Monday, August 18, 2014

It's Been One Helluva Week

Just trying to cheer myself up
Things have been crazy.

Robin Williams' death hit me hard. My two favorite movies of his are What Dreams May Come and Dead Poet's Society. Those two films had a profound affect on me, and it's incredibly sad that he's gone.

So St. Louis has been in the national news the last several days. Unfortunately, it's been all bad. I grew up in the area of Ferguson, and I can say that I'm amazed something like this didn't happen sooner. The whole thing is one HUGE tragedy. Just terrible. Right now, it's Sunday night, and I'm watching footage of more looting, violence, and fires in my old neighborhood.

I'm angry and upset. I just hope these criminals will stop and allow peaceful protests to continue. Please pray and/or send positive vibes to St. Louis. We can use all the positivity we can get.

Also, I'm going to be scarce the next two weeks. I'm off to Kalamazoo, Michigan for work. I just started a new job, and I'll be up to my ears in all kinds of training. I have a whole new set of medical concepts and terminology to learn, so my brain will be fried.

I'll do my best to visit when I can.

Finally, my young adult paranormal/thriller, Death Knocks, is available for pre-order HERE! Miranda Hardy and I are like little kids on Christmas morning. We cannot wait for our book to come out, and we hope to host a fun and unique contest very soon.

Take care, and I will be back on September 1st.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Meeting David Powers King

The Iron Skillet is behind us
Technology is great, but there's nothing like being face to face with a friend.

As a longtime blogger and writer, I really get a kick out of finally being able to meet with a good buddy in person. Everybody's blog takes on the personality of the blogger, so we often get a pretty good idea about what our blogger buddies are like.

I've been fortunate enough to meet a few bloggers over the years, and it's always been such a positive experience. Until I met David Powers King...

Just kidding. So David and his family happened to be in the wonderful state of Misery (Missouri), and they were only going to be an hour away from me on their way up to visit more family. So of course I had to go and meet him!

I was fortunate to have lunch with David, his wife, three little ones, and his sister's family. We met at a truck stop/diner. For real! The place was called Iron Skillet because they serve your food guessed iron skillet.

I can say without a doubt that David is even cooler in person. I'm a pretty talkative person, so I'm sure I talked his ear off. We talked about writing, collaborating with another author, and our publishing adventures. We even talked about our day jobs.

Social media is an amazing thing. It allows us to communicate with others from all over the world, and I love it. But it's extra special to be able to look a good friend in the eyes and shake his hand. Share a meal and swap stories.

I hope to meet many more of you. And don't worry. If you're an introvert, I'm more than able to talk for the both of us.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

August Insecure Writer's Support Group

IWSG Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Okay. My second book is being prepped for the world to see, and I'm terrified.

My betas say that Shadow Warrior is a better book than the first volume. It goes deeper with my characters, and the world is fleshed out even more. It's a richer book than Dragonfly Warrior for sure. And darker.

My cover is kick ass. My book trailer's pretty good.

But the "high" from getting my debut out there is now gone. I know a bunch of people who bought my book because they thought it was neat. "Hey look, I know this guy here who wrote a book." I'm pretty sure they didn't read my book.

Who will by the sequel to my first book? People who actually READ the first volume and like it enough to continue my series. How many people is that? I'm thinking it's a pretty small number.

Also, the publication process this time around has been rough. You'd think my experience would help, but I've had all kinds of delays. This book was supposed to be published this week, but it's looking more like September 1st. I wonder if I'm allowing the delays to happen in order to avoid facing my fears. I don't know.

This is the insecurity I'm fighting. I'm up against the "sophomore slump." Despite these fears, I'm still damn proud of Shadow Warrior. It's still got all kinds of fun action and fast pacing people loved in the first book, but it's a much better novel.

I guess I'll hang my hat on that to keep my sanity.

Monday, August 4, 2014

My Blog Turned Nine Years Old

Sunday was my Ninth Blogaversary!

Hard to believe. I've really been doing this for NINE freaking years?

Every year at this time, I like to reflect on my take on the blogging world as a whole. As you can imagine, blogging has changed a whole lot since I started back in 2005. My blog looked VERY different back then. In fact, blogging was a whole lot different too.

And with technology and social media being what it is, changes continue to occur at light speed.

So I've gathered data from some of the largest blogging surveys and other sources (i.e. Pew Research), to give you a quick glance on what's going on with the blogging world.

1) You will continue to see the increase in micro-blogging. Blog post length will continue to shrink. Twitter is alive and well, and Instagram usage climbs daily, it seems. People don't have time to write. Teen and Millennials typically start a trend in the social media world, and eventually everyone else follows. Classic example: Facebook.

