A to Z Challenge 2013

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Monday, May 23, 2011

Please Watch This Clip

Normally I don't do this type of thing, but because I'm a veteran, I feel bound to share this with all of you.  When you get a chance, please go to this link and watch an important video.  There's nothing to buy, no expenditure on your part other than your time.  But for those of us who are Americans (or know the type of people showcased in this video), I think you'll agree that the few minutes it takes is worth the effort.

Thank you and God bless.

The Power Of Success

Success is an interesting thing.  We can have days, weeks, or even months of failure and feel completely useless and alone.  Then along comes a single instance of success, and we're catapulted to the highest heights.  If we're lucky, we can ride that wave for a long time too.

I fully admit to being in a funk for a while now.  Part of it I do attribute to feeling a lack of success in lots of areas (not just writing).  But after Saturday's results, my heart has been lighter, the load I carry doesn't seem as heavy, and I am invigorated with energy.  I even got outside yesterday afternoon and did some reorganization in the garage (the beautiful weather helped motivate me too).

Since I'm a fairly optimistic guy, it's safe to say that I'm not happy when I'm not happy.  I don't like confrontation, I don't like whiny people, and I do my best to find whatever silver lining there is in a given situation.  But lately I've been irritable and even downright grumpy.  I know one of the reasons why (which I won't go into here), but though I had been concentrating on being more positive, I just couldn't get back to my usual cheerful self.  I had actually been turning into one of those negative people I don't like to associate with.  Yuck.

So how do I keep from letting myself devolve into an angry, grumpy mess again?  I don't know, though I'm going to try to list a few ideas here and hope some of you have more ideas you can provide in the comments.  Here are some off-the-cuff ideas for keeping a smile on my face.

1.  Goal setting - I didn't used to be a believer in this, but recent evidence (and help from my graduation mentor) has turned me into one.  Goals are a great way to provide us with success, even if they are just minor goals like finishing a chapter.

2.  Pat on the back - Often enough, we don't acknowledge when we do something right or when we achieve a goal.  It can be something as simple as buying ourself an ice cream or writing a celebratory blog post, but it's important that we do something.

3.  Recognize the silver lining - It may sound silly, but we have to remember that things can always be worse.  Part of being positive (for me at least) is recognizing that my life isn't that bad.  Though I have just as many tough things to deal with as anyone else, I'm not that bad off in the grand scheme of things.

Okay, I could really only come up with these three so I'm putting it out to all of you to help me come up with some more.  Let's get some lively discussion going.  By the time we're done, we will have all helped each other.  We'll all be walking around with Cheshire cat faces.  So tell me, how do you invigorate your life with a little positivity?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I Passed!

This is just a quick celebratory note, but I had a tough test today and I passed!  Woohoo!

For those who don't know, I'm going for my Masters degree in Information Security and Assurance from WGU.  Today I had to pass a certification exam, which makes me a Certified Hacking Forensics Investigator (CHFI).  I've  been studying my butt off for this thing, so it's such a relief to pass.  Next Saturday, I have another one to do, so my studying is not over yet.  But I'll take this moment to celebrate a small victory.

I'm also going to take this opportunity to try to finish the critique I promised for my CP, Michelle Hickman.  That's right Michelle, I might actually get it back to you in this century LOL.  She's been so patient and I feel bad that I've taken this long, but hopefully whatever I give her will only help her improve the final product.  She's got an amazing book in the works, so keep your ears peeled.  She'll have an agent and a publishing contract in no time.  I'm sure of it.

Hope everyone's evening is as awesome as mine.  Take care everyone!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Contest Results - Doh, I Forgot!

I just realized I was supposed to do this on Wednesday.  Doh!

Anyway, the contest I'm talking about is for those who commented on Christine Fonseca's guest post.  So many of you missed out on this one.  There weren't that many that stopped by (which is probably an indicator of my falling popularity LOL), so those of you who did had a great chance to win.  Without further ado, the winner of Christine's new book 101 Success Secrets For Gifted Kids is:

Patricia Stoltey

Congrats Patricia.  I'll get in touch with you and work out getting Christine's book to you.  And for all those who didn't enter, you're missing out.  I got a copy of Christine's book yesterday and though I've only read a little, I can tell you it's an awesome book.  If you've ever wanted to see how to do a non-fiction book right, this is a perfect example.

Blog Chain - I'm Positive That Everything's Negative! Or Is it?

This was supposed to be post yesterday, but given the question posed by my awesome CP Michelle Hickman, there was no way I could write anything useful.  The image below was me yesterday:

Unfortunately, I was very angry (thanks to my day job) and focusing on anything positive was out of the question.  So I avoided studying, drank a beer, and spent the evening lost in a video game.  I don't know if it's just a thing with Aries people, but when I get in a mad funk, I just want to be left alone so I can get over it.  My wife thankfully, is very understanding.  And as they say, tomorrow is a new day, hence my attempt at a positive outlook this morning:

Now that I've ranted about my chaotic emotional state lately, on to the question at hand:

The question: Be positive! Name some of the positive aspects of your writing --- be it a compliment from a mentor, friend or crit partner to anything special you learned concerning your writing skills.

