Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What a year!


Well a hair over a year ago, my business partner (and former roommate) and I started a little side project doing online marketing. It focused on website design, SEO, PPC, etc. It's been going very well.

In fact, it's gone so well that I'm now doing it full time and I've moved to a new city: Las Vegas!

It's a very exciting time.

This new job has put a TON of emphasis on writing, so I find myself pumping out content every day. We're so busy writing that we're actually hiring an additional person to do some of the writing for us.

In the mean time I've been doing a little bit of writing for myself. I did try to participate in NaNoWriMo 2013, but it only lasted about a week before I ran out of steam. At least I got another 7000 words on the second book in my little series.

I've also written a bit here and there on religious blogs, like the blog for the Mormon community on reddit, and my personal religious blog.

However, I don't think I've added at all to my short story series, other than to invent a new character in my head. The alpha readers I sent copies to were all non-responsive, except one who said something along the lines of "it was fine." Pitchmas netted no results either.

In any case, it's been an interesting year. I'd say something like "I'll try to update this blog more regularly" but I think we all know we shouldn't be making promises we can't keep. ;)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Not too busy to write, just too busy to promote.

When I started this blog over a year ago, I had intended to keep it up to date with all of the adventures of... writing. But you'll notice the thing has been pretty much inactive since then.

Not that I haven't been writing. I figure I wrote about 500,000 words last year - enough to fill 10 "novels" by NaNoWriMo standards - and I'm probably going to be at a similar level this year. A ton of that was for work and non-creative outlets, but it's still an impressive number!

But my family has experienced a lot of changes this past year, from reinvigorating my insurance brokerage, to teaming up with (shameless self-promotion) a Las Vegas personal injury attorney to create a marketing company for lawyers, which uses my background in computers, marketing, and writing. It's been a lot of fun to build businesses, and I've still found time to write creatively a little - finishing up 4 short stories.

The problem is that I don't know what to do with them. Sure, I'd like to find an interested publisher, but I personally don't think it's ever going to happen. (These stories aren't exactly "edgy" or anything.) When I started writing them I had the intent to self-publish and see if I could make a few bucks. But I don't really have the time to promote them.

So, unless I think of any great ideas or a reason not to do it, I'm thinking about just putting the work of last year out as a free e-book and calling it good. I might not make any money, but the process will feel finished. What do you think? Put it out there and be done with it, or hang on to it and hope for the time to promote it?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Young Adult Fiction


In my local library there are the usual stacks of books reaching as high as I can reach. There's the dewey decimal system. There's the fiction section, taking up nearly half of the library.

But, beyond those stacks, there is another, more exciting section. It's located halfway between the regular fiction section and the psuedo-playground of the children's section. Something different. Something better.

Now you have to understand, I'm in my 30s and I have my own kids. I've got a university education and I've been published in scholarly and literary journals. I listen to NPR. I've read the giants of literature and the masters of pulp. But there's only one section I browse any more.

Young Adult.

There's something magical about that section, and I think I know what it is.

YA abandons its pretenses and embraces the story. YA doesn't care if the story is about a family living on an asteroid during the industrial revolution (larklight), or about a boy discovering the body of a girl in Ireland (bog child) or about a girl awoken from hyperspace sleep on a generations ship (Across the Universe). It doesn't matter. All belong. All are welcome. The story is paramount. You can even have distopian stories about people whose brains are programmed by colors (Shades of Grey) written with greater wit and creativity than any traditional literary endeavor.

Sure, the bookstore is overrun with paranormal romance, but this, too, shall pass. YA will still be there, entertaining us, telling us stories that stick with us for days. Bringing us characters who we love. YA abandons the pretense of literary greatness and just makes us feel things. If you ask me, that's the future of literature.

In celebration of YA lit. Beth Revis is giving away 50 signed YA books on her blog.  You can sign up for it right here.I've also put the banner from the contest below.

