Like A Surgeon

For those of you who have read The Truth About Alex, there is a few deleted scenes that never made the cut. The pace of the book was rather quick, and the scenes I mentioned would have dragged it down. They were short, to be sure, but unnecessary. Every published book, I’m willing to bet, has scenes removed from the final product. It’s a time when the author has to play surgeon, and although it can be a painful affair, it teaches you to have thick skin.  You want the story to be the best it can be for your readers, am I right?
49-old_school_surgeonIt’s hard to let go. Once you’ve written your entire book, lean back with a glass of wine and enjoy your magnificent accomplishment, the last thing on your mind is the cutting room floor. No, no, no. It’s perfect just the way it is. It’s your baby. Every scene has its place and purpose, and you may be the first person in the world who has written a perfect book! If that’s the case, you need to read my First Draft Blues for an awakening. Not to damper the mood, by all means celebrate! Just know the final product might not closely resemble what you’ve just written. Set it aside for a few months. Then, go back and read it. You may find that your perfect book isn’t so perfect, and there may be some much needed tweaking.

What about you? Have you ever had to slice away at a manuscript? How did it make you feel?
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Winter Project 2015 – Part Four

Atmosphere
There’s a howling wind outside. A storm is splashing rain against the windows. This kind of weather is perfect for writing, at least for me. Not sure if it’s a genre thing or not, but the gloomier the better. I’ll often accompany my session with music. Something calming, like George Winston. Solo piano music isn’t just relaxing for me, it really stirs my thoughts, and sets my creative brain into motion. What sort of atmosphere do you try to maintain while writing?
The First Forty-Eight
Today, I’m working on chapters nineteen and twenty. At this point in the story, local search parties have gathered late in the evening. Flashlights dart about in fields and wooded areas. When someone is missing, the first forty-eight hours are vitally important. Piecing together the clues in that time frame, figuring out what was happening in the person’s life in the days before, could very well be telling of what happened to them. Investigators are working on several leads in the case, and the story is beginning to branch out into a wider scope.
Character Sheets
One of the things I need to do that I’ve completely forgotten is the character sheets. You know what they are, right? Basically, just a profile of the characters. Everything from eye color, to height, to personal hobbies and interests are listed here. It’s very useful, because I cannot count how many times I have to skim back through the pages of a story trying to remember what color someone’s hair was. Sometimes, I’ll even include pictures, making it look like an official police profile, which is fun. Maybe I’ll work on that after today’s writing session.
Words On The Page
You ever hear other writers explaining how easy writing is? You know what I mean. Just keep writing until it’s finished, put those words on the page, put one word after another, etc. It makes the process sound so simple. Just sit down and hammer aimlessly on the keyboard. It’s never perfect the first time, you just need to get the story out. Don’t edit as you go. Finish writing the book first. Whatever you have to do to finish, just finish. This is really good advice, but not all authors are the same. Take me, for instance. As I’ve stated above, atmosphere is imperative to my process. Music. Quiet. I’ll usually write early in the mornings, and again in the afternoon. A tactic that coincides with my daughter’s sleeping habits, but one I wouldn’t have thought of without the monthers (more on that here).
If any of these things aren’t present during my typical writing session, chances are good that I simply won’t write. Sure, I might end up making notes, tweaking my outline, etc. But any actual writing might not happen at all.
Now, some authors may be suffering from the First Draft Blues (Here and Here), but for the most part, atmosphere is a major contributing factor to my word count success. Not that word count is the most important thing. Your session could have been only 300 words, but you wrote and that’s what’s important. They could be the best 300 words you’ve ever written! Every little success should be celebrated.
Speaking of putting words on the page, it’s time for me to get back to it!

Need a word count calculator?  Here You Go!

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3 Reasons You Should Give Indie Authors A Chance

Break Your Comfort Zones
Let’s face it, every major book store from coast to coast carries the exact same authors. Stephen King, James Patterson, Anne Rice, George R.R. Martin, etc. Believe it or not, those authors aren’t the only ones writing books! It’s true. Mind blown, right?
Book stores are a lot like Hollywood. They want to spit out dozens of books from their star authors. This doesn’t mean any of them are bad, but it does forcibly limit the reader to these authors. Sure, you can say “there’s a reason why they’re everywhere. It’s because they’re so good.” To which I can reply by saying, “Expand your horizons. You might be surprised by what you find.”