Hopefully you can now see why I couldn't answer this question very easily yesterday.  It was just one of those days.  And unfortunately in this biz we don't see the positive side as often as we should, so I really appreciate Michelle "forcing" us to do so.  I will give it my best shot.

1.  I recently received a surprising email from the Managing Editor at the website I write articles for (brighthub.com).  In it he commended me for the continual high performance of my articles (i.e. my articles evidently continue to get a high number of hits).

2.  Being chosen to be a CP for Michelle Hickman is a positive thing in itself.  I consider Michelle to be an exceptional writer, so being asked to help critique her work is a great honor.

3.  Thus far, every writing assignment I've turned in at school has passed with glowing remarks.  It's not creative writing of course, but I've done well at it nonetheless.

4.  My attempts at writing (and my continued efforts at it) have inspired both of my sons to write.  I have never really tried to guide my sons to follow my in my footsteps (i.e. be a writer, be a computer geek, etc), but it's nice to see them enjoy it a little anyway.

5.  Since starting to write again, I've learned a lot about myself over the last few years.  I've learned that I can take on a challenge like NaNo or the A To Z and embrace it.  I've learned countless things from every member on this chain, from how to write dialects better (thanks Michelle H) to the importance of research (Sandra, you're awesome at this) to having fun my writing (thanks to pretty much everyone on the chain).

6.  Judging from comments I've received about the various snippets I've posted here (not to mention my fellow chainers), I know that I have the ability to write creepy stuff fairly well.  I can make chills run down my reader's back when I'm really in the zone.

7.  Most importantly of all, I've learned that my fellow writers are a friendly and supportive bunch of people.  It's inevitable that whenever I'm in a funk, I read an inspirational post or get an email from a fellow writer and I suddenly feel much better.  Because writing can be so soul-crushing as we persecute ourselves for "our complete inability to write well", it's the positive outpouring of support we get from each other that helps repair the damage.  It's that overwhelming positive vibe that allows us to pick ourselves back up and get back to writing again.

Thanks again, Michelle H.  This question has forced me to find my ray of sunshine again and get my fingers back on the keyboard.  Everyone else, if you haven't stopped by to see her awesome post, head on over there.  And I believe Michelle McLean should have something up today, so you'll want to check her blog for that too.

Finally, have you sat back and thought about the positive things that you've learned or have come about through writing?  Have you acknowledged positive things you've accomplished?  What are they?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Blog Chain - Never Surrender

It's time for another round on the blog chain  and I'm freakin' late!  Dangit!  I hate when that happens.  I was supposed to have this post up yesterday, but...wait a minute...ignore the time/date stamp on this post and imagine it is yesterday.  Your eyes are deceiving you.  It is actually the 16th.  Yes, that's true.  I have perfected time travel.

The ever-awesome Laura has thrown out this challenging query:

What keeps you going (either trying to get an agent or to get published or finish that WIP that’s kicking your butt) when you know the odds are stacked way against you?

The assumption here is that I haven't given up already. Thank you for that support, Laura.  I will now put the knife down and loosen the noose.  Whew, another close call.

Seriously though, I am not sure what keeps me working at this.  I guess part of it is watching so many of my writer friends, admiring and being envious of their skill, and remaining determined to get to that level of writing skill.  Okay, I know  in the writer circles, envy is a bad word.  We're not supposed to compare ourselves to others.  I completely disagree with this thought however.

Just because I am envious does not mean I tear myself up when I fall short.  Okay, maybe I tear myself up a little bit, but I also grit my teeth, stamp my feet, and work harder at my writing.  After all, I know that I can do this.  I have managed to learn how to do a great number of things in this life, and becoming a decent writer is something I truly believe is within the realm of possibility.

As for the odds, I never think about that.  To me, thinking about the odds is like trying to imagine being Atlas holding up the planet.  It's too humongous to really imagine, too hard to concretely grasp.  The odds are so huge against us that trying to fathom them in real terms and deal with that thought is too much.  So I just don't worry about it.

I'm also a believer in some sort of twisted version of fate.  My life has worked out the way it has because that's the way it was supposed to go.  I don't always know why something happens a certain way, but later on I realize it was supposed to happen that way.  And I'm okay with that.  So I have faith that this is what I'm supposed to be doing, and until I'm shown otherwise, I'll keep doing it.  Besides, it's the most fun I've had in a long time - even given all the difficulties.

