Release Date for FREE AMERICA: June 15

Available June 15, 2016 on Kindle and (for a limited time) Kindle Unlimited: FREE AMERICA: PART ONE (Make my day! CLICK HERE to preorder now!)

free_america

After spending way too much time assessing the current state of the publishing industry, the tools available to indy publishers today, and my own personal skill set, I decided that I might be short-changing myself if I didn’t give independent publishing a go. That means I’ve been behind the scenes hustling, shipping off my MS to more beta readers and editors, putting together my social media presence, figuring out how to set up my author website, and all that BS. Wow, that sure is a metric $#1t tonne of work. It ain’t for everybody, that’s for sure. But me? Methinks I’ve got the stomach for it.

We shall see.

I also decided to serialize FREE AMERICA, which is going to work out very well for everyone (I think) for several reasons, including:

  • I originally wrote the MS in three parts
  • Readers can try out my story for less money and avoid buying more if my story isn’t their cup of tea
  • It forced me to focus on delivering a story worth reading in each individual part

Each part is novella length, so I’m hoping the smaller time commitment will lure more readers. FREE AMERICA #2 will release in the fall, FREE AMERICA #3 will release in the winter, and a single volume will go to print in summer 2017.

If I weren’t so busy, I would be very excited!

Stephen King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”

I just finished listening to the audiobook version of Stephen King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.” If you haven’t read it, I suggest you get the audio version, because he took the time to narrate it himself. Stephen King’s narration of his own words makes them even more powerful. I don’t often wish I could thank an author for giving me the gift of his work, but this is one of those times. It made me type the following letter, which I might or might not print out and ship off. I’m still undecided.

Stephen King
Bangor, ME 04401

Dear Mr. King:

I’m writing to thank you. I hesitated at first, thinking about how much correspondence you must receive and how sometimes it must become tiresome. Then I pictured myself in the future I covet, as a writer who has done something to touch a fellow writer, reading the letter of gratitude. I couldn’t deny you the pleasure. Or perhaps I’m feeling charitable because I watched the Orioles beat the Red Sox last night.

I’m glad you pulled “On Writing” out of the trunk, but not as glad as I am you took the time to narrate it yourself. I’ve developed the habit of listening to writers talk to me about craft as I drive, but I couldn’t banish your book to my car. I had to keep listening to your words. I walked around with earphones on until you finished talking.

Every once in a while, I would chuckle, and my wife would wonder if I was losing my mind.

“What the heck are you laughing at?”
“Stephen King cracked me up talking about a copy error.”
“You’re such a nerd.”
“Yeah. Isn’t it great?”

“On Writing” is more than a mere memoir or manual. Through your words, you gave me, and the rest of the writing world, a call to action: Life is short—write your ass off. It seems trite when I distill it to a bumper sticker catchphrase, but the way you did it moved me and woke me up to that truth. I’m not the same me as I was before I listened to you speaking those words, and I’m grateful.

I’ve only recently begun assembling my personal collection of rejection letters after completing a novel manuscript somewhere near my own minimum standards. Your words will keep me going for as long as it takes. Thank you.

Sincerely,
C.S. Trimmier

Yikes!

I can’t believe I haven’t posted anything on my blog for five months. On the plus side, I’ve been working on my fiction writing, dutifully typing away on past, present and future projects. I’ve been doing a few freelance projects here and there that have made me a little coin. However, I have neglected YOU, dear reader, and for that I apologize.

In Baltimore, we’ve had some troubles of late, which you might have heard of. If not, then here is a link.

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Photo copyright 2015 C.S. Trimmier

I don’t live in any of the areas that were directly affected by the riots, but I had to live under a curfew for a week, and that sucked. However, it didn’t suck as badly as it would have if I were working at a bar or restaurant. I feel for those people. I went out and ate at a restaurant and went out to a bar just because I wanted to help them make up some revenue. OK, maybe I like going to restaurants and bars too. We’re blessed with plenty worth going to in Hampden, the commercial district nearest to my home. If you’re visiting Baltimore and you want to see someplace that isn’t tourist-y, “The Avenue” in Hampden is where it’s at, Hon.

So, being the thinking person I am (which is dangerous, yes, I know), I was less than impressed with the national news coverage of the Baltimore situation. It seemed they all wanted to cram this into the context of some racial or socioeconomic inequality narrative they already had going. Like many things Baltimore, yes there is some of the same as everywhere else, but mostly it is something different.

To understand the context, you’ve got to go back a few years. You’ve got to understand that Baltimore City has been paying out boatloads of cash on an obscene number of police brutality cases on a consistent basis. You’ve got to understand that Baltimore fired the top cop and brought in a new one with the express purpose of putting an end to the brutality. And then Freddie Gray, who was uninjured (contrary to some false reports) prior to his illegal (according to the prosecutor) arrest, was fatally wounded in the back of a police van.