Go enjoy a YA book or two. You'll be hooked. There's nothing more fun than just kicking back and dropping into a whole new life and world with the ease of turning a page.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

How to Write an Outline, Greg Style.

I participated in nanowrimo for quite a few years, and always the same thing happened: I'd start strong, writing well for the first day. Then, maybe I'd do okay on the second day. By the third day, if I wrote at all, my word count was way, way down. I don't recall making it more than 5 days.

That was true until last year. Last year I determined I would do this thing, and do it hard.

But how?

My friend, that is where the miracle of outlining came in.

A night or two before November began, I sat down with my previous years' attempt. It had no title, other than Tower. It was a dismal affair. Four pages. No story. Just a scene and a character with no shape whatsoever. As I read the scene, though, I enjoyed the world it conjured for me.

I started to write little summaries of what would happen next. Here's an example:

"She needs to pick up her bounty. From who? local drug lord? local boss? sherriff? She picks up bounty and hears about strange group of men. She investigates. Why? Because her current bounty is dead so drug lord won't re-hire her and she needs a new job. She hears this new group is hiring. She meets main character 2 - love interest."

This goes on and on. Can you sense the spur-of-the-moment-ness of it? Can you tell that I'm figuring out the broad motivations as I go along? You could call it discovery outlining.

This outline got less and less detailed as the story went on. In fact, the end of my outline was something like "they experience stirring resolution." It was pretty laughable.


It totally worked. 

As I struggled to write each day on this story about a girl in a desert, I found that when inspiration dried up I could return to my outline. "Just make it to the next plot point." I'd tell myself. "Doesn't matter how you have to do it." Sometimes it was easy. Sometimes it was hard. I discovered things about my world and my characters as I went. Halfway through my 50,000 word goal I re-did my outline, adding in later details and plot points using what I had learned so far. That made it even easier. It also made it longer. 55000 words ended up consuming only 1/3 of the outline, and the second half of it still isn't very detailed.

Can you tell I'm excited about it?

So try this, sometime. Just start outlining as if you have no idea where you're going and it doesn't matter. Ask yourself questions as you do it. Don't let yourself stop typing. Just outline. there will be time to think later.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A cynical view of insurance agents.

Just don't let it get too close to an open flame, okay?
And it really, really works!
Insurance agents are the meta-gamers of the working class.

See, here we have the working class. Here's a teacher. There we see an accountant. Here, a doctor. There, a fast-food worker. Each one of them earns a different amount of money in a different way. Each has goals relating to growing their income, moving on to better things - whatever they are.

Now, here, swimming among them and looking for all the world like a normal, working member of society, we see an insurance agent.

Full disclosure: I happen to be an insurance agent.

The insurance agent doesn't look at his own career and think about how to move up, adjust it, or change jobs. The insurance agent is planning on always being the insurance agent. What the agent is doing, however, is looking at your career. Your goals. Your future. He is evaluating you in the same way you evaluate your own career.


Because the insurance agent is a many-tentacled parasite who experiences gains only as his clients do.

There. I said it.

See, the insurance agent stretches a tentacle out and attaches it to a likely looking janitor. Perhaps this tentacle is called "disability insurance." With this small connection, the agent draws a tiny portion of the janitor's income away into its own being.

Another tentacle, this one called "health insurance," reaches for a small business owner.

The twin tentacles of "home and auto" lovingly embrace a teacher.

I brought hand sanitizer this time!
I was just thinking of a way to insure your insurance!
From each of these varied connections the agent draws a drop of others' earnings into himself. But what he's really looking for is the big money. The whale.

When he sees a likely subject, one who seems to be doing well for herself and who appears to have a bright future, the insurance agent clamps on with as much grip as possible. Why? To ensure that when the subject is making more money she sends it to him instead of any other insurance agent out there. He attaches as many tentacles as he can, and attempts to squeeze as much life insurance as he can out of her. Life insurance is his most profitable area, after all.