Our trip through time is almost up, so I will now let you return to the present...er, I mean the 17th...because right now is still the 16th, remember?  Anyway, if you didn't get a chance to read Michelle H.'s stupendous response, get yer butt over there.  Before you go though, tell me how you manage to keep working at this writing gig?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Guest Post - The 7 NF Tips Every Fiction Author NEEDS

Today, I have a special guest at Da Muse!  It's none other than the awesome and talented Christine Fonseca, whose new book 101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids is racing out of the gate with a bang.  Without further ado, take it away Christine.

Thanks, Eric, for hosting my last stop on the tour. Eric asked me to talk about the things I’ve learned on this little journey into nonfiction publishing – things that apply to my life as a fiction author. Things every fiction author needs to know.

Wow – what I’ve learned. There are so many things I discovered on this path of publishing two nonfiction books, one geared for adults and one geared for kids. Both are niche books, both are published through a very very small publisher. One is considered an educational title, with a very limited distribution, and the other is a trade publication. And both are heavily marketed by me.

The results - The first has significantly exceeded publisher expectations. The second – well, it was just released, so time will tell on that one.

So, what did I learn throughout this experience? First, nothing replaces writing a good book! NOTHING. As new writers we spend a lot of time fretting about our platforms and marketing. Sometimes we allow this fretting to get in the way of writing – bad idea. This entire journey starts, and continues, with a good book.

That said, a good book isn’t enough to get it in the hands of readers unless you are backed by a big publisher. For the majority of us, this means we are going to have to promote our work, whether we like it or not. And that is where the lessons I learned in publishing my nonfiction books can really help all writers:

  1. Know Your Market.
Before you design a promotional campaign of any form, it is important to have a clear understanding of your primary and secondary markets. With nonfiction, most authors figured this out when they wrote the “marketing” section of their proposals. Fiction authors should go through this process too. Ask yourself who the book is for – teens, children, adults? Who is the secondary market for the book? With Emotional Intensity, the primary market is parents and educators. Psychologists and other personnel involved in gifted education for a secondary market.

For 101 Success Secrets, the primary market is kids. Parents form a secondary market.

  1. Know Your Comfort Zone.
As with all forms of social networking and marketing, it is important to know your own personal strengths and weaknesses. Are you comfortable speaking in person to a large group, or is Skyping or chatting more your thing? Do you like to cold call potential hosts for tours, or does the thought of that give you hives? Knowing your comfort zone is important. Don’t spent a lot of time doing things you hate – you will only make yourself crazy. Instead, spend your time promoting in ways that you are comfortable with. In today’s market, you are really only limited in terms of promotion by your own comfort level. So, get to know what works best for you and your book. Then repeat it over and over again.

  1. Set Clear Goals for Promotion.
I have a background in marketing in sales (before my days as a psychologist), so the first thing I did was set clear monthly goals for promotion. I planned one major event – blog tour, book signing, speaking engagement – monthly. I’ve really tried to space out the events to keep the message from getting muddled and maintain a regularly presence. I have maintained these goals for both books

  1. Blog Tours and Book Tours.
These are both fabulous ways to connect with readers. The important thing to remember – planning. With blog tours, ask people in your particular niche to host a leg. If you are targeting teens, for example, try to have a blog that is frequented by teens host a leg of the tour. The same is true with book tours – market to both chain and independent booksellers. Do your homework; know which stores are well connected with your niche. A couple of other things to keep in mind:
·         Start early – proper planning of events is really a key.
·         Know the expectations of the host. Ask questions about how they envision your visit, or what they see as their role in the blog tour.
·         Stay organized – use spreadsheets and other organization tools to keep track of the places you pitched too, the hosts of your tour, and any giveaways.
·         Send reminders to participants. We are all busy and it is easy to forget things. Take on that burden and don’t be alarmed when things get forgotten. Just be prepared.
·         Remember to follow-up with a thank you. There is no substitution for good manners! Personal thank you notes go a long way to letting your hosts know how much you appreciated working with them

  1. Other Venues to Connect with Readers.
I love doing Author chats. In fact, my author chats are really the reason I have sold as well as I have. In addition to in-person events, I am involved in webinars and events on SecondLife. These are amazing ways to connect with readers and enable you to “go global”. I cannot tell you how excited I am to host a global bookchat in a few weeks.

Be willing to get creative and look for new ways to connect your message to your market. For my newest book, 101 Success Secrets, I have created all new reader-experiences to bring to my book chats. I can’t wait to see how they work out.

  1. Using Social Networking sites.
Promoting your message is about creating buzz. In this day and age, it is easier than ever to create buzz on a large scale. But, how do you separate yourself from all the noise out there? That’s easy. Be creative. Do something unique and different – and then make sure EVERYONE knows about it. For my niche, the message itself is unique to the market. So my job was getting it to the right people. Utilizing niche-specific social networking venues (#gtchat on twitter, participating in gifted groups on facebook), I have been able to bring awareness to my message, and my books, directly to those most likely to read it.