The problem with the Freddie Gray case isn’t about race. The problem isn’t about poverty. The problem is a Baltimore police force that has failed to mercilessly terminate its bad elements like the poisonous vermin they are.

We have cops who have shot citizen’s dogs just because they can.

And now we have cops who killed somebody just because they didn’t give a damn.

Or that is at least how it appears.

Now, I’m not anti-police. I have police in my family. I know they’ve got a difficult, thankless job. I know most police are good intentioned, decent people. But some of them are not.

The problem with police forces all around America is that the police are a brotherhood, and they protect their own, even when they shouldn’t.

If America is going to reconcile this problem, it is going to require a culture shift in police forces everywhere in the country. Police are going to need to shift from an attitude of “the cop is always right” to “the force must be above reproach.” The police in America must actively seek out their bad elements and remove them from their ranks.

That’s my opinion. You know what those are like.

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Post-NaNo

Success!

Thanks to NaNoWriMo, I achieved my writing goal for the month of November. That kept me away from here for a while, and I didn’t pick it back up right away with witty blurbs about the hellish holiday season I endured or other musings. Sorry about that, folks, but I’m back and wilder than ever.

I’m really liking the bones of the novel I banged out for NaNoWriMo. What was most interesting to me about the exercise is that I found myself relying much more heavily on dialogue than narrative in cranking out the pages during the marathon speed writing event. I enjoyed that, but as a result I’ve got something more like a screenplay than a novel. So, I think my revisions will be more about filling in the blanks than cutting the purple out of my prose. We shall see. I have yet to send the NaNoWriMo manuscript into the cold abattoir of my editing self, but it is making noise in the corral.

Instead, I have been polishing up a synopsis for my finished manuscript FREE AMERICA and working on sending out some query letters to agents. At the same time, I am considering self-publication for FREE AMERICA. Things are so different in the self-publishing world since I began my fiction writing journey in earnest a decade ago. It seems to make a certain amount of business sense for me to pursue self-publication until I’ve got a bigger body of work to go around hawking. By that time, I might be making enough money that I would rather hire an intellectual property attorney than an agent. Who knows.

So, all you indie authors out there, do you have recommendations for good freelance editors, book cover designers and other resources? Please let me know. I’m going to be digging in to that stuff over the next few weeks.

The Perfect Beginning

Writing, already a somewhat esoteric activity, is something that becomes more surreal when performed in a room filled with chandeliers made from plastic dolls, metallic pedal-cars suspended from the ceiling, and a flock of writers kicking off NaNoWriMo. The first thing I did when entering the room full of people I didn’t know was to put my laptop bag on a table, launching packets of artificial sweetener into a shotgun pattern on the floor. I looked up at the ceiling, and a humping pair of golden spray-painted mannequins looked back at me.

The one on the bottom looked a little surprised, but whether it was by me or the one behind him, I wasn’t sure. A paper moon was hanging from the center of the ceiling, with another golden mannequin holding up the bottom of its crescent form. It shone on a pink Eiffel Tower filled with plastic baby doll heads. Another mannequin, in modesty, had adorned itself head-to-toe in a silver wrapping of Mardi Gras beads. Where else would I want to be on Halloween, waiting for midnight to strike, starting the clock on my countdown to crank out at least 50,000 words in 30 days?

Nowhere.

So, here I sit, in a two-toned, metal-flake vinyl covered chair, watching the clock and wondering how this will all go down.

It is an interesting collection of folk, the Baltimore NaNoWriMo crew that decided to make the trek to The Paper Moon Diner, ranging in age from college-ish to balding and middle-ageish. I’m on the older side of the spectrum, and I’m OK with that. I’m wondering how much the room has written, how many years they’ve been doing the NaNoWriMo, and how many completed manuscripts they have among them, and how many of those that have been published. I’m willing to bet the answer would surprise me, but not sure of whether it would be by its glut or scarcity.

This is how my first NaNoWriMo begins, in awkwardness and solitude within a room full of writers, talking amongst themselves while I tap the keys on my laptop.

Every once in a while, I stop, look up, and take in the surrealism of it all. With its Halloween-costumed fiction writers and encrustation of Freudian freak-show décor, this room contains more of it than the Dali Museum.

This is my perfect beginning. Now to figure out how to start the manuscript…

Only a few more minutes until midnight.

