New Book Announcement

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The New Novel Is Called…
The Cold, Bending Light

The Cold, Bending Light is one of those projects that was in production for a long time. When I recently looked at the source file, the creation date was surprising. Early 2015! Although I can’t say it was being written the entire time, I can tell you it’s conception began around then.
A form was taking shape. Notes were being made. Research was being done. Eventually, a rather extensive outline came into being. After that, I began to breathe life into a story close to my heart.
The Cold, Bending Light is a novel that wasn’t easy to write, but I’m glad I did. It’s gone through the betas and editor, and all of you will be able to nab your copy very soon.
Stay tuned right here, because the next few days will bring more information about the novel, such as the official cover art from Hillhouse Graphic Design!

Winter Project: Part Five

The Holiday Season Is Here
It’s December. Time really soars! If I’m not careful, this winter project of mine will turn into a spring project. It’s fine with me if it does. Nobody wants to rush creativity, unless you are the type of writer who is determined to push quantity over quality. Yes, those people do exist.
The meat of the story is well underway now. There are multiple threads weaving through the book, and I’m hoping they don’t end up a tangled mess! The outline has so far kept me on track, which is a real blessing.
Some of the more difficult scenes that occur in the book have now been written. Somehow, I gritted my teeth through the pain and put the words on the page. As some of you know, my father passed away this year. Writing about crime, and in particular the subject of death in my mysteries, can be trying at times. I’m pushing through, however, and hope that I’m producing a book that all of you will enjoy, no matter how painful some of it has been to write.
Right now, I’m working on chapter twenty-two.  Selena and Jameson have been working two different sides of the case independently, and that’s been different.  Now, however, they are working together to uncover some corrupt folks.  Behind that corruption, a killer is hiding.  (Dun, Dun, DUUUNN!)
Time to get back to it.

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!

2 Kindle Deals That Won’t Last Long!

Today, you can get the first two Montana Marrenger books starting at .99 cents!
AlexConcept_FinalMW.inddMonsoonCoverFinal.indd

This is the best time for you to get into the series, and the Countdown Deals aren’t going to last forever! This means that every day, the cost will gradually return to it’s original list price.

Sure, I may be short changing myself by listing Monsoon Morning, a full length novel, at .99 cents, but you know what? That’s not the point. The point is that I want to share my work with all of you. I want you to fall in love with these characters and feel the intensity of the cases. YOU are the reason I write these stories!
Grab them while the sale lasts!
Click Here For Book 1
Click Here For Book 2

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.

Fiction Writing: Three Common Mistakes

We live in a world where a lot of grammar rules are tossed out the window in favor of expression.  Sometimes, it’s hard to break away from them, especially when we’ve grown so accustomed to having them around in school.  There is such thing as a run on sentence.  Authors do use exposition to tell a story.  Most writers seem to agree that knowing when to break these rules for a strong effect is very much appropriate.
George Martin, Jim Harrison, and Cormac McCarthy are just a few very successful authors who break the rules they want to break, and the result is a strong impression on the reader.
So, what are the unwritten rules regarding fiction writing?  In my opinion, I don’t believe there are many rules to the medium.  The only rules, truly, are for basic grammar.  When it comes to your fiction writing, use common sense.  Write what you want, how you want, and be coherent.  To improve your form, read.  I can’t stress that enough.  How many musicians are out there that don’t listen to music?  Well, I don’t know how many, but there can’t be a whole lot.  Read a bunch of books, and develop your craft, your own style.
If you want to improve your craft, here are some mistakes new writers tend to make:

  • Name dumping.  Yeah, you know what I’m talking about here.  John Clemens scratched his northern Irish beard while sitting underneath the English Oak Tree and thinking about Marie Taggard, The Cobbler’s wife, who lost her sister Janet in the war against the Western French army led by Pepe La Pew.  Way too many names of people and places right off the bat.
  • Info dumping . You don’t want the reader to know every little thing about your MC right up front.  I know that you love your MC, you want everyone to love your MC.  Unlike you, however, it’s a relationship between that person and the reader and a relationship has to grow.  Start simple, and build as the story progresses.
  • Too many characters introduced right off the bat. This is common, and you should try to space it out a little.  If you have a couple of main characters, it’s perfectly fine to introduce them in the first chapter or so of your book.  If you throw in every side character in-between, however, the reader could get confused about who they are supposed to follow.

