends and family!

Check out the free sample

And be sure to tell me what you think in the comments below!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Of Titles and Men

There are generally two things I struggle with on the micro level of my writing: character names and titles.  I find these two things to be some of the most difficult aspects of the literary/verbal creation process.  Most of the time I end up with something simple like 'DreamTime' or 'The Watchers' which are not bad titles at all, but... Well they're just kind of obvious, aren't they?

And as for character names?  I find I'm far more comfortable randomly assigning a character a name like "Bill" or "Amy" or "Tim" than really thinking about what to name a character.  A lot of times I don't even bother coming up with a last name for them unless it's absolutely necessary. 

I wonder if it's because titles and names don't really concern me in a certain sense.  Now that I'm thinking about it for this blog post, part of my mind is saying: "If you're relating to the character and enjoying his/her story, then what does it matter what his/her name is?"  That is to say, the name isn't as important as the substance of the character.

It'd be nice if I could communicate entire stories in such a fashion.  But I'm not Cormac McCarthy.

Current Soundtrack:
"Casino Royale" by David Arnold

Friday, January 13, 2012

It feels so... REAL

The proof came in for the paperback version of 'Show Me the End of the World.'  I have to admit, I was a little apprehensive... and even somewhat worried.  Firstly, what if the quality of the book was low?

Secondly... I have to be honest and say that initially I had not planned on releasing a paperback version at all.  I didn't want to.  But enough people said that they simply didn't want to read the ebook version that I felt compelled to offer the paperback.  Begrudgingly, I spent a few nights formatting it.  It was... less fun. 

I had some trouble with the formatting, specifically because I had simply copied the wrong margin sizes from the site, which was frustrating.  Ultimately, though, I finished it, submitted it and just sort of hoped for the best.

But when I actually held it in my hands...

...It's possible I giggled.

I felt the same rush I got when I'd received my first copy of 'Strange New Worlds' back in 2006.  So I guess, despite my initial reservations, I'm proud of it.  It feels good holding it in my hand and seeing my name on the cover. 

Current Movie:
"Quantum of Solace" (2008)

Sunday, January 8, 2012


I came home tonight with every intention of putting another couple thousand words into the novel, but I ended up dicking around the Internet, updating my LinkedIn profile and Facebooking.  Dang.

Current Soundtrack:
'Contraband' by Velvet Revolver

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Fun fun fun

I tried to do some writing on my novel tonight while I had a few minutes at work, and something sort of struck me:

If it's not fun for me to write, it's not fun for you to read.

That sort of made perfect sense, since I was working on a scene that just wasn't coming out how I wanted it.  My words felt limp and the whole thing just kinda... sucked.  So I deleted it, and I was a little upset at first.  I had slugged through some two or three hundred words, and in a flash I'd tossed it all.  Of course, they're still there if I revert to previous version, but you know what I mean.

But after I got home I went back and tried it again, and it all seemed to flow much better and much easier.  Like I said in my previous post, music is pretty key.  When I'm at work, all I have to listen to is the noises of the people around me (and I do truly hate the noises they make), the police scanner, maybe whatever sports event is on the TV on the other end of the room.

That was only part of it, though.  I'm fully capable of writing without music.  I just don't like to. 

In other business, some of my friends have gotten around to reading 'Show Me the End of the World,' and their responses so far have been positive.  I'm very, very glad to hear that people are enjoying it.  So I'm not really making cash hand over fist on it... that's alright.  The book was very much a proof-of-concept to prove that I could do this. 

The novel, on the other hand, that's the big challenge.  Not just finishing it, but putting it out and actually trying to make something of it.  So far, it's been fun.  I think that translates from me the writer to you the reader.  I've often spoken in my For Reelz blog that you can tell when the cast of a movie or TV show is having fun, and that can enhance enjoyment of the movie.  Well the same works here - If I'm having fun writing it, you're probably having fun reading it.

Current Soundtrack:
"Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" by Michael Giacchino

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Never ask a girl's measurements

So, I'm a little bit of a worrier.  It took me a while to figure out formatting the eBook version of 'Show Me the End of the World' because, well, I could never convince myself that I was doing it correctly.  Eventually, of course, it worked out and the book seems to read well enough on my Kindle Touch.

(I can't thank enough the makers of Calibre, though, whose application helped me immensely when some of Amazon's tools were frustrating the bejebus out of me.)

Formatting the paperback version was somehow even worse.  And, stupidly, it took me far too long to realize this was simply because I had set up the margins in an absurdly incorrect manner.  There was farrrrr too much space on the top and bottom of each page.  After a couple of other tweaks, I found that I had nearly halved my page count simply by adjusting the margins, which just makes the dang thing look much better.  After a couple other tweaks, I got the page count down a little bit more, added a small dedication and my 'About the Author' description.

All in all, I'm much happier with how this is turning out.  Putting together this book has been a fascinating, albeit frustrating, project.

Current Soundtrack:
'Libertad' - Velvet Revolver

One more for the road

Well as of today, my first eBook "Show Me the End of the World" is now available for the Nook ereader from Barnes & Noble.  I'm still working on a paperback version through Amazon's CreateSpace, but I'm paranoid about the formatting, so I'm taking my time on it.  But that should be ready soon, don't worry.

Current Soundtrack
'Stargate SG-1' Season Two [DVD]