Category Archives: General bitching

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!)

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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!

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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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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!

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.)

Go Fund Yourself

I subscribe to an ezine put out by Randy Ingermanson – “the Snowflake Guy”

The latest turned me on to this crowdfunding thingy: the-ultimate-crowdfunding-course-for-authors

Yeah, they are crowdfunding a course about crowdfunding. Shake off your hall of mirrors flashback and carry on.

I come at it from this place in my head: Instead of writing fiction, I am doing query letters, chapter outlines, and synopses. Finding an agent, selling the manuscript, the publishing process, and getting marketing support is a PITA. Because I’ve got a business background, I’ve been hesitant to self-publish without professional help. If more authors start themselves up and build a following, then the industry has more opportunities to offer bigger advances and better support to those that want to cross over. Everybody wins!

Crowdfunding publishing setup costs and maybe getting a little crowdfunded advance? Now that is a disruptive self-publishing revolution, I tell ya’. This could be interesting, especially when one considers the economics of it all.

I checked out a couple of great posts explaining the here-and-now cash value of what a book earns over time in words that a dumbass writer like me can understand.

One is from Courtney Milan: know-what-your-rights-are-worth

One is from Jeff Posey: What’s Your Novel Worth? NPV and Cash Flow

Assuming one is stubborn as hell (check that one off for me), not shy about marketing oneself (check two), and willing to invest come cash to ensure one’s writing and published product is not a steaming pile of used spaghetti (see crowdfunding scheme above), one might earn a cargo hold more cash by going indy.

Those who know me personally will recognize my having said some of the above before, but the idea of crowdfunding a manuscript publication effort never occurred to me. I must admit that one particular friend of mine might have mentioned it before, but my skull was too dense for it to inoculate my thought process.

Wow. This could be it. This could be the real indy writer revolution. My opinion is that, rather than being the death knell for “traditional publishing,” it is something that will enable worthy authors to get well-deserved attention and for the industry to better focus its resources. After all, nothing alerts publishers to the potential value of a writer better than the author’s past and present earnings.

Go short yourself

While I am searching for the story and characters in my next novel, I decided to do something new: short stories.

3000 words? Sheesh. I could write a 3000 word story with my smartphone. Easy as pie.

I should mention that I can’t bake worth a crap.

What I figured would be a day or so of thinking and writing turned into about a month worth of self-education and intense scrutiny. Shoving an entire character/story arc into 3000 words is not light work. This is especially true when my Inner Critic keeps trashing everything that gets typed up.

I should have taken the sage advice I read somewhere which was to just pound out an entire draft before making a single revision. Just hammer out the hamburger and get the story on the page. Spit it the #@*% out. Then go back and turn that 6593 word steaming pile of feces into a nice, tight <3500 word story.

I once shocked myself while changing out an electrical receptacle just to see what it felt like. That might explain a lot of things about me, but it also demonstrates that I’m the kind of guy that will take a bite of something my buddy tells me tastes horrible. Sea urchin, for example. True story. An even more telling thing about me is that I later discovered ultra-fresh sea urchin can be kinda tasty, meaning I was stupid enough to try that stuff more than once. I also learned that, when travelling to exotic locales, if you are enjoying what you are eating you might not want to ask what it is.

Of course I didn’t take the advice.

Next time, I’m barfing out a whole story before I even think about revision. Really. Promise.

(fingers crossed)

The Arc, the Plot, and Everything

Between fits of hair-pulling, I have been reading quite a bit about the things one must do to get one’s novel manuscript ultimately into the hands of a willing publisher. I’ve been whittling down a snappy query letter. I’ve been distilling a synopsis. Now I’m making an outline.

“Why didn’t you make an outline to begin with?” My psychic powers can detect the question already.  I’m not a seat-of-the-pants writer, but I’m not a fastidious outliner either.

Sure, before I got fully underway, I set down what the main turning points of the plot would be. You know, the tried and true formula for manuscript success: The hero is born, the hero’s life goes to shit, the hero tries to clean up the mess or kill the shit-maker, shit gets worse, the hero gets in super-deep shit, the hero throws the shit-maker into the shit, and everybody lives happily ever after (or not).

Here’s the thing: what I thought the story was before I began is not exactly what the story turned out to be. My characters insisted on a different story. I listened.

Now I need to go back and outline the story the characters demanded. I’ve broken down my chapters into sub-parts, and I am writing a line for everything important that happens in each of them. This means that I am combing through the manuscript once again.

