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Monday, August 24, 2015

So many mistakes so little time

Book 2 Knight and Dex is done. I’ve turned in my final draft and after we took chainsaws, jackhammers and dynamite to the first draft we were left with a damn good story. I’ve talked about this on other posts, but I’m going to chat about it again since it didn’t get easier the second time and I need therapy. Writing is the thing I do for fun. I work in an office most days running operations for a telecommunications company. It’s a high stress job. Out of all the jobs I had, military included nothing comes close to it. Being a writer though makes even that see like child’s play. In fact, it’s all play.

Don’t worry, I’m not whining about my job. It’s not that kind of blog. The message, to keep you from skipping on to the next blog, is there’s very little in this world you can control. Shock? Horror? Shouldn’t be if you’ve lived even just a little bit. You can find yourself someplace you don’t want to be doing something you don’t want to do and it happens to everyone. The one thing you can control is how you react to things. When you’re a writer, it’s how your character reacts to these things that matter.

You’re in charge of how every character behaves, how every object moves, what’s allowed and what isn’t, it’s your laws, your restrictions, your freedoms and the only limits are what the writer puts in the work. That’s ultimate power and empowerment.

Think of every time you’ve felt the world caving in on you. Suffocating as you dealt with loss, or an illness, or a horrible boss, think of that time where someone imposed their will over you and hold on to it.

Now think of the joy of just playing, swinging on a swing, playing hide and seek, laughing at a cartoon, or the million time you were silly just because. Hold on to it.

Your just driving your car nowhere in particular. Hold on to it.

Laying in sun. You have a sunburn. Hold on to it.

You’re driving and a squirrel darts in front of your car and you hear the thump that can only mean you rolled over it. Hold on to it.

You and some friends hear a great song and just start dancing. Hold on to it.

That first time you take a sip of coffee and think there isn’t a enough cream and sugar to make that taste good. Hold on to it

That morning you get up and need that extra shot of espresso in your black coffee to kick start your day. Hold on to it.

You get a call one morning from the police and they tell you that your Dad died. Hold on to it.

You see the person of your dreams on day in a coffee shop. Hold on to it.

This is your world. Every taste, smell, vision, touch and sound belongs to you. These are your tools. Every emotion, every fear, every joy, everything imposed on you and everything you’ve imposed. Every piece of imagination, dream, nightmare; it all belongs to you. While I bring this back around to my first paragraph to show you how much you can’t control in the real world, you control everything in the one you write. You are the creator you have will over everything. Your characters don’t, they’re just like you in this one. They have to play by the rules, or break them, but when they do there should be consequences. Your story begins with trying coffee for the first time and ends when you take that extra shot. It’s about change. All stories are about change. It’s your job to change their world. Use everything you know. Your job is to connect the reader to your characters. Use the tools in your bag.

Your main character is going to know people. These are friends, family, co-workers, strangers and these people all have their own lives, ambitions and sometimes they coincide with your characters and sometimes they’re at odds. When they’re at odds there’s conflict and stories live in conflict. Conflict makes for interesting storytelling. These can be everyday things like when your partner can pick up after themselves, or it could be something major like your brother want’s to kill you for selling his prized sheep, Lola. Conflict = movement = character grown as it’s resolved.

Why the basic writing 101 bullshit?

Your readers want to walk in the footsteps of your characters and they can only do that through the character’s perceptions, your perceptions. I’ve been reading a lot of stories lately now that I’ve put book 2 away and the ones I’m likely to put down are the ones that forget about character and concentrate on the whiz-bang of the world. If the reader can laugh, fear, long, despair, and celebrate with your character, you’ve done your job. Where stories, for me, go off the rails, is when they’re about the window dressing and not about the character. Just as I use a computer and telephone to do my job, my character uses the tools to do his job. The story is never about the tools, it’s about how characters live (and sometimes die) in the world with them.

Look at some of the most successful shows on TV, The Walking Dead – the walkers aren’t even characters in the story. The story is about the survivors living in abject horror and can die at any moment. Then what make it truly compelling aren’t that Rick Grimes’ group survives the zombies, but when they come upon and interact with other survivors and those characters have very different ideas about survival.