This same process applies to fiction – if you are a YA writer, for example, utilize creative sites that teens frequent, and find tie-ins for your specific project. Connect with your readers – that is the key.

  1. You Are Only As Good As Your Last Book.
Finally, people have short attention spans. This means the message you have is easily replaced by the next greatest thing out there. To keep your sales up and your message heard, it is important to keep writing. Produce new content – either on a blog, or in a newsletter. Respond in fresh ways to the questions readers have. And write new books. This is how you cultivate a writing career – fresh content of the highest quality.

In fiction, this really means KEEP WRITING. If you want a career as an author, it is important to continually hone your skills and continue writing.

The bottom line – the things I’ve learned promoting my books for NF can really be applied to fiction as well.

Thank you very much Christine, for stopping by and for giving us so much good information.  And for all of you out there, there’s an extra bonus to this post – a contest.  That’s right, one lucky winner will be the recipient of Christine’s new book 101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids.  All you have to do is comment on this post and your name will go into the drawing.  The last date for entries is going to be on Tuesday, May 17th.  That gives you 5 days to get your comment in, but don’t procrastinate too long.  I’d hate for anyone to miss out on this one.

If you’d like to learn more about from the ever-awesome Christine Fonseca or her book, here are all the ways to find her:

Find me on Facebook or Twitter

Oh, and if you're wondering where I am during all this fun, I'm lucky enough to be guest posting at Christine's blog.  Go check it out!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Monday, May 9, 2011

Monday, Monday

It's funny that this song is before my time, but it evokes such strong emotions in me.  For one thing, I absolutely love groups that can sing in harmonies.  There's just something about multiple voices singing their part (clearly no less), and yet together they make up an incredible tapestry of sound.

So it's been a week since my last post and although I didn't survive the A to Z challenge, I gave it a shot.  Sometimes I think my life is just too chaotic.  After all, anytime I try to plan anything long term, it doesn't really work out the way I'd like.  But I did have fun with the challenge anyway, even if I didn't quite make it to the end.

There's something good to be said about facing a challenge, even when we think we might fail.  This is true in just about anything we do, but especially true in writing.  The challenge of writing not just one time (i.e. first draft) but going back over and over it (and sometimes re-writing whole sections) is a daunting task.  Whenever I feel like quitting completely however, I think about something I've achieved fairly recently - graduation from college.

Even though it's been over a year since I managed to graduate, I can still feel the thrill of accomplishing it.  It's a rush of adrenaline, an overwhelming feeling of success.  And I'm still riding that wave, using it propel me forward towards more successes.  Feeling that again is worth the mountain of effort it takes to get there - in any activity I engage in.

It's kind of funny though.  Old habits die hard, and even though I embrace challenges, I experience self doubt all the time.  For example, every time I submit one of my assignments for grading, I sit there on pins and needles until I get the grade back.  So far I've been doing absolutely stellar and haven't had to revise a single assignment, so you'd think I'd be fairly confident by now.  But no, every time I submit one, I still have that gnawing doubt in the back of my mind.

This has been a post of rambles and stream of consciousness, but it's been that kind of a Monday.  Here's hoping Tuesday holds something good!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Blog Chain - Embrace The Darkness

It's blog chain time again and this round's question is brought to us by the awesome Margie (and the letter D, the number 4, and the letter K).  She asks:

How do you get in the mindset of your genre? Do you research people or facts? Do you just reach into the recesses of your mind for events that would make a good story? Something else?”

My preferred genre is suspense or horror, so that puts me into the weird (and possibly in need of direct observation) category.  Getting into the mood to write in this genre however, is sometimes difficult.  I hover on the edge of it until unexpectedly the darkness grabs me and I'm able to write some truly wild stuff.  I suppose it should bother me that the best stuff I write is when I'm truly being diabolical or psychotic or imagining things that are usually best left alone.

I probably could do research for my stories, but I've found that the best ideas I come up with are those that creep along the back of my mind, waiting for me to notice them.  When I do feel that chill down my back, I make sure I write the idea down though.  It doesn't happen all the time, so I try to grab the tiger by the tail whenever it does.

Incidentally, I often write outside of my chosen genre.  The reason for that is I'm trying to find my groove.  I'm trying to fully embrace the darkness and stay there until the writing is done.  But sometimes a story pops into my head and I just can't ignore it, even if it isn't in the genre I'd rather be known for.

If you haven't had a chance to stop by my wonderful bud Michelle H's post, get on over there.  Tomorrow Michelle M. will finish up this round with what will probably be a truly revealing answer (no pressure Michelle, heh heh).  And how do you get in the mindset of your genre?  Let me know in the comments.