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Month: December 2013

A Christmas Thank You

Every year, writers write these things, like a bulk Christmas card, and fans go yeah, yeah, yeah. Get back to writing books already. And you’re right. The Thank You letters are overdone, but this one is different, I promise.

Thanks to the fans: I do love you guys, and in those moments when I want to wipe the hard drive, go sell lattes at the local coffee shack, or sign up to greet shoppers at Walmart and attempt to ignore the fact I am a writer, you guys and your comments, letters, and reviews keep me from doing that. My wife, children, and the shoppers I would victimize at Walmart all send along their warmest wishes.

Thanks to the critics: This post is mostly for you. Those who criticize my work, whether constructively or otherwise, and those who doubt my ability, and even those who fail to acknowledge that writing is a legitimate occupation, I want to say thanks.

There is no such thing as negative feedback. Feedback is feedback, and usually I can tell if you just don’t like something I have written because of the subject or because some portion of it offends you. Maybe you don’t like my writing style. Maybe, though, you have a legitimate point. I received some negative feedback on Temptation, and the end of the year, after writing two more novels, saw me go back and do an edit, while at the same time re-releasing it and Redemption with new covers (see them here) Response has been great, and I’m glad I did it.

The negative turns positive. I take feedback with a grain of salt, but I do take it, and use it. Critics do a ton to make my writing and work better. Constructive critics are the best, because they give you something to build on. But the rest of you? Sometimes it is not bad to be torn down. Something new and better will rise in the place of the old.

So long-time or new fans, early and late critics, thanks for liking me, hating me, reviewing my work, both good and bad. Next year will be exciting, with new books, new content, and a new direction. Stay tuned all. I’ll need the critique to get me grounded.

Happy Holidays, and a blessed New Year.

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The Write Software: Top Ten of 2013

Oh boy! Another top ten list! I know you are excited, but if you don’t have the gift yet for that writer friend of yours, here is a list of must have software you can buy them on line at the last minute. I promise they won’t be disappointed.

10. TextAloud. This is a text to speech software, invaluable in editing. Mistakes missed by conventional means can’t be mistaken when your computer reads your work aloud to you. The link takes you to the free trial version, but for this holiday, why not upgrade the writer in your life to Pro? For under $30 they get premium voices and other tools.

9. Natural Reader. This is another text to speech option. There is a free version, but the personal version includes two natural sounding voices and the ability to convert files to .mp3 for play on personal music devices, transfer to CD’s, etc. For under $70 this is a bargain, and something they will be sure to use.

8. Calibre eBook Management. Another useful tool, this allows the user to convert various file types to eBook formats, from .mobi to ePub to Amazon’s new format, AZW3. Your friend can transfer their manuscript from Word .doc format to any file needed to read on their tablet or e-reader. They can easily keep track of their entire library in one location. Technically Freeware, consider a donation to support the developers and then download!

7. Rescue Time. You know how easy it is to get distracted and play on social media rather than working right? Well no more with Rescue Time. Okay, the first time your friend (or you) sees the report of how they really spend their time they might cry, but this program will help set goals and stick to them. Nothing better to track those New Year’s resolutions. The Lite version is free, but for a $72 a year subscription, more detailed reports and more features are available.

6. Office 365. If your writer friend is a Microsoft fan, this is a great gift. The new Office (32 bit version) is great, and has a ton of plug ins designed to boost productivity. At $99 a year, it’s cheap compared to single use versions. Working with businesses and publishers is easy. Multiple device or Mac user? No problem. You can download the software on up to five devices, and use the mobile apps in the cloud. Sky Drive means documents follow you anywhere.

5. Write Monkey or WriteRoom Mac users have the delight of using WriteRoom, a tremendous distraction free, full screen writing software. Write Monkey may be a better alternative for Windows users: the download is free, but a small donation unlocks plug-ins and additional features. Is your friend’s or your goal to write more words in 2014? This may be a very helpful tool.

4. FocusWriter. Another distraction free working environment, this works a little differently. Also “Freeware” the developers request a donation when you download it. Many extra features can be turned on and off, daily goals set, and multiple documents and formats are supported. A slick full screen/distraction free package with customizable themes, this makes a great gift.

3. Pro-Writing Aid. This is an app your writer friend can try for free. Checking text on a blog post? Even checking sections of text in a longer work? This aid checks for repetitive words and phrases, common grammar mistakes, and even academic foibles. A great self-editing tool, and at $35 a year, a steal. The app has a plug in that can be installed in Microsoft Office or the popular OpenOffice software and used with no need to cut and paste. The gift that will give all year long.