Eventually the insurance agent has thousands of tentacles, each one providing a dollar here, a dollar there. He doesn't care about his future. He's got your future to sustain him.

Clearly I've grown cynical about the insurance industry and those who work in it. I've been discouraged at the behaviors of many of those around me who only look to sell sell sell. Those who can't stop being a tentacled horror because they now have no other way to be human.

Let me add one thing, though - and this is important: There are some really amazing agents and advisers out there who will fearlessly tell you exactly what you need with no thought for themselves. They will inform, and not sell. They will lift and not drain. Do I have guilt about my years as an insurance agent so far? Well, in one or two cases I wonder if I made the right recommendation, but for the most part, no, I don't. I think that I really did try to always make it about the client and never about my income. (That may have something to do with why I'm not really making much money from it. Hmmm.) So what am I saying? I suppose I'm saying be careful. Don't avoid all insurance agents, just the parasites who see you as their next meal.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Reading, Critiquing, and Piano Wire.

Ever notice there are 2 basic types of critiques out there?

First is what I call the 'artist's critique.' This is like those classes you took where the professor or teacher said "there is no wrong answer." Remember that? Sure it was fun, and you probably learned important writey things, but what didn't happen was constructive criticism. It's like putting a painting into a sculpture competition and getting the 'participant' award along with everybody else.

At the other end of the spectrum is the 'mechanic's critique.' This is what happens when you take the car in for an oil change and you end up being told your transmission is crap. In critiquing terms, this is when you hand an imperfect work over to somebody and they end up telling you every little thing you've done wrong, including the things you thought were right. Been there? It's like handing somebody a carving of a bear and hearing them say "This doesn't look like a painting of a dolphin at all!"

Seems like critique groups also fall into one of those two categories. And that's too bad because critiquing ought to be the most helpful stage of the writing process. It ought to be the impetus for making the rough become smooth in all the right places. Yet too often, critiquing and critique groups is what sends a fine piece of work into development hell, and what should have taken a few days or weeks to improve instead takes years.

Here is a story which helps me remember the key of good critiquing.

Back in my young and rude days I once visited a friend and mentioned to her mother that their piano was in need of a good tuning.

"That's odd," her mother said. "I just tuned it recently." She then brought out a tuning hammer and a small electronic keyboard. She then went through, note by note, and tuned every key on her piano to the corresponding electronic tone on her small keyboard.

I remember thinking, "well, that's a weird way to do it, but whatever."

After she finished, she played through all the notes on the piano with a smile. It sounded terrible. "That's better," she said. I smiled and wondered how things had gone so terribly wrong.

Years later I learned something interesting about pianos which explained why this carefully tuned piano had sounded so wrong. See, pianos have something weird in their physics called stretch. Without getting into details, it's stretch which makes it so that a piano must be tuned to itself. If you try to tune a piano to another piano or some other device you end up with pitches that don't sound good at all.

So,  when you have the honor of critiquing the work of another, remember to consider the work in terms of itself. Don't try to 'tune' the piece according to the standards of another work, especially one which is unrelated. Leave your preconceptions at the door and just try to get the writing in tune with itself.

 When looking for somebody else to critique your own work, have a conversation first. Maybe you should try and give them a work which you have already have critiqued and ask them to take a look at it. See how they do it. Find somebody who tries to make your work fit its own rules instead of theirs.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

This... Pinterest... thing. I will make it my own!

So a lot of people have been using this site... Pinterest... I believe it's called.

Yes, I know. I'm just being silly.

I've decided to use Pinterest to catalog images, words, and whatever other gobbledy gook I find online which relates to my current story project - Tower. Make sense? So the idea is that if I see an image which reminds me of a scene or person in the book I 'pin it' to my Pinterest board.

I hope this keeps my writing in tune with itself and consistent throughout. It can also hopefully be used as a critiquing tool - where I can say "the city I envision looked like this picture on my pinterest board." And the reader / critiquer can say "That's not what I imagined at all!"

Anyway, I owed you an update, so here it is!


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