Being a Better Writer: Building a Brand and Establishing Your Audience

Afternoon readers! I know it’s a bit late today. Sorry! I had an appointment that split my morning.

Now, I’ll admit I was tempted to do a bit on horror, since it is Halloween in two days (trick or treaters, huzzah!) but since this is the last topic on Topic List XI … I kind of wanted to clear it off. Besides, this is a topic I’ve avoided for years, and with good reasons that now aren’t quite as valid anymore.

That might have sounded a little confusing for some of you, so let me clarify. Since I published my first book and started writing Being a Better Writer, over five years ago now, I’ve had folks ask me about this topic. “How do you go about setting up a brand?” “How do you find an audience?” Etc etc. And you know what?

I couldn’t answer them! How could I? I had one book out! I didn’t have a brand at that point. I had a single published book that was making me snack money. There was no “audience” at that point which I could call my own. There were “people who liked my book,” “people who didn’t like my book,” and “people that had never read my book or heard of me.”

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Op-Ed: Keep Calm, Be Patient, and Think!

Good news! I am 99.5% better. Just some residual tiredness and stuffiness, but fading fairly well. Huzzah! Today I can work on A Game of Stakes!

But first I wanted to get this out there: Keep calm, be patient, and think.

All three of these things seem to be a lost cause for many these days. Patience is for those who “don’t care about the issues.” Keeping calm is “for the uncaring.” And thinking is something done by those who “just don’t want to face the ‘facts.” Instead, the social sphere would have us leap forward as quickly as possible, acting on immediate emotional reactions and snap judgements.

Why am I talking about this? Well, because of the last month. In my country, there was a massive mediastorm revolving around a man named Kavanaugh. For those who luckily missed all the controversy, Kavanaugh was nominated to a position on the Supreme Court (one of the three branches of the US government). And, almost immediately, had sexual assault allegations issued against him. A number of women came forward claiming that he had visited all sorts of horrific sexual acts against them, which clearly made him unfit for the position. The media (and one prominent political party) latched onto these allegations with a deathgrip. They were everywhere. A senate hearing was called, in which several of these women testified under oath. The FBI and Department of Justice got involved.

And the public? Sands and Storms, they lost their minds. As far as many of them seemed concerned, Kavanaugh was guilty until proven innocent. My Facebook wall became such a tirade of people calling for his imprisonment and even execution, without any sort of trial, that I flat out made use of the temp-block feature to silence some of these folks for 30 days because they were acting insane. Any calls for them to calm down from their baying for blood? To wait for an actual investigation into things? You were trying to cover up Kavanaugh’s crimes because you were sexist. The biggest concession any of these raging, emotional individuals could make was that Kavanaugh should be investigated … wait for it … but not any of his accusers, as they’d already had enough stress put on them by coming forward.

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Two Betrayals

Insert obligatory Halo voiceover here.

So, who’s doing the betraying that I’m talking about? Well, if I’m honest, it’s me. And my body. Against one another.

Basically, I’m still sick. With a cold, no less. But it’s mugged me hard. Hence, betrayal. Why body! Yesterday I sat down to get some more work done on Hunter/Hunted, and after what felt like a thousand+ words but was in fact only half that, my head was pounding and I was exhausted. So I laid down to rest my eyes for a moment and slept for several hours, waking up only just in time to go to my work shift.

That’s the other betrayal, the “Eh tu?” Me to my body. Because while I’ve been sick all week, I also had work shifts Monday-Wednesday. And my job doesn’t give sick leave. So guess who went to work sick and definitely overexerted himself? This guy. Take that body! That’ll teach you!

Like I said, two betrayals. I’ve not been giving my body time to recover, and my body’s been letting this one drag on a lot longer than it should have.

Hopefully I’ll get some writing done today. I slept until noon. But this month is so far behind schedule between being sick and all the extra shifts at work that … bleck.

On the plus side, sales are going well. I’m seeing a lot of new reviews and ratings come in as well (all four and five-star, too). So hey, things are still going well. Colony, Shadow of an Empire … even older works are getting eyeballs, reads, and favorable reviews.

It’s nice. Especially as I empty another box of tissues. The sickness will pass, and I’ll be back on top of my game, writing like a madman before I know it. And my books will still sell.

In the meantime, however, it’s frustrating. I want to write. But writing at under 100% is, well … let’s just say I’ve already spotted some major issues with what I forced out yesterday. I need to recover.

Finger crossed I’ll be back at it soon.

Being a Better Writer: Trait Dominance

This is going to be a short one today. Two reasons. One is that I’m still sick, and don’t feel great. The second is that I’ve also got a work shift today I have to be at in a little over an hour. It’s going to be an interesting day.

So, let’s not waste time (also, I really hope my head is there enough to at least make sense with this). Last night, I watched a review of a film which noted a major flaw in a character: that they were dominated by a single, overwhelming trait.

It wasn’t that they didn’t supposedly have a character outside of that one attribute. But the problem was that the writers were so sure everyone wanted to know about that trait that it came up in every scene, in every bit of wording … crud, at the end of the film, the character was still acting on this trait and reminding everyone “Oh, by the way …”

And yeah, that ended up really jarring for all involved. As the reviewer put it, it was both pointless “character development” that was shoved at the audience and distracting from everything else that the film was supposed to be about.