2. CharacterWriter. I blogged about this software earlier this year here, but you need to check this out. For character development or fleshing out those minor characters, there isn’t a better platform out there. With advanced features, this program gives you psychological profiling at your fingertips. For under $70, the benefits last for years.

1. Scrivener. If you know me you saw this coming. But for $40 this software combines some of the best features of some of the other software listed here, and then some. The compile feature and the ability to create great looking ePub documents as well makes this a must for many writers. Developed by writers for writers, the software is one of the best out there. For $10 extra at checkout, get them the great guide to using their new software. Better yet, enroll them in a local class, like the one here.

That’s the top ten. There are many more, and just before Christmas next week we will talk about the top ten free sites and options for authors. Next year more reviews and great stuff on the way.

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The Flashback

honda-cb-750-chopperThirteen years ago. October 13, 2000.

I rounded a corner. A Toyota pickup turned left in front of me, and I hit it at 45 mph. I ruined my bike, a CB750 I was lovingly restoring, and the freshly painted gas tank I’d just picked up and installed.

Broke the front forks and the triple-trees. Bent the front rim.

Shattered my right thumb, dislocated my shoulder, and got a nice piece of road rash on my right shin that would bother me for years. Still does from time to time. No one is sure why.

I was asleep October 12th–asleep at the wheel of life. The next day I woke up.

Thirteen years ago this coming Christmas day, I asked my wife to marry me, after we dated for almost two years. I told her she would have to wait until I was ready. She did. We married the following July.

102_1752In October 2009 we separated for six months.  In March of 2010 I was 40 years old and napping again. By April, I was awake. We nearly divorced, so when we reconciled, we rededicated our vows. We said I do again. That summer, I got serious.

I’m a writer. Always have been. A dabbler though, a pretender. This time the shit got real.

Did I want to be a writer for real? Did I like the idea of being a writer or actually writing? It was time to shit or quit: I woke up

and up

and up.

Book Cover 1A collection of short stories. Broken Bones. The wisdom at the time. If you are going to be an Indie writer, release a collection of your short work before your novel.


Write other stuff. Write what you know. Hundreds of articles on Motorcycle Maintenance for eHow.


Research and write new stuff.

Tons of articles for the now evolving Suite 101. Stuff I knew. Didn’t know, but researched.


Edit. Use your talents and hone your own work.


museum cautionCreate your own job. Oh, yes. Found research and papers that needed to be written. Found technology to do it better. Learned. Geology. History. Hydrology. Environmental science. Use these to write short films, do fun projects.


Three published novels now. That long ago scene on the motorcycle written into Temptation. Two more in the hopper, one complete one nearly so.


All the boxes checked. On the way to a career. A career, not a job I hate yet tolerate. Not something of fleeting interest. Writer. Editor. Researcher. Doing what I love. Five year plan: I’ll be working at home.


Prison Walls2April 2013. Wife wakes up. Hates her job. Geographically we are in the wrong place for this to happen. It’s not the right time. My plans, my career is taking off. But we have to move.

New location. New opportunities for me. For both of us. Five year plan, accelerated. I look around my home office, look at my keyboard, typing this. Dream realized. Opportunity knocked, we answered.


cigarLast night, a strange show. Pins and surgery for the man on the screen. Suddenly I feel it again, beneath the scar on my right thumb. My shoulder aches. I see the hospital. Feel the pain, the need for drugs to quiet it. Rub my fingers along the lumps that were once protruding pins. Remember the physical therapy. It is a flashback. Suddenly I crave nicotine, a cigarette, a cigar, something. If I had one in the house last night, if it had not been so dreadfully cold … I might have ventured out, bought a pack. Or two. A new lighter.

A flashback. It takes time to pass. My nerves calm. My hands steady.

I’m awake.


If it had not been for that day, if I had not woken up when I did …

The music starts and I begin to type, the words flowing faster as I pen the final scenes of my newest novel, the last in a series.


The flashback is over.

Wake up. Before someone, something

wakes you.


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The Write Software: What can Scrivener Do for You?

ScrivenerNow that NaNo is over and you may be planning your path for the next year, which I hope involves massive word count goals and tons of writing, its time for the first step in talking about my favorite software in this series, Scrivener. The first step is determining what Scrivener is, and what it is not.