Do you find yourself making any of the above mistakes?  It’s perfectly fine to make them during your first draft.  Remember, the first draft of everything is ALWAYS crap.  Nobody is perfect.  For writers, the thing to remember is that you need to get the story out.  Finish it. Tell it the way you want it to be told.  If you want excessive run on sentences to carry your tale, then by all means, make it happen.  When it’s done, and you look back through your creation, that’s the time to make any corrections you may decide to do.  Change your mind about those run on sentences?  Change it.  Is your first chapter laden from excessive info dumping?  Break the information up.  That’s why they’re called drafts.  Once your book is written, you still have quite a bit of work to do.  It’s just the name of the game.

Tanglewood Release, Plus A Free Gift!

TanglewoodCover_f_paths.inddGood news for Montana Marrenger fans.
The Runaway Train is having a free run until 10/23 starting TODAY!
It’s my gift to you in celebration of my newest release!
Tanglewood, the third book in my Montana Marrenger Mysteries, has finally been published! Here’s a free sample for Tanglewood, if you’re wanting to check it out here first.  Enjoy!

 


Chapter One
November, 1994

“When’s Dad coming home?”
Maggie whirled around to find her little brother standing in the kitchen doorway.  His brown hair was tussled and there were pillow crease marks that made a bizarre tapestry of lines and circles along his cheek.  “You’re up early, Aiden.  Are you hungry?”
“Yeah,” he said in a squeaky voice that made her want to scoop him up in her arms.  He pulled out a chair from the small kitchen table and climbed into it.  “Where’s Dad?
“He’s at work.  Don’t worry, though.  He’ll be back before you know it.”
She turned towards the window.  The soft glow of morning revealed falling snow outside.  It was heavier now, and she just knew they would get another couple of inches added to the three feet that accumulated overnight.
Wind swirled up out of the trees lining the back yard.  The birch and cedars were the beginning of a large expanse of woods behind the house.  Their skeletal limbs trembled and creaked against the gusts.
“Daddy hates it when it snows.”  She washed her hands in the sink, observing the winter storm that had every school in the county closed.
“How could anybody hate snow?”  Aiden turned a confused expression towards her.  “I love snow!  Everyone loves it.  You can have snowball fights, you can build snowmen… You can even build a snow fort!”
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”  She stepped away from the sink, pulled a carton of eggs from the fridge, and cracked one into a cast iron skillet that had already been heated up for herself.  “It’s not that Dad hates snow, exactly.  It’s more that he hates driving in it.”
Aiden followed her movements with wide eyes.  “Why?”
“Well.”  She glanced at him and smiled at the superman pajamas that rose up just underneath his knees.  “Driving in the snow can be kind of tough.  It’s hard to see the road.”  She scrambled the egg with a spatula.  “Hey, I thought we got rid of those pajamas?”
“Nope.”
“They don’t fit you very well anymore, kiddo.  We should put them in a box and take them to Goodwill with the other clothes from last winter.”  She scooped the egg onto a plate, poured a glass of orange juice, and set them on the table in front of him.  “I thought dad told you to do that.”
“He did.”  He forked the eggs into his mouth as though he hadn’t eaten in a week.  “It’s just that these are my favorite.”
“That may be true,” she said while cracking two more eggs into the skillet.  “But somewhere out there is another little boy who may not have any pajamas to wear at all.  Just remember that.”
He gulped the juice and wiped his mouth with the back of his sleeve.  “Maybe his mom and dad should buy him some.”
She aimed the spatula at him with her eyebrows raised.  “My point exactly.”
Hail pinged against the window, startling her.  Outside, the wind howled and the snow blew across the yard in sheets.
Aiden was oblivious to the raging storm outside.  “Do you think Dad will help me build a snow fort today?”
She glanced at the digital clock on the stove.  Their father had never been this late coming home from work before, and the thought of road conditions made a spark of panic race along her spine.  Her hand shook when she scooped the eggs onto the plate.
“Maybe.”  She said in a soft tone she hoped didn’t betray her worry.   The thought of food suddenly made her stomach churn, but she dug into the eggs with a fork anyway.  “Maybe all three of us will.”