Hidden Gems
There have been some fantastic indie books out there that have really exploded. Still Alice anyone? It’s a bit rare for an indie book to reach such a high status, but that doesn’t mean they all suck just because they aren’t in the Hollywood cookie-cutter organized bookstores. I’ve read some fantastic tales from relatively unknown authors, from steampunk to horror. From science fiction, to murder mysteries. The works of Adam Dreece, J.C. Hart, Lindsay Buroker, or Leigh K. Hunt are good examples of authors I’ve enjoyed reading lately. Ever hear of them? No? Expand your horizons.
Sure, since the introduction of the KDP program, everyone and their grandmother tosses books up on Amazon and puffs out their chests saying “I am an author.” As a reader, just like when you are browsing the shelves at a brick and mortar store, I urge you to read a sample of the book you are considering. See how many books the author has published, too. If you like what you see, give that indie author a shot!

The Stars Are Not Aligned
Don’t go by the number of stars a book has on Amazon. Sure, the company has done a whole lot to limit fake reviews, but that’s not what I’m talking about. When you are browsing at the brick and mortar store, you get to make the decision yourself, without any influence, when it comes to buying a book. You read the first chapter or so, read the author’s bio, and make an educated decision based on your interest alone. Do the same thing on Amazon by disregarding the number of stars a book has (Unless it’s total rating is one star, there’s definitely something wrong).
The reason I say this is because everyone is different, everyone has their own personal opinion, and readers are the harshest of critics. I’ve seen an indie book of short stories get a one star review because the “The book didn’t flow consistently. It was just like a bunch of different stories crammed into one book.” Another indie book, written specifically for young adults, was criticized with one star. The reason? The reader said the book was just fine, but he doesn’t like to read young adult books.
Reviews are very important for the indie author because most people look at the star ratings, and if it isn’t five stars, they’ll skip right over the book.  It’s hard for the indie author to get reviews, too.  They may get one review for every 200 sales.  Why in the world would you as a reader rely solely on how many stars the book has when making your purchasing decision?
Don’t go by the stars on Amazon. You’re smart. You’re intuitive. Decide for yourself what you want to read, and you might be surprised to find a new favorite author.

Do you agree with my list? Did I leave something out? Let me know in the comments!

Winter Project 2015 – Part Three

Visualize
What is it that makes us writers? Where does it come from? The same can be asked of a painter, who visualizes scenes onto a canvas from his mind. It’s an interpretation, the original conception is always much different than the end result. It takes practice, trial and error, and repetition to get to the point where the physical creation adequately represents the artists original vision.
Throughout the planning process for my new novel, there was a strong scene that played out in my mind repeatedly. Anytime I thought about the project, this scene would jump into my head. It was a quiet one. Sunny, on an old country road. The only sounds were of wind rustling the autumn leaves, and the crunch of bicycle tires on gravel. The rider was smiling, carefree, so lost in thought that she didn’t even notice the car approaching from behind.
Interpret
That’s the way it was. When I sat down to make some notes, or even to write, I could hear the crunch of those tires, feel the crispness in the air. This scene did actually occur in the novel a couple of chapters ago. The end result wasn’t exactly what I had originally planned, mainly because the time of day was wrong for it. In fact, it wasn’t daytime at all.
It didn’t feel like the scene was totally lost in translation, though. As a matter of fact, I think it turned out better than what I visualized. It was darker, more tense than before. That’s a good thing.
Wherever that scene came from in my head, as with any scene, all I can do is try my best to interpret it with words and hope that I create a moment that you as the reader can see, or feel. For me, making the reader feel is worth every word. It’s worth celebrating. That’s why I do what I do.
The Words
Today, I’m going to be writing chapter fourteen. I’ve been sticking to my new writing routine (more on that here) and things have been going really well, word count wise. It’s nothing like the what the Monthers push out on a daily basis, but it is more than what it used to be.
Selena and Jameson have their hands full today, not only with the investigation but with the TBI and local authorities as well.
The coffee is hot. Scrivener is open. George Winston’s Midnight is playing on the radio. The weekend was long, and I’ve been feeling pretty sick. I can’t stop the words, though.
It’s time to get back to it.