Beta Love, My Beta Love

I have some great beta readers, but one is just fantastic. I’m not going to use his name here at this time since I didn’t ask first. Recently, he read through my manuscript FREE AMERICA at a quick pace and delivered actionable feedback. Actually, he read through the beginning not once, but twice, and I revised the beginning based upon his commentary while giving the ending a major overhaul. He has been clear and unambiguous about what bothered him about the writing. He has also been very positive about its quality.

Good, right?

Being a writer means being inherently self-critical. He, and more or less everyone else who I have shared the book with along the way, had positive things to say about it. Am I a masochist because I long for a dressing down that lays bare exactly how and why my writing sucks? Because I feel that way, just a little. I want it to be crystalized in my mind exactly where my writing is weakest so I can go about destroying those bad habits.

I suppose I did get that sort of thing back when I first started writing novel length fiction. I joined a DC area critique group and went regularly for a while until commuting from Baltimore to DC to do the nasty with my writing got more of a chore than I could stomach. Along the way, I did get some critical smacks of reality that helped me focus on becoming a better writer. Sure, some of them were full of crap. That doesn’t bother me. Being a writer means you need to be able to take criticism and accept that not all of it is necessarily valid. Even the criticism I ultimately ignored helped me become a stronger writer, because I took it at face value, considered other factors and then made the conscious decision to persist in spite of a critical voice pushing me back. I also enjoyed watching the dynamics of a critique group play out. That was probably the most interesting part of the exercise. I think it might be time for me to join another group.

If you know of a group I should consider, please drop me a line. Thanks!

I Dream of Dostoyevsky

I don’t often dream of meeting authors, but last night I did.

A young Fyodor Dostoyevsky featured in my dreams last night. Apparently he was having some sort of trouble. I invited him to come into my house, which was on the parade route in New Orleans. We talked in general and had a good time. It occurred to me that maybe I should ask him if he would sign a couple of books for me.

Of course I could not find my copies of anything he wrote, since I had just moved and hadn’t organized anything, but part of the reason I bought the house was because it was a block away from two good independent book stores. I made my way through the crowd and came back with some fresh copies, figuring mine were crappy condition paperbacks anyway. I joked about helping him sell through a few more copies, as if he cared, and we all laughed. I guess everybody knew he was dead, including him.

I have no idea what any of this means, other than I have books on my mind (and Mardi Gras). I would like to think that maybe, somewhere out there, Fyodor Dostoyevsky is reading my work and smiling.

If November is for Novel Writing, then October is for Outlining

After typing my two favorite words into my manuscript FREE AMERICA and setting aside its sequel, I’m getting pumped up to crank out the first draft of a new, completely unrelated manuscript for NaNoWriMo. I’ve been playing around with story ideas and coming up with characters for a few months, and it is time to start getting them into some sort of intelligible conglomeration that will help me bang out the prose.

I mean no offense to the “pantsers” of the world. I am a write-by-the-seat-of-the-pants guy much of the time, especially when I am searching for story. I started out FREE AMERICA knowing nothing about my story except where it began and what the world was like. The rest of the time was spent exploring the world, finding the characters’ voices and discovering where the story went. I enjoyed all of that time (well, most of that time), but it certainly was a giant hunk of time spanning years of my life.

It took me so long to write FREE AMERICA because it was my first novel, and, of course, my first draft ended up with most if not all of the problems that first novels tend to develop. Being too much of a perfectionist for my own good, I decided to find and fix the problems rather than say “oh well” and discard it as my crappy first novel attempt. Do I think I identified and eradicated every single one of them? I’m not delusional. I know I will benefit from working with a professional editor. Who wouldn’t?

Completing the first draft, getting feedback from readers, then working through all of the cutting and revising and rewriting afterward was the deepest learning experience I have ever gone through. This wasn’t just a practical exercise rather than a theoretical one, it was a spiritual journey that forced me to face my fears and develop personal character. Now that I’ve got about as much character as I or anybody else can stomach, I would like to experiment with seeing how expeditious I can be with drafting a complete manuscript from beginning to end.

I’m thinking of this as one big exercise, one that might transform my process. I don’t picture myself creating an ultra-detailed outline. I picture myself doing the sort of planning I do before I travel to a new place for the first time. I want to figure out in general where I will be going and how I will be getting there as well as a little bit about some of the things I might experience while I am there. I see myself finding the major landmarks of the story, exploring the neighborhood a little, and gaining a better understanding of what makes my characters tick and how they would  probably react to the environment and situations I contemplate putting them in. Afterward, I will release the characters into the wild and see what happens, hoping to be a little surprised at what ends up happening.