Game of Thrones – It’s a fantasy world, there’s magic and dragons, but the compelling part is the political drama and how each character has an agenda not even knowing that ever scrap they fight for is in dire jeopardy.

My all-time favorite show, Fringe – The characters work on these cases with strange phenomenon not knowing these events are going to trigger world-ending events. It’s about the characters solving these riddles that are the key to the story. If I want my books to be anything like something, it would be Fringe. But that story has already been told and I can write my own universe.

Book 2 Knight and Dex is due to be released on Oct 31st. I couldn’t be happier with a book filled with cops, killers, superheroes and villains and perhaps a zombie, or two give or take a horde. We’ll be announcing the pre-sale soon! This book is going knock your socks off.

Book 1 Dex Territory is available at any online retailer in both e-book and paperback.

Please find me at:

You can find Dex Territory for every possible device at:

$3.99 for the e-book
$18.95 for the paperback

Monday, August 3, 2015

Cover me

Life is complicated. That's the tagline of my book and it comes from a place of truth. For those that are writing books it's not only complicated, but it hard and there's a lot that can't be control. The story is part is completely under the author's thumb, it's the author's brainchild and a accumulation of thoughts, ideas, experiences and imagining that are unique to everyone who put pen to paper in an honest attempt to tell a story. The manuscript is complete, you and the editor have battled it out challenging and defending the plot, characters, story order, tenses, anachronisms, bad choices and spelling and grammar. There's a lot of hard work by those involved and at the end the angles sing and a great hosanna echoes over the land as a finished book is produced and the author holds it triumphantly overhead and flips a bird to all of life's distractions that did their very best to get in the way.

It's done. A piece of the author's soul is in the world. It was a labor of love that may have taken months, or the better part of a decade, in some cases a lifetime. The author hopes, but knows, the book isn't going to be a best-seller, or win literary awards, but it's well received. Then one day someone has your pride and joy on display on website trashing it, not for the story, characters, dialog, or the clever twist that no one saw coming. It's there because they think the cover is terrible. Seriously.

So, yeah, this actually happened to me. When we put the book together we thought we had a fine cover is fresh and dynamic and both my editor and I liked it. It featured art from one of my closest friends and I thought it was very fitting to the book. Once I got over my shock and anger, because who were they to judge MY book over this cover, but it dawned on me. Covers are very important. The times I've been sucked into a Home and Garden show my wife was watching they talk incessantly on curb appeal. The house could be amazing on the inside, but if the outside isn't happening it's easy to dismiss. We do judge books on their covers and while art is subjective, there are things that are generally unappealing.

Once I started reading the comments and pulled myself out of the equation, I noticed the commenters were very specific in what they didn't like. I had to wade through the personal attacks from people who have no idea who I am, but, hey, internet. I was able to take notes from that and actually learn something. Until I found the website, there were a few negative comments, but it wasn't outside the realm of normal. I talked them over with my editor and he was encouraging and we both felt strongly about the material. With the new information it started to form a picture and that picture said, in the words of Neil Gaiman, "Make good art." At that point I started asking did we. the answer was an unequivocal yes, but maybe we need a new frame. I brought this back to my editor and said, 'hey check this out.' We were both scratching our heads at that point.

Luckily, I have a friend who is a cover artist and she put together another cover for me. Once we all settled on the cover, I hit the streets again. While sales haven't skyrocketed, they've been steady and there is a lot more positivity to the book. It's still an uphill battle, but I'm making some headway.

I know we're curious to see if this ultimately makes the difference. I believe we have a solid story, fun characters, unexpected twists and turns and all the earmarks of a success story. I've gotten some great feedback on my story, even those I haven't bribed with their home and garden projects. (Curb appeal wasn't the only thing I learned about on those highly addictive house flipping shows)

Only time will tell if my book is judged on it's cover. It's not like a have a large collection of books, some really terrible, with amazing covers. ;)

Please find me at:

You can find Dex Territory for every possible device at:

$3.99 for the e-book
$18.95 for the paperback

Plus, for a limited time with a limited number of copies, I have an online store on Amazon where you can purchase a signed copy of my book, with the new cover. Copy and paste the link below into your browser. Look for Used and New, click on New and look for MAberdeen. You're buying directly from me through Amazon and I have about 12 books left at the time I publish this, but don't worry, I know where there are more. :)