Monthly Archives: June 2011

June titles

New Half-Year’s Resolutions

Most normal people wait for the end of December to roll around before deciding on New Year’s Resolutions. I, however, have never been called normal and don’t feel like waiting the six months.

So here are my Half-Year’s Resolutions.

  • Write 150,000 words of new fiction. This averages to a little under 6000 words each week. I expect to exceed that during July and August, my easiest months, to give me a cushion for the final four months of the year, which are always my most challenging. (Day job plus teaching at night plus the hockey writing, which doesn’t count.)
  • Make 26 new e-books available on Kindle, NOOK, and Smashwords. This will be a mix of my short stories and nonfiction. I make no promises to adhere to a strict once-a-week schedule, though.
  • Get from three-t0-five cardio workouts in each week. This extends a challenge I gave myself at the start of the year, one I’ve met all but six times and most of those were two-workout weeks. (I’m also giving myself a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card for last week. See my previous post about the Kris Rusch Death March.)
  • Eat healthier and attempt to reduce the volume to less elephantine proportions. (No snickering there, in the back of the class!) To make the goal more specific, I’m shooting for five days a week that I can say my eating has been in harmony with a goal of living a long, healthy life.
  • Meet the too-private-for-posting financial goals my wife and I establish.

If you feel you’ll benefit from making some resolutions yourself, go for it. Feel free to post them in the comments section or privately. But write them down. Specific, written goals work a lot better than vague ones only in your head.

Surviving the Kris Rusch Death March

I’m writing this from gate D9 at the Portland, Oregon airport, waiting for my flight back to Boston after spending over a week on the Oregon Coast. I’m tired but very excited about my writing and what the future holds.

I was one of eighteen professional writers working with Kristine Kathryn Rusch (and at the tail end, Dean Wesley Smith) on short story writing. I affectionately renamed the workshop to The Kris Rusch Death March because she is (in my ever so humble opinion) two things: the best writing teacher on the planet and also the toughest.

First, a correction.

She refers to herself as a coach, not a teacher, which is an apt distinction. The point isn’t to attain perfection and get an A with a gold star on your paper while at a workshop. It’s to get the tools in your writer’s toolbox to help you consistently sell your fiction.

Think in terms of a bath tub filled with water. (This is Kris and Dean’s analogy, not mine.) Above a certain line is the “selling line” where a story sells to a professional market. A writer’s work isn’t a flat surface of water; it’s made of waves. With some stories (or novels), the wave rises above the selling line. With others, it’s below it.

As a writer adds more tools to her toolbox, she raises the level of the water so despite the swells and troughs — no writer produces the same quality story every time — more and more stories are above the selling line.

Sometimes the work required to achieve that feels like it’s the writer’s blood that is raising the water line. You have to leave your comfort zone and take chances. Perhaps you’re good at some technique that–to use one of Kris’s phrases–is like waving your hands and saying, “Look over here,” to distract the reader from that gaping hole in your story.

That hole is in story after story, whether you realize it or not, preventing you from consistently selling. Kris grabs you by the scruff of the neck and forces you to work on your shortcomings.

There were some very uncomfortable days for me during the workshop. I felt like I’d gone backwards and didn’t know up from down. My brain was spinning like Linda Blair’s head in The Exorcist.

But I’ve emerged from The Kris Rusch Death March with new tools in my writer’s toolbox, especially one I’ll call my new chisel. I’m convinced I’ve taken major steps to raising the water line in the bathtub. And no, even though I felt like I was in agony a couple of those days, the water in the tub isn’t pink.

I wrote four new stories as part of the workshop. One will be going up electronically within a day or two. Another will be going to a traditional magazine market. A third needs to be redrafted from about the two-thirds point. The fourth will be the launching pad for an exciting new fantasy world that I hadn’t even conceived of.

I completed numerous exercises, some of which could in one way or another become transmogrified into stories.

But the best part about the workshop isn’t the stories themselves.

It’s that shiny, sharp, new chisel in my toolbox.

“All Over Again” released

Pentucket Publishing has released my short story “All Over Again” in all electronic formats. Sample the opening scenes to this dark fantasy.

Walter and Edith have lived a satisfying life together. But an anonymous fiftieth anniversary gift offers a chance to be twenty years old all over again.  For one of them.

Available for 99 cents in all electronic formats on Kindle, NOOK, Smashwords, Sony, Apple, Kobo, and many others. 

New website design

Hope you like the new website design. Eventually, I’d like to add a more flashy header, but I like the way I can better display my available books with this format. The more flashy header will come sooner or later.

Not to mention that the really cool Amazon carousel didn’t fit the old theme.

You Can’t “Just Write”

Maybe in the old days, a writer could “just write” and let a paternalistic (or maternalistic) agent take care of all that nasty business stuff. But not anymore.

You’ve got to be reading the posts by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Dean Wesley Smith, Passive Guy, Mike Stackpole, and more. Kris, Dean, and Mike have all agreed on the following mission statement, which makes all the sense in the world to me.

“Writers! Learn your own damn business. Do your own business yourself. Be business people. Stop expecting someone else to do everything for you–and stop complaining and being surprised when they rip you off. They’re ripping you off because you’re an easy mark. Learn your own business! Now! Or you won’t have a career at all in this modern era.”