A Twelve Year Old Cold Case Is Reopened

Here’s a review from author Jason Greensides for my book The Truth About Alex.  It struck me as rather helpful for anyone just getting into the mysteries of Montana Marrenger.
Comments are welcome.

A Taut, Moody and Engrossing Mystery
41d000_e7dce355512545dd73ad25ffd07f6a94.png_srz_60_55_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_png_srzThe Truth About Alex is Michael Wayne Griffith’s second book after the very promising debut, The Runaway Train. The hallmarks are all here of what we can come to expect from Michael in the future: the snowy, sultry Pacific Northwest American setting; the deft, finely tuned prose; and a mystery to keep you guessing till the end.
We continue to follow Special Agent Selena Marrenger, who this time teams up with Detective Dupont and FBI Agent Jameson after discovering the body of an old man who’d apparently committed suicide, but who weirdly shares the same name as a boy who went missing twelve years before. This part of the story of the three of them following theAlexConcept_FinalMW.indd leads, which involve people trafficking, gun running and a mysterious man called Marco, is intercut with the disappearance of Alex twelve years before, and how it devastated his parents, who are still looking for him now. The way the author has handled the parallel stories is expertly done, making the novel feel like one whole, and not two separate plot lines, which often happens in other books like this.
I really loved the snowy setting, the slate-grey skies, the sting of the wind, and these elements were beautifully evoked and reminded me a bit of Fargo (both the film and the TV show, which for me was great because I love both). The overall tone of the novel, with its snappy chapters, crisp dialogue, and looming pain of tragedy was something I really enjoyed here, all of which leads to twists that I honestly didn’t see coming – indeed the last few chapters and all the revelations were handled really well.
But for me, the key to the book, and it’s heart was Selena’s pain about the past. This made me empathise with her a lot; in fact if I had to mention one criticism about the book it was that I really wanted to know more about that, but I’m guessing we’ll learn more about it in the next book.
For fans of detective/mystery stories I highly recommend this book: tightly written, beautiful setting, great twists, and a central character to care about.

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The Coming Rain – Part One

monsoongirl_FotorA lot of you guys have already gobbled up The Runaway Train and The Truth About Alex, and have been asking me about what’s next for Selena Marrenger.  I’ve decided to answer that question in a series of blog posts in order to keep you updated with the progress of book three.
Monsoon Morning is the first novel length mystery for Selena.  It’s fully written, and just recently went through a well trusted reader (I call her the Alpha Reader).  There are some adjustments that need to be made as far as the content of the book goes before it’s sent off to my Beta Readers.  My Betas will most likely have it for a month or two before it goes to my editors chopping block.
One of my goals with Monsoon Morning was to not only follow an investigation, but the families the case impacts.  Too often we see investigators on television stepping over the body at a crime scene, sipping their lattes, and talking about their love lives.  Twenty minutes later, they’ve solved the case.  In actuality, these things take time, and a toll on everyone involved.  How do you deal with losing someone you love?
Another question I asked myself while writing Monsoon Morning is what makes a killer?  To some degree, I’m certain that what they think they are doing is good, or right.  The killers I see on television are all criminal masterminds, highly intelligent and constantly playing mind games with the police.  How often is that the case in reality?
Selena ‘Montana’ Marrenger has her hands full in Monsoon Morning, and I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.  I’ll keep you up to date with what’s happening with the book, when it’s done with Betas, and when you can expect a release date right here, so stay tuned!

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Release Day Is Here!!!!


AlexConcept_Final.indd

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It finally happened!  The Truth About Alex has been in the works for a couple of months, and I’m very excited to announce it’s official release IS TODAY!

I loved writing this story.  The words just flew onto the page.  It was a lot of fun to write about Selena working in the FBI instead of as a homicide detective, because I feel like the stories can be broader in scope and not isolated to a single location.  Don’t get me wrong, The Runaway Train was a blast to write, and it has done a lot of great things for me as a new author!  I can’t wait for you to see what else I have in store for Selena, and I hope that you enjoy her adventures as much as I enjoy telling them.

