Thursday, October 26, 2017

Sample my fiction on YouTube

Just in case you weren't aware: You can listen to samples of many of my novels on my YouTube channel. There are presently videos for 12 Hours of Halloween, Blood FlatsEleven Miles of Night, and many others.

Videos that feature readings of fiction do not comprise a "hot" genre within the YouTube ecosystem. YouTube is more focused on video games, celebrity gossip, profane adolescent humor, partisan political screeds, and similar worthwhile endeavors. A fiction author on YouTube is lucky to get a few hundred views on any given video. I don't think that any of my videos have received more than this.

Nevertheless, the videos are useful for hyperlinking and embedding in other locations (this blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) for potential readers who are interested in one of my novels or short story collections. 

I completed over 400 story videos during 2016 and 2017. There is already a lot there, and I'm presently focused on writing some new novels and short fiction. So I probably won't be uploading many new YouTube videos between now and the end of the year.

That said, I'm one of those relatively few authors who isn't camera-shy. Video remains a core element of my overall strategy for getting my stories out into the world, and I do plan on jumping back into YouTube in earnest in 2018.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Reader question: Where's that county in BLOOD FLATS?

A reader asks: 

Where is Hawkins County, Kentucky, where your novel BLOOD FLATS takes place?


Hawkins County is a fictional location. As a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, I've spent a lot of time throughout Kentucky, and I'm familiar with many locations in the Bluegrass State.

I decided, however, that it would be best to use a fictional county, so that I could tinker as necessary with the names of towns, etc.

This doesn't mean that Hawkins County is completely divorced from reality, though. I've spent a lot of time in the Louisville area, and I envisioned Hawkins County to lie somewhere between Louisville and Lexington.

An ex-marine framed for murder. A gun-blazing chase through rural Kentucky, as he battles meth dealers and hitmen in a fight to clear his name.

Something scary for Halloween

Read my coming-of-age horror novel, 12 HOURS OF HALLOWEEN:

It’s Halloween, 1980, and the suburbs of Cincinnati are filled with vampires, monsters, witches, and other supernatural terrors. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Our House (thriller): Chapter 1

The Eavesdropper (About the book)

Thanatos Postponed: a short tale of terror

In entertainment, we're all replaceable

I was unsure of what to expect from Hawaii Five-O this season. 

I was sorry to see Grace Park and Daniel Dae Kim leave the series. I thought they both added a lot to the show.

I'm pleased to report, though, that Hawaii Five-O is just as good with the new costars, Meaghan Rath and Beulah Koale. The Five-O remains on my personal television lineup. 

Hawaii Five-O isn't the kind of television that is going to change anyone's life, but it's entertaining, with fast-moving plots and sympathetic main characters. 

Actors leave successful, long-running series all the time, for various reasons. M*A*S*H lost numerous actors over its eleven seasons on the air. The final season was just as good as the first one. 

In television (and in most forms of entertainment) everyone is replaceable. 

"Dazzling sentences"

It's generally been my experience that when the reviews for a book focus on "dazzling sentences" (an exact quote from a review of a book I'm now reading), I'm in for a slow, literary read. 

I'm much more optimistic when the reviews focus on a book's "pulse-pounding excitement", i.e., the plot.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

In praise of Scrivener

I recently made the leap to Scrivener, and I am in love with it. (And curmudgeon that I am, I don't fall in love all that often, I should note.) 

I now use the software for all my writing, with the exception of super-short blog posts--like the one you're now reading.

As a word processor, Scrivener is adequate; but it doesn't really bring anything new to the table that you don't already have available in Word or Apple Pages.

The real power of Scrivener, of course, is it's outlining capabilities. The software's virtual index cards make it so much easier to organize all your ideas in a visual layout.

Yes, you can outline in Word or Pages. I've outlined stories in Microsoft Excel. For that matter, you can outline on a legal pad, or with paper index cards. But trust me, Scrivener enables you to outline far more efficiently than any of these tools. 

Should you buy Scrivener? Yes, you should--even if you aren't a professional writer. Even if you don't have any interest in writing fiction. Scrivener's capabilities could be just as easily turned to the writing of essays, business documents, and even personal correspondence. (I'm very surprised that Scrivener hasn't caught on in corporate environments. As a veteran of cubicleland, I can attest to its potential usefulness there.)

Many fancy software packages are expensive. But you can own Scrivener for less that $50 at the time of this writing. So what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Writing: outlining vs. not outlining

Do I "write into the dark" like Dean Wesley Smith, or do I outline my stories like the late Robert Ludlum? 

The short answer is: some of both

Blood Flats was written literally on the fly. I began this book with only the inciting incident and the basic conflicts in mind. 

Termination Man, The Eavesdropper, and Our House, by contrast, were all outlined extensively in advance. For 12 Hours of Halloween and Eleven Miles of Night, I used a hybrid method: I plotted out the major incidents of these stories in advance, and wrote the individual scenes "into the dark".

There is no "wrong" way or "right" way in this regard. Stephen King's early novels are incredibly tight and focused, despite being written without an outline. (I can only imagine how difficult the writing of The Stand was without an outline.) 

John Grisham, on the other hand, always works from an outline. Grisham has said that he spends more time on the outline of each book than on the actual writing. Think about that for a moment. But The Firm is one of the most original, suspenseful novels ever written.

And yet...herein we can also see the pitfalls of both methods. I love (most of) King's books and (most of) Grisham's books. But as both writers have churned out more work, the inherent weaknesses of their respective methods have become apparent. 

King's later works (Doctor Sleep, 11/22/63, Under the Dome) are too long, meandering, and drawn-out. In these books, the tight story structure of The Shining, Christine, and The Dead Zone is missing. I suspect this is a result of King's insistence on "winging it". (Stephen King is opposed to outlining on principle, based on various statements he's made over the years.) 

Grisham's work, meanwhile, is sometimes formulaic. Read enough of his books, and you'll start to notice common elements that appear again and again: a hidden pile of ill-gotten money, a lawyer facing a moral quandary, a conspiracy involving government or a large corporation, a race to the Cayman Islands, etc. 

I want to repeat: Both King and Grisham are great writers. I recently read (and loved) Camino Road. The point here is not to trash either King or Grisham. The point is to emphasize that a.) if you're a rigid non-outliner, you may develop a tendency to meander too much, and b.) if you're a rigid outliner, you may find, after a while, that you're repeating yourself. (As Dean Wesley Smith has said, your conscious mind will tend to go to the same plots and solutions that it's most familiar with.)