This is a good thing, I suppose. I have found one or two typos and a few instances of language that could be clarified or simplified. One more notch clicks on the gears tightening up the manuscript.

I wonder how many times I will have read through this manuscript before this project is finished. I have read it so many times that it tends to wash over me. I suppose that is why I am finding things I overlooked before now that I am going through the manuscript with the job of making an outline. It is forcing me to concentrate on something practical, shifting my perception just enough to get another angle on things.

After I am finished with the outline, I wonder if I will want to do some story tweaking…

I suppose I will need to wait to see how this novel ends up writing itself.

Synopsis Hell

And I thought writing a query letter was tough.

If the query letter is a literary flirtation, then the synopsis is a drunken make-out session in the back booth of a poorly-lit and disreputable bar.

Make the manuscript sound interesting in less than 200 words? OK, sure. No problem.

Make the reader understand the entire 80,000+ word manuscript in 2000 words? Ugh. Less than 1000 words? F*ck. You’ve got to be $#!TTING me.

So, I’m fighting to suppress the memory of when I had to write a term paper and they forced me to write research tidbits down on note cards before I wrote them down in the paper itself. This was intended to teach me something that I would use later in my life. I think that something was that sometimes people will tell me to do things that are pointless and stupid.

Actually, I take that back. I think they tried to force me to write down research tidbits on notecards and instead I decided that was complete BS so I just wrote the stuff down on paper or made copies of the stuff to use in my term paper. I’m sure I lost points or had to stay after school and eventually got a bad grade because of it. I’m also sure that I didn’t give a rat’s cleft @$$hole. That sounds much more like me in grade school.

Back on topic: I’ve been writing down little nuggets of plot and character turning points and so forth on little index cards. I had never seen any use for those little blue-pinstriped pieces of stiff paper before. Apparently I was wrong about them being completely useless. Now I can sort all of that stuff out in little piles and move them around and what not.

Maybe I will shuffle them like a deck of cards and deal them out at random to see what happens. Maybe it will be better than the actual manuscript. Maybe I will re-write it that way.

Who knows? I am a writer gone wild.

And the word synopsis just sounds evil.

Look out behind you! You’re about to be eaten by a synopsis!

I think I might be.

Butt in seat

I haven’t posted anything here for a few days, with good reason.

In addition to FREE AMERICA, I have two other novel projects that I am working on. So, while working in the “getting published” mode, also I have been writing, plotting, researching, re-writing, and doing all of those other things that go into the making of a novel.

While operating in “getting published” territory, mostly I have been distilling my query letter for FREE AMERICA. Now it is time for me to turn my attention to working on the synopsis.

Ahhhhhh the Synopsis. I should probably say “synopses.” By that, I mean it looks like I might need to write a few versions of different lengths. At least I enjoy the challenge.

I guess I had better get back at it.

A Writer Re-Writes.

“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”–Mark Twain

Right now, some smart ass is reading the above and saying, “WRONG! It is French mathematician Blaise Pascal who wrote that in 1657! HA-HA-HA! I am smarter than you!”

Of course, Mr./Mrs./Ms. smart ass is looking past the FRENCH mathematician writing something along those lines in FRENCH, so saying the quote is misattributed…

c’est une ânerie.

But certainly it wasn’t an original thought. Other smart asses will say John Locke wrote something like that around 1690 and maybe even shove in your face something about Benjamin Franklin getting on the bandwagon around 1750.

This tends to prove two things every writer knows (or will find out) without having to hear/read assholes arguing about who said what first:

  1. The best writers know how to steal great stuff (ask Shakespeare when you get the chance)
  2. Minimizing word count sucks

The pain and misery of linguistic economy worsens when an author sits down to squirt out a query letter. If I were to believe much of what I have read, I would think the point of the exercise is to come as close as possible to getting across what is written in 70,000 to 120,000 words with a few sentences.

Impossible? Probably. But I don’t think that is the point.

I am coming to understand the query to be a literary come-on designed to get your prospective agent/publisher horny for your manuscript. Teasing is the thing that elicits the hot-and-bothered sensation in the mind of the reader. Unfortunately, I’ve never been much of a tease.

And maybe now I’m the smart-assed asshole saying I know more than you do.

Whatever. You decide.

I’m afraid I will perpetually feel the need for another draft (or draught) until somebody goes all-in on this sumbitch.

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