An Interview With Adam Dreece

When I first met Adam Dreece on Twitter, I was immediately curious about the author’s photo featuring himself in a steam punk outfit.  That particular genre of fiction has always interested me, especially considering my studies in history.  He sent me a story called The Torrents of Tangier, and I was immediately drawn to his distinctive style.
I was very happy to have interviewed the author recently, to pick his brain about the craft, and to find out more about the conception of his Yellow Hoods series.
When I first started writing seriously, it was actually on a typewriter.  These days, I’m thankful for word processors. Do you write on a typewriter, computer, or longhand?
I first started writing when I was in grade 4, and that was on a typewriter. In grade 6 when we got our first computer I wrote on that, and found myself by grade 8, going back to the typewriter for a while, but only for creative writing and only for a short while. That was when I started to develop a very fast typing speed and the keys would jam. I’ve been mostly on the computer ever since.
I do a limited amount of writing longhand, usually only to capture notes and ideas. I can’t write fast enough to keep up with what I’m thinking.
Do you write full-time or part-time?
Part-time. I decided in November of last year that in five years I wanted to be a full time author, what’s more that I was going to do it as an author-preneur. By January I had a plan in mind, in April I released my first book, and in September I’ll be releasing my second.
What do you do in your spare time?
When I’m not spending time with my three kids and my wife, I’m writing. I’ve had to be ruthless with my time because otherwise, I’ll never meet my goals. I treat writing like a second job, and the marketing and production side of book-work almost like a third job. It’s very time consuming, but I’m getting more efficient at it.
Do you have a strict daily word count?
No. I’m not really concerned about daily word count, I’m more concerned about the impact of what I’m doing in that session. I organize myself mentally to support when I feel highly creative, so I write new things, or when I feel blah and therefore I do edits or restructuring. I glance at my word counts, and I know what my average is, but I don’t use it as a means of measuring my success for a day. That is solely measured by how much better I’ve made the story. Some things are hard, and take more time, and less words.
What was your inspiration for The Yellow Hoods? 

November last year I decided to take a break from my memoir I was writing (about chronic pain, fraud complex and other fun stuff) and had an idea. In December I got myself all organized with a proper writing tool, instead of MS Word which drove me half to madness and back, and found myself unable to move forward. I’d over structured myself. I was kicking some ideas around for what I wanted to write, and my daughter asked me to write another story of The Hoods.
I’ve been reading to my daughter since she was hold enough to sit still. Often after reading an actual book, we’d turn out the lights and I’d make something up. Her favorite had been a silly tale where I twisted up the fairy tales and the heroes were little girls running around the forest in coloured hoods (little Red Riding Hood, Blue for Cinderella, and so on).
When she asked me to write it, I figured it was going to be just a short story.The story became something very different, much more textured and mature. The next night after I wrote something, I’d read it to her and get her feedback. She became my muse and cheered me on.
What I found was with that memoir tale out of the way, I was very much free but didn’t know where to go. She helped me see that I could just pick a direction and go.
What are the struggles/joys of parenthood that you find while being a writer?
The struggles are time and energy. Nothing zaps your energy like getting up three times in the night. Another struggle is carving out time to go to the coffee shop & write for an hour and a half on Saturday, time I am consciously taking away from my family. However when I come back from that, it’s like a huge burden was lifted off my shoulders.
Part of the joys is looking at the world through different glasses, re-learning how to ask “ridiculous” questions, and reading tons of imaginative stories and talking about them afterwards. Kids have definitely made me a much more well-rounded writer.
What were some of your favorite books when you were a kid?
I’m dyslexic, so in terms of books there weren’t tons apart from comic books. In terms of real books, I remember reading Jupiter Jones (detective series) and DragonLance Chronicles. For Jupiter Jones what stuck with me was how the trio of boys had to work together to solve mysteries, the dynamics were interesting. For DragonLance I started reading book 2, and the character of Raistlin was a lot like me in that I was sickly, and often underestimated.
What was the hardest/easiest thing about writing Along Came A Wolf?
The second hardest part was definitely being comfortable with the size of it, which was about 33k words. To put that in perspective, book 2 of that series Breadcrumb Trail (Sept 2014) is 70k words. Along Came a Wolf was a complete tale, and was about the transition from innocence to the next part of maturity, and everything that I felt I could say without introducing unnecessary tangents was said.
The hardest thing was facing my fear of what people were going to think. I decided to self-publish, and that meant no hiding behind query letters; I was going to go direct to the readers. I was going to get judged on the content of the book, the cover, the way it was presented to people on whatever platform it was presented on, and it was 100% me (and my awesomely supportive and talented wife).
After I got about 20 pages in, I’d painted enough of the world and the characters that I felt the story naturally flowed, and I had enough experience writing over the past 25+ years, that I knew my process. I’d draft it, go back to the beginning and comb out the knots, and then repeat that two more times.
Tell us a little bit about the characters, Tee, Elly, and Richy.  What inspired you to create them? Are they based off of anyone in particular? 