I will probably wind up doing what I eventually did with FREE AMERICA: create/modify an outline to track what I have written to ensure it all works together. My writing and outlining worked in tandem, each informing the other, until I ended up with my completed manuscript. Much of my “outlining” in the final stages consisted of quick scribbles into the hardcover pocket notebook I carry at all times in order to capture inspiration and honey-do lists.

These are the things I have found most useful in my preparation for this process:

Many moons ago, I signed up for the newsletter at StoryFix.com,  read the books Story Physics and Story Engineering by Larry Brooks, and listened to at least one Writer’s Digest Tutorial by Larry Brooks. All that material has firmed up my understanding of how and why to structure a story. I think I may bit a bit more of a free-spirited writer than Larry Brooks, but I respect his ideas and methods.

I also liked this Writer’s Digest Tutorial from  K.M. Weiland: Outlining Your Novel: Create a Roadmap to Storytelling Success. What I liked most about this tutorial is the pure practicality of it. This is a tutorial that is geared toward getting things done. It is all about seeing the big picture so you can go forth and paint it with your words.

The thing that got my creative juices flowing the most was a book I read by James Scott Bell: Write Your Novel From the Middle. The general idea of this book is that (A) every story has a moment, pretty darn close to the exact middle of the page count, where the main character realizes all is lost, sees who he is, understands what he has become, and/or grasps what he wants to be; and (B) if you can do a good job of nailing down this moment, then you can leverage both the first and last halves of the manuscript from it.

So, I hereby declare my intention to figure out during the month of October what my story is and where it is going so that I can get the words down onto the page during NaNoWriMo in November.

I wish the best of luck to everyone else out there who might also be so inclined.

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My Two Favorite Words

This Friday, I typed my two favorite words into my manuscript:

THE END

I had been working on a major rewrite of the third act since mid-summer, and I knew the ending was lacking that certain undefinable something. I kept poking it around, hoping it would jump up and grab me, when last week it finally did. I typed like a fiend in every moment I could steal away from my “real job” until, Friday evening, it was finished.

My wife (God love her) suggested we go out somewhere to celebrate, so we went to Holy Frijoles for margaritas and a meal. She was really good about letting me write through my final push to the end. I’m grateful for that.

I’ve been working on my query letter during those times where I was able to write but needed to let the manuscript settle. Now that I’ve got what I feel I can finally call a completed manuscript, I can’t wait to start querying. I committed myself to wait until Monday before I send out the first query.

Is abstaining from sending query letters on the weekend is a good idea in general? Most agents I look up ask for queries as email only, no snail mail, so I am wondering if weekend queries might either be an intrusion into the scarce personal time of an industry professional or one that will be lumped together with three days’ worth of queries to be reviewed on Monday. Either way, maybe Tuesday is the way to go rather than Monday.

Does anybody have an opinion on that subject?

Adios, MS Word.

If you have noticed that I haven’t posted anything here for a while, then drop me a line. It would be nice to know somebody is paying attention…

Why did I vanish from blogland? Work, and not just the J-O-B type. I’ve been doing actual A-I-C writer work too. I tried using Scrivener to work on some ideas, and I fell in love.

I fell in love so much that I chopped up my first novel manuscript and put it into Scrivener and started re-working it. I can’t believe I didn’t do this sooner. I will never write a novel using MS Word again.

Why did I fall in love with Scrivener? Two main reasons: convenience and structure.

I confess: I do too much research. Research churns my idea fermenter. Sometimes I can’t find that thing I read about a few years ago that related to whatever random project I happen to be thinking about. Scrivener gives me a nice dumpster to toss my research in, dangling it nearby the actual writing so that I might be tempted to dive back in upon occasion. For weeks I obsessed about filling up the research section of multiple projects with documents and web pages and whatever else I felt like shoving in there.

Having the manuscript sliced up into parts and chapters and scenes, each with a handy spot for summary, makes my brain smile, especially when I start thinking about re-arranging things.

This tool is so good at keeping me focused on the project as a whole that, right now, as I type these words, I am filled with the urge to get back at it. It just seems to bring everything together in a big picture sort of way that helps my brain process and create. This may sound a bit strange, I know, but it is the truth. Word never did that for me. Word can’t do that for me.

It wasn’t all unicorns and rainbows while getting started. I did get all sorts of formatting crap gone wrong when I imported from Word. I got over it. Totally worth it. Oh, yeah, there was something of a TREMENDOUS learning curve figuring out how to use the software, but when I took the time (as recommended) to work through the tutorial, everything was smooth, smooth, smooth.

So, off I go, back to it.

Bottom line: If you write novels and haven’t tried Scrivener, you owe it to yourself to do the free download, work through the tutorial, and play with a new project idea. Who knows? You might fall in love too.

(and, no, I am not getting paid for this.)

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