Scrivener does not replace your word processing program. Like WriteWay and CharacterWriter discussed earlier in this series, Scrivener is not a replacement for your primary word processor, whether you have chosen Microsoft Word or the popular open source OpenOffice. (See the comparison here). Scrivener is a writing tool, but for advanced editing and document creation you will need one of these other programs. You can export great documents with Scrivener (see below), and with every update it improves, but it does not have the money backing and developers MS Office does. If you are not using advanced features in Word you will likely not even miss them, but if you use comments and track changes (see here) you will still need to hang on to Word a bit longer.

Scrivener helps organize your writing and ideas. There are at least three ways to do this, and even more variations if you use your creativity. Whether you are an outliner, a corkboard user, or a punster who just writes scenes out of order from time to time or wants to document character descriptions, scenes, and other notes, Scrivener has formats and ideas that will work for you.

The project targets and statistics help keep you on task. Learning to use these tools can help you achieve your goals, breaking them up into reasonable short-term assignments. All of these tools keep you productive. By productive I mean writing more than organizing and fiddling around with separate files.

The search and collection tools are invaluable. Metadata for each scene makes these tools easy to use. With a little effort and set up time, these tools can literally save you hours of searching and speed editing. They can also help you prevent common continuity errors. Looking back keeps you from making mistakes that can cost you time wasted in edits, and at worst can get your work rejected by agents, editors, or publishers depending on your chosen route to publication.

Importing and Exporting is easy. Importing is imperfect: not all links and other features are imported from Word and other programs. But if you are just importing text, you will be fine. Headings and divisions are preserved, making dividing your manuscript relatively simple.

Exporting is not only easy, but it is quite powerful. You can create Word documents for editing, and even create ePubs and other formats easily once your manuscript is ready. Although these are the more advanced features, they work well for formatting provided some guidelines are followed. (An entire class).

If you are in the Boise area, we will be having a Scrivener 101 class on January 4th. (See the link here) If you are not in the area, a distance course will be available sometime later in the new year. Grab the trial version today, and give it a shot. Need help? Come out in January or stay tuned for more in the new year.

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Writing to Music

Do you write to music? I do, often a variety depending on my mood. Today a few friends and I talked about it over on Red River Radio. You can stream the show here:

Below are my answers, with appropriate video links. The links can all be found in my rather schizophrenic YouTube playlist here.

Were any of your books inspired by a song? If so, which? Not specifically. A story in Broken Bones titled Amnesia was inspired (and includes lyrics from) the song Amnesia by Blue October.

Wish I could wake up with amnesia

Try to forget the things that I’ve done.

I wish I knew how to keep the promises

that I have made you.

But life I guess it goes on. . .


Do you find yourself including music within your books? Yes. There are several scenes in Temptation with music where it is used for both hypnosis and celebration. One of the final scenes involves a Mustang, Credence, and a car crash.

Do you use music for mood, pacing, etc in your novels? The music I listen to? Yes. I listen to quite a variety depending on what kind of scene I am writing.

Have you taken a song title for a book title? Nope. Never will I want the reader to use their imagination. I might include part of the song, or a snippet of lyrics, but I want my books to stand on their own, not be connected to whether someone likes a song or not, or even knows it to associate the book with it. A short story, maybe. But a book? No.

Are any of your characters musicians? In Temptation Gordon is a violinist. Other than that, no. That may change in an upcoming work, but it is hard for me to write musicians well as characters because I am not one. I love music, but when it comes to making it, I am very mechanical.

Do your characters’ musical tastes reflect yours? Yes and no. I don’t emphasize them in my books. They might listen to certain things on the radio. The struggle is, my musical taste is wide, eccentric and varied. The difference between life and fiction is that fiction has to make sense. No one would believe a character that has musical taste like mine.

What kind of music do you listen to when you write? Totally depends on the mood. I’ve posted a playlist, and I always say if you rooted through my computer, my music player, my phone, you still wouldn’t know what my favorite kind of music was.

Is there any type of music you will absolutely not ever listen to? I never say never, but I am not an old country, twangy, I lost my dog type person. It certainly doesn’t ever inspire writing for me. But I will listen to me some Big and Rich. Those guys are like the hair bands of the ‘80’s to country. The modern sex, drugs, and Rock and Roll.

Some authors make playlists for every book. Have you done that? Nope. My books are as musically schizo as I am. So I doubt anyone would want t listen even if I did. I did create a video for the Samuel Elijah Johnson Series, and there are several songs by Within Temptation that fit the book Temptation.