The three Yellow Hoods (Tee, Elly and Richy) come from the idea of having a classic trio. It would allow me to have 3 sets of 1:1 dynamics, which I felt was ample for me to start with as a first time author, and the most that I could expect a reader to quickly get into and emotionally bond with.
Tee and Elly’s closeness was inspired by my daughter’s relationship with her two best friends. The character of Tee is derived from my daughter, while the character of Elly is actually derived from some sister figures in my life, the classic counter-weight needed to keep a fire-wind type personality of Tee grounded.
Richy was the classic boy in the neighborhood who has that cemented pre-adolescent relationship with girls, who sees them as sisters and they see him as a brother. In a lot of ways, this was me at a young age. He was also my mystery element, and to emphasize that I gave him an “Asian heritage” that is elaborated on in book two.
I was introduced to Steam Punk through Anime and Cherie Priest’s novel, Boneshaker.  Do you feel as though the genre is still evolving or still just emerging?
I think the genre is emerging in terms of people’s understanding of what it means. There’s still a lot of readers, I find, who are immediately intimidated once they see something is “SteamPunk”, as if you have to have 5 years tabletop gaming experience before reading page one.
As a genre, I think it has a lot of evolving and growth coming, and I think this comes from pushing what the limits are that still allow a story qualify as SteamPunk. It can’t just mean Victorian era, taking place in England or the US, and all the technology is in place. Mind you, I find as soon as you have talking fox-people and what not, you’ve really stepped out of SteamPunk and into Fantasy w/elements of technology.
I define The Yellow Hoods as “Emergent SteamPunk.” That means technologically, we are seeing it come into being. That creates a much lower anxiety barrier for a reader who isn’t familiar with “SteamPunk.” Also, I decided to not make their world Victorian, it’s not even our Earth. I wanted to see how true I could be to the core elements of SteamPunk, while making it more accessible and more grounded.
I read that you are inspired by the concept of classical rhymes and stories having a ring of truth to them.  What sort of rhymes and stories in particular are you talking about?
I was inspired by the rhyme “Ring around the Rosy,” which is a way that we remember the Black Plague. So I decided to add depth and texture to The Yellow Hoods by challenging myself with the idea of, “What if their 21st century world used Little Red Riding Hood, or Santa Claus stories as a way to remember real things that happened in their past” and making my stories take place at that time.
In Along Came a Wolf, I derive some elements from Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs, and Santa Claus. The master inventor, Nikolas Klaus, is kind of a Santa Claus character mixed with Nikola Tesla, the great 20th century inventor. In book two, Breadcrumb Trail, I draw on the of tale of Hansel and Gretel.
These classic tales have great themes and subtext. For example, Hansel & Gretel, for me, are about childhood abduction and identity loss, among other things. Incorporating that into a tale allows me to have a story that a young adult can read and enjoy, and that a mature adult can read and enjoy on a whole different level.
You are a founding member of ADZO Publishing.  Tell us how that came about.
A couple of years ago, when I thought I was nearly done writing my memoir (which would end up taking me another year and a half), I turned on the radio. Seth Godin was being interviewed, and happened to be saying at that moment, “If I had a book in hand today, I wouldn’t go after getting an agent and seeking someone else to publish it. If I had any business skills whatsoever, I’d create my own company and publish it myself. Here’s why…” and he then listed several reasons. It was one of those moments where I felt he was talking directly to me.
When book 1 of The Yellow Hoods was nearly done, it was clear to me and my wife that we were going to publish it ourselves, but now there was a bigger question. Did we want to ‘just’ publish it ourselves, or did we want to try to create a brand and idea that could be bigger than us over time? We decided we wanted to make a difference for authors, and given our entrepreneurial background, we weren’t afraid of getting into learning everything we needed to about marketing, printing, cover design, etc. We knew we wouldn’t get things right on the first or second shot, but we loved the learning opportunity it presented and were up for the challenge. We decided before we’d bring any other authors on board, we’d need to see if our ideas worked, and that would mean building a certain amount of success for myself as an author, so that we could prove to ourselves we knew what we were doing.