Chapter Two
February, 2011

His breath came in short stabbing rasps.  Branches grabbed at his sweater.  Twigs slapped against his face.  It was useless to even try to be quiet when every cracking stick under his boots exploded in the stillness of the woods.
A sharp incline to his left revealed a glittering stream.  He grabbed onto a branch to keep from sliding down the hill.  His steamy breath blossomed in the frigid air as he examined the chilly water below.
Had the stranger followed him this far?  He wondered if he should turn back, climb into his pickup truck, and head to the warmth of the fireplace at home.
A snap sounded somewhere behind him.  He heard the crunch of snow.

Available at Amazon

 

Winter Project 2015 – Part Two


Titles and Outlines
Today, I’m getting geared up for chapter eight in my winter novel. The tentative title for the book is Slow the Rain, but there’s a good chance it’ll be changed. It’s not that I don’t like the title, but there are a few others tumbling around in my head that may just fit the story more.
I came up with the title while writing the outline of the book. Which brings me to something I keep meaning to mention here. Outline. Seriously, do it. It will help you get those words on the page, help keep you focused, and will likely see you reaching the end of your first draft much sooner. I hear writers complaining all the time about how they started writing a book, but then their characters started to do whatever they wanted. One author actually asked me how I keep my characters in line. It’s simple. Before I write, I double check my outline to see what it is specifically that I have to tell next, and then write it. That’s the beauty of the outline. If you do your whole book, you won’t get lost, and neither will your characters.
Adapting
It’s been a slow morning. Yesterday, my new writing routine (see last weeks post) really kicked into gear. During the morning hours, I managed to write all of chapter seven. That’s pretty good, considering I’m trying something new and different with my routine (thank you monthers, more on that here).
The only thing that hasn’t quite worked yet is my afternoon session. You see, the plan is to write early in the morning and later on during the day. Unlike the monthers, this would mean that I’m not writing 10k words a day, but it does mean that I’m upping my word count. Basically, my intention is to get the fans of Selena Marrenger more mysteries at a quicker pace. Seriously, though. Who wants to wait for a book that comes out once a year in a series? If that’s you, great, but it’s definitely not me.
Haaave you met Maggie?
The coffee is fresh. Pumpkin Spice creamer is filling the room with a pleasant, fall aroma. I’ve turned on Spotify, and am listening to the Interstellar soundtrack. It heightens the mood, stirs images in my mind.
Chapter eight follows a police detective named Norma Perry. As some of you may have guessed, I like to write strong female leads. She’s tough, but quirky. If I had to make a comparison, it would be… well, imagine a combination of Maggie’s humor and Selena’s strength. She’s a good detective, has a good head on her shoulders, and won’t back down. Especially when she’s chasing a lead.
Oh, that’s right. Some of you haven’t met Maggie yet. She’s featured in my new novella, Tanglewood. Subscribers to my newsletter got a sneak peak at the cover artwork for Tanglewood as well as a sample. Don’t worry, though. If you aren’t a subscriber, you’ll get your chance in a couple of days to meet Maggie. Yes, you read that right. Tanglewood will be released on October 22!
Now, it’s time to get back to work. I hope to finish all of chapter eight today, and maybe even start chapter nine. The baby is teething, and has been rather fussy, but hopefully I can meet my goals. Wish me luck!