Thing is, this isn’t an uncommon problem. I’ve read books where the same thing happens; where the author is so determined to show us one side of a character that it becomes the only side we get to see. After I finished that review, in fact, I spent some time thinking on how a lot of stories have fallen to this weakness and ended up making a perfectly good character weaker than they needed to otherwise be, or would have been had they not been so badly thrown off-balance.

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Classic Being a Better Writer: The Art of Misdirection

Euugh. Today was supposed to be a catch-up day for writing. As well as a day when I got up and put up this post first thing in the morning. And then … I woke up at around eleven with a fuzzy head and light sore throat … and then I feel back asleep and woke up at 1 … and then I actually crawled out of bed at 3 a few minutes ago … We’ll see if I get any writing done, but from prior experience of forcing myself to write when my brain is like this and then deleting it all the moment my mind comes back and I realize it’s really bad … Well … crap. Saturday may just end up a sick day.

Which sucks, because I really wanted to do a few thousand words on Hunter/Hunted and then do some editing on A Game of Stakes, but if I can’t trust my brain, well …

Anyway, I can do as promised and link a Classic Being a Better Writer post. Which today will be one of the more popular ones I’ve ever written: The Art of Misdirection. You can read a teaser here, then hit the jump for the full thing.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to figure out what to do for my sickday.

EDIT: I almost forgot! One Drink is free this weekend, 100% off from its normal price of 99 cents. Sure, it’s nothing groundbreaking or incredible, like some of my later books, but it’s still a fun, quick read.


Have you ever read a book called The Icarus Hunt by Timothy Zahn?

If not, you’re missing out. It’s a science-fiction mystery and an engaging read, with a fun universe, a clever story, and an compelling mystery. But one of my favorite things about it is how the mystery is handled. See, most mysteries usually do one of two things: they either withhold evidence from the reader in order to keep them from solving it (sign of a weak story) or they give you all the pieces, but in such a way that you don’t put the pieces together in the right order (or don’t realize it’s a piece to begin with). The Icarus Hunt is a great example of the latter, a story that gives you all the pieces, but because the way it presents them, keeps all but the most astute readers from catching it. In fact, the clue that blows the whole mystery wide open is given less than a third of the way into the book. But in the context and scene, it’s presented so smoothly that, like the main character, the reader just lets it slide by.

Keep reading The Art of Misdirection here!

Legacy

Writing this after midnight, mostly because I really wanted you guys to have a post this morning (or tomorrow morning from when I write this), one that wasn’t the Classic Being a Better Writer post that’ll go up on Saturday.

So, what’s to write about? Well, there is some news. Book sales have slowed a little again, though thankfully nowhere near the alarming dearth from a month ago. Probably normal fluctuation. And at the same time they’ve still kept getting ratings on Goodreads, which is always good. The more reviews and ratings that are left, the more people are willing to pick up one of my titles on a whim, which is always great!

Still working on Hunter/Hunted, though my progress has been slow the last month. It’s my fault, mainly: Lack of sleep. Which doesn’t make writing easy. I’ll be working on it this weekend to catch up.

As well as on A Game of Stakes! And I’ve got good news here: The new influx of Alpha Readers? Not one of them thought there was a major issue. So this weekend I’ll be poring over it and making lots of little fixes and tweaks … because it’s time to make this Beta! And once the Beta Reading is done, I can get it out and submitted!

In other news … I am trying to come up with something short and fun for Halloween to let my Patreon Supporters look at. We’ll see what I can come up with. A Jacob Rocke short story, most likely.

So, that’s the news as far as writing and whatnot goes … Wait, I lied. Just for kicks, One Drink will be free this weekend. Why? Well, because it’s about to reach the end of another 90-day period, and I figured I’d use that sale up. I was honestly checking the possibility of Halloween stuff when I noticed it and … well, why not?

So right. Legacy. Interesting choice of words but …

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Being a Better Writer: The Static Character

Sorry for the lateness of today’s post, readers. It wasn’t because I had work, or because I was indisposed by some sudden surprise event or something. No it was simply because I was tired and decided to catch up on sleep. And catch up I did. I slept … crud, I’m not even sure, but it was more than eight hours by a long shot. I’ll probably do the same tomorrow.

Anyway, we’re actually venturing off the list this week with today’s post. For two reasons. The first is that there’s only one topic left on Topic List XI. The second is that this post was inspired by a book I read last week that left a strong impression on me for the exact problem we’ll be talking about today (which means I also won’t be naming the book, since it’s otherwise fairly good, and that’s my usual approach as to not turn readers off from it).

So then what is this problem? Well, you’ve seen the title. So what am I talking about when I say “The Static Character?”

Well, really quickly, let’s get out of the way what it isn’t, at least how we’re speaking of it today. Because a “static character” description can be used as a catch-all phrase for a character that doesn’t do much or doesn’t contribute, and this can include speaking of the events of the story. Different reviewers will use the phrase interchangeably for similar concepts all the time, but that’s usually what it boils down to: A character that does little and doesn’t move.

But there’s another aspect that the term can refer to, and that’s the one that I want to talk about today. The character that does stuff, is involved in the story … but never changes or shifts as a character.

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