What are some of your favorite musicians? If we did this question by decade, genre, or style it would not be any easier. It varies from day to day. Some of my current favorites are Blue October, the indie artist from Texas David Ramirez, Disclosure, Daft Punk, Jean Michael Jarre, Giorgio, The Kinfe, Mumford and Sons, Joe Satriani, Rush, Floyd, and I am on a classical/opera kick early in the mornings.

If you had the chance to put together the perfect band, who would be in it? (Drums, vocals, guitar, bass, keyboard) What is your favorite instrument in the band?

    • Drummer: Rick Allen, Def Leopard, Great Drummer, great story. Unless Miss Margery was available.
    • Voacals: Male: Freddie Mercury, #1. Female: I’ll be contrary and say Lzzy Hale of Halestrom. They are not the greatest band by any stretch, but for female rock vocalists she has to  be in the top few. Below you will see her and another of my favorites, Amy Lee doing a duet.

  • Guitar: Living: Joe Satriani or Slash Dead: Randy Rhodes hands down, Steven Clarke (formerly of Def Leopard) a close second.
  • Bass: Geddy Lee. Don’t Hate. Appreciate
  • Keyboards: Keith Emerson, ELP
  • Violin-Multi-Instrument: Ryan Delahoussaye

If you were stuck on a dessert island and had only one album to listen to, what would it be? (Yes, this assumes you had unlimited power but no wi-fi) Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon or Daft Punk Discovery. Whatever was in the CD player at the time of the crash. Both all around great albums I can listen to over and over.

Do you ever get songs stuck in your head that simply won’t go away? How do you purge them? Yep. I sing them, play them on the air drums, or both. A little chair dancing never hurts.

I hope you enjoyed the show and all of my answers. Rock on and write on, not necessarily in that order.

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Will Work for Stephen King

TemptationNewI’m a King fan. I know, another one. We’re like Starbucks in Seattle: you can hardly chuck a rock without hitting one of us. You can draw many parallels between his life and mine, minus the self-publishing trend, eBooks and my work as an editor. I hope in the end, my career goes better than his.

Better? Come on! That’s ambitious isn’t it? Of course. I recently made my way pretty deep into Doctor Sleep, and realized something (again) about King: he needs an editor.

“Wait,” you say. “He’s a big name author published by Simon and Schuster. How can he need an editor?” Honestly, for the same reason I do, and all authors do. I recently went through a re-edit of my second novel Temptation and have been editing another rather long paranormal romance (more on this another day) and guess what? King has the same issues every writer does.

Sentence structure. Some of his sentences are just too long. Not something Joe Average reader might notice, but something I picked up on right away, mostly because I do it too. Some of his transitions are poor: he puts conjunctions at the beginning of sentences and ends them with prepositions. All these are common errors in early drafts. Stephen is not a super-writer. He is just a writer.

Wordiness. Anyone who read The Stand and then later read the unabridged version can tell you that Stephen King is wordy. Don’t get me wrong, he tells a great story and his ability to hold reader attention for 900 pages is remarkable to say the least. My favorite works of his are shorter though: Eyes of the Dragon, The Gunslinger Series, and the novellas of Different Seasons. Those novellas are the sources of the films Stand by Me, The Green Mile, and Shawshank Redemption. In my opinion it is some of his best writing.

Fails to follow his own advice. Okay, guilty again. I tell you kill your darlings, not use cliché, blah, blah, blah. I stole the advice from King in On Writing and from other writing instructors who tell you the same things. Then I turn around and break the rules myself. Example: “Never open a book with the weather.” Rule broken: An entire story in Broken Bones is based on the weather.

Stephen King is a victim of his own success. An editor sees his name on the title page and thinks ‘it can’t be that bad.’ Maybe they second guess their editorial ideas and leave faults they would otherwise correct. Maybe he is not as open to suggestion as he once was, but I hope this is not the case.

I am most of the way through Doctor Sleep now. I love the book and the story. This is not a negative review, I’m only pointing out things I see.

So do I want a Stephen King like career? Only if I will continue to face tough editors who force me to make hard calls, am humble enough to accept their correction, and only offer my best to you, the readers.

Hire me Stephen King. I won’t overlook your errors, I’ll edit the hell out of your work, and in the end the Constant Reader you speak of will only benefit.

Check out the re-edited version of Temptation and the powerful first book in  Samuel Elijah Johnson series titled Redemption.

Watch the video trailer below.

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