2) There are more than 152 million blogs on the internet right now. However, the number of new blogs has steadily declined. The number of "dead" blogs has increased as well. Essentially, casual bloggers are dying off. I see this is a good thing. Blogs with staying power have remained robust and relevant.

3) Anyone remember what YouTube was like in 2005? It sucked. The quality was horrible, and the videos uploaded were amateurish at best. Look at YouTube now. Quality is pretty darn amazing. Blogs continue to follow this pattern (tied into #2).

4) Blog reading hits a peak between 7-10 am. It gradually declines as the day goes on. I find this interesting. Are people slacking off first thing in the morning? Or are blogs so integrated with sales and marketing? Or both?

5) You like stats? Here are some cool ones:
- 72% of all internet users are active in social media
- 89% of social media users are aged 18-29
- 72% of social media junkies are 30-49 years old
- 93% of marketers use social media for business
- 54% of bloggers post at least weekly
- 42% of bloggers never guest post
- 60% of blogs in the world are in English
- 20% of active blogs have been blogging for at least 6 years

So what's the state of blogging today? Blogging continues to evolve. It's seen as a powerful platform for businesses, and private blogging is seen as just another strand in the world wide web of social media.

Every year, it seems people keep asking: Is blogging dead? Nope. It ain't dead. It's just...different.

With all the "noise" out there, though, I think bloggers have to continue to provide something new and fresh to keep things interesting. Be honest, how many blog posts do you actually read word-for-word before you comment? Many people skim. It's just the new reality, and I'm cool with that.

Next year will be my 10th Blogaversary, and I hope to do something really special in 2015 (God willing). As long as awesome people like YOU keep coming here to read, I will continue to blog.

Thank you so much for visiting my little corner of the blogosphere.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Power of Collaboration

Miranda Hardy and I want to thank everyone for their support last week as we unveiled our YA paranormal thriller, Death Knocks. What was also so exciting was how everyone became interested in the whole collaborative process. So that's what I wanted to talk about today.

Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking delves into the psychology of creative people. She says that artists are "almost always individuals who like to go off by themselves - who can tolerate the solitude that creativity requires."

So very true. The fact is, collaborating with another artist - whether you're a writer, musician, or painter - is definitely not for everyone. Many writers, for example, refuse to read other books in the fear that what they're reading with subconsciously seep into their own writing.

Collaboration is a challenge for artists.

Look at Paul McCartney and John Lennon. In the beginning, they wrote many songs together. Literally sitting there with their guitars creating music. But later, as their music became more intricate and personal, their partnership became more like duel editors, going back and forth.

Here's my personal take on how collaborating with an author can be a successful adventure:

1) Brainstorm together. Miranda and I first started just swapping ideas back and forth before we even conceived the idea we'd write Death Knocks. It was just the two of us talking about a blog post I made, and it soon became obvious we were already collaborating on this idea that had taken a life on its own.

2) Give and take. Miranda and I first started working at the same time on stuff, and that logistically became impossible. It was pretty cool working via Google Docs and seeing our writing in real time, but it was tough to schedule. So we went the McCartney and Lennon route and wrote our book piece by piece, going back and forth. This worked for us because it became apparent that neither of us were willing to let EGO get in the way of our process. We'd throw ideas out there and talk it out. And the best ideas always won out in the end.

3) Make sure you're compatible. This is tied into #2. Our partnership worked because our personalities and strengths/weaknesses matched up perfectly. Miranda is much better at putting that spark into action and throwing it all down on paper. I work very differently, probably because I spent more than a decade as an editor. I'm more methodical in my approach, and I often ponder and struggle before I put anything down. Together, we made a great team.

She'd get it down, and I was good at going back and polishing and refining what we had.

4) Don't be afraid to raise the white flag. When you've got a partner, and your end product isn't working out, it's easy to just continue for fear of making the other person angry. Again, you have to shove aside your ego and look at the work itself. Our first draft of Death Knocks was essentially scrapped. It was a gut-wrenching decision to pretty much start over, but it was the right thing to do.

5) Get your ducks in a row. Make sure to deal with the business aspect of the collaboration. This includes all the details like publishing contracts, marketing costs, and other expenses. Talk it out and make sure everything is clear. Get it in writing too.

Finally: Have fun and enjoy the ride. Collaborating with another author successfully is such a blast. Writing can be such a lonely existence, and it's a nice change of pace to be able to have a great writing partner.