What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published in the traditional sense?
Traditional publishing has the advantage of a series of individuals involved that know the process and so you’re the only one who is new to the equation. They have established distribution channels, editors, marketing people, etc. The biggest issue to start with is your customer is not the reader, your customer is their portfolio manager and their customer is those who buy books (the book stores, not the readers). The portfolio managers and the business need to balance risk with likely return, they will allocate budgets with that in mind (therefore you might get $0 marketing budget) and they have minimum sales thresholds that wouldn’t be of interest to them but would still be awesome for you. Also, traditional publishers because they are a ‘machine’, they are a lot slower to react to change. You lose a lot of control by having that machine behind you.
Self-publishing, or indie publishing, is very much a different beast. You can develop a niche audience which would never be of interest to a large publisher. However, you also have a lot of responsibility. There are a lot of writers who slap a cover that screams “home made” on their book, don’t pay for an editor, and wonder after uploading it to Amazon or Kobo, why the money isn’t rolling in. Your greatest responsibility, as I see it, is engaging people and listening to the feedback. We’ve revamped the description for book 1 of The Yellow Hoods five times, and now see what the readers meant about it being way better. We have a new cover coming out that we shared with folks on Twitter and got a “Knocked it out of the park” reaction, which helped us set the direction for book 2. The thing a lot of people fail to realize is that as an indie, you’ve got nowhere to hide, so you better work your butt off.
Where do you see publishing going in the future?
I’m not unique in saying that I believe the agent/publisher vs self-publishing model is going to lose the ‘versus’ and really become three pieces that can partner. I believe there’s a lot that an indie author would happily hand off to professionals for part of the profits if they didn’t lose control and agility.
Tell us your thoughts concerning marketing in the age of social media.  Do you have a social media preference?
Hands down, bar none, if I didn’t have it I’d just sob in the corner, is Twitter. I’ve got a modest following on Twitter that I engage with daily. I banter with people, I share pieces of wisdom if I have them, I’ve gotten feedback from people and I’ve helped other budding authors by connecting and then giving feedback on their writing.
My experience with Facebook was terrible, and I’ve had this happen twice. I’ve created an official page, I’ve built up an audience, and then I’ve watched my ability to reach that audience decrease and decrease as Facebook seems to decide who should and shouldn’t be seeing my posts. I noticed a significant change in 2013 as they tweaked their algorithms, and another change after I paid for a Facebook ad. On Twitter, when I post everyone has the potential to see what I wrote. If they don’t and want to keep tabs on what I’m up to, they can join my newsletter. While I maintain my FB fan page for The Yellow Hoods, it’s really only because I haven’t decided to stop it entirely.
Looking a bit down the road, what’s next for you?
From a writing perspective, I’ve just written a DieselPunk short which I’m submitting for a compendium, and have already started to sketch out book 3 of The Yellow Hoods. I intend to make it a 5 part series. After book 3, I’ll likely write the first book in one of two other series I have in mind. My plan is to publish 2-3 books a year for the next 5 years, plus additional shorts on the side.
Zooming out a bit, as an author, I’m going to build my brand and my quality engagement with my readers. That means continuing to find the time to meet a budding author for coffee, or taking my lunch hour to read someone’s story to give them feedback, or chatting with people on Twitter. It also means continuing to get out to the local Fan Expos, presenting at more schools and learning and listening and improving.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us.  Do you have any final thoughts?
I greatly appreciate the opportunity to reflect on where I’ve come and what I’ve learned. If there’s any single message that I can stress for a new writer, it’s get out of your comfort zone. In my case, I got way, way out of it.
Discover More About Adam Dreece:
Website: AdamDreece.com TheYellowHoods.com
Facebook:
Facebook.com/TheYellowHoods
Twitter: @AdamDreece
Amazon Author Page: http://amazon.com/author/adamdreece
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/AdamDreec