Not Just Another New Year’s Post

by Bruce Blake

I sat down to write this post with ideas floating around in my head…refelctions on the past year, thoughts for the future. But, as I pondered, two things happened. First, I got confused (as I often do). Do I reflect on my own year? The Guild’s? Make a general post? As these confused notions circled the drain that is my mind (not a gutter as you may have thought after reading some of my work), the second thing happened: I realized Emily had already done a New Years-ish post and did it far better justice than I could hope to do.

So I’m not writing about resolutions or regrets, goals or…what’s another g-word to keep that pattern going? Grapes? Glory? Never mind.

Instead, I’m going to touch on the concept of thoughts circling through a writer’s mind. One of the things that happened to me this year was that I transitioned from being a full-time writer back into the work-a-day life (hopefully a temporary thing). Managing my thoughts has been one of the major chaleenges of making this transition.

You see, when I was writing full-time, my mind was engaged with my stories every waking moment, and often in my sleep. Obviously, I was involved when I was writing (which worked out to around 6 hours/day), but the stories stuck with me the rest of the time without me having to put in an effort to make them do so.

Things are a little different now.

Getting back to a job–and a new job with a hefty learning curve, at that–I have to force my mind back to whatever I’m working on. The writing hours are greatly reduced and suddenly there are other things to usurp my thoughts and attention while I’m going about my day. If I don’t grab my brain by its lapels and give it a good shake, it might not even get around to wandering back to Horace and Ailyssa, Teryk and Danya, and all the rest of the characters waiting for me in the world of the Small Gods and its newly begun  book 3 (And Night Descends, for those of you who are interested).

Luckily, it’s a land I love, so going back to it is never a chore, just something I have to remember to do. Having said that, I’m open to pointers. I know I used to know how to do it…the entire Khirro’s Journey trilogy and the first two Icarus Fell books were written while I was working full-time. What do the rest of you do to keep yourself engaged when life threatens to take over? What are your secrets?

And, by the way…HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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Bruce Blake is a once and future full-time writer who just wants to unleash the thoughts in his head on an unsuspecting world, one book at a time. Visit him on his blog to find out more.

Another Book Release: The Darkness Comes

by Bruce Blake

Contrary to the way indie authors are taught to do things, I snuck the release for THE DARKNESS COMES (The Second Book of the Small Gods) completely under the radar. It’s already been out for five days with no promotion, no fanfare, and no hoopla. Since that didn’t seem to really do the trick, I thought it was time to tell everyone it was out. Read on to find out more…

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When shadows fall, the darkness comes…

A disgraced Goddess Mother wanders blind and alone, praying for her agony to end. When aa helpful apostle finds her, could it really be salvation, or does worse torment lie ahead?

A sister struggles to understand a prophecy that may not be meant for her while her brother fights for his life. If the firstborn child of the rightful king dies, will it spell the end for everyone?

Darkness and shadow creep across the land in the form of a fierce clay golem animated by its sculptor’s blood. It seeks a mythical creature whose sacrifice portends the return of ancient evil banished from the world long ago. With its return will come the fall of man.

As the game unfolds, the Small Gods watch from the sky, waiting for their time to come and for their chance to rise again. They wait for he fall of shadows, the coming of the darkness.

They wait for night to descend

THE DARKNESS COMES

dark_full—–

Available on:

Kindle

Barnes & Noble

Smashwords

Read a review of THE DARKNESS COMES on Ella Medler’s blog

***Please Note*** THE DARKNESS COMES is the Second Book of the Small Gods. It is required to read WHEN SHADOWS FALL (The First Book of the Small Gods) first to understand the book’s storyline.

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WHEN SHADOWS FALL is available from Kindle for only 99 cents until Jan. 6/14

WHEN SHADOWS FALL (The First Book of the Small Gods)

WHEN SHADOWS FALL (The First Book of the Small Gods)

Read a review of WHEN SHADOWS FALLon Ms. Nose in a Book’s Blog.

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Bruce Blake if the author of nine novels and a collection of short stories. Follow him on his blog for occasional musings.

Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

This month I’m writing from the future. It’s Emily from Christmas 2014. Don’t ask how — just be grateful I’m not warning you of the apocalypse. No, this trip has a much more benign reason. Here are eleven things you’re going to take for granted if you’re not careful.

1. That moment of contentment. when you’re done cooking, done eating, and you feel satisfied, at peace, even complete. No one in your family is fighting. You don’t have to worry about dishes or work or the kids, at least for this one moment. If you blink, if you rush it, you will miss the contentment of a good food coma. Don’t take it for granted.

clocks

2. The signaling for a new year. Another 365 days have passed, another 12 months. We are one year closer to our deaths, one year closer to graduation, marriage, divorce. One year further away from our births, from our parents’ generation, from our old selves. We are one step closer to a new world, a new humanity. Whatever is going on in your life, even if 2014 depresses you, don’t take it for granted.

3. That feeling of accomplishment. In the next year you will accomplish something. Instead of focusing on it though you will focus on the failures. The lows. That’s not the way to deal with it! You did it. You did something amazing. I would tell you what it is, but I want you to surprise yourself.

4. That person you love. You know who I’m talking about — for some of us, they know about our love. For others, they’re ignorant or maybe they don’t know just how much you love them. They need to know. Enjoy that person. Let them know how amazing they are and how much you appreciate them.

Book Thief Quote 5. The resiliency of the human spirit. I think Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, narrated by Death, said it best: “It amazes me what humans can do, even when streams are flowing down their faces and they stagger on…” How do we keep going, sometimes in the face of such terrible things?

6. The ingenuity of the human mind. Think of all we’ve done in the past few years… the past few decades… even the past few centuries. We are ever creating, ever inventing, ever loving, ever building. That potential is in your mind, the potential to be, to create, to grow. You can speak language, make up a story, understand the abstract. You have the same wiring the geniuses of old (and modern day) had.

7. The sun that shines on all of us. The sun doesn’t know class or race or age or gender. It keeps us all alive. It spurs on growth, brings plants to life. It keeps us warm, and also withholds that warmth part of the year. Everything around us, the teeming life on this Earth, the way the rock beneath our feet turns and goes on — how can we not be awe-inspired everyday?

8. The words you’re reading right now. Words are power. They can bring life or death. We have a language capacity that no other animal has, and you have the special ability to read English. You can take letters and form words and create sentences. You can inspire nations. You can design entire worlds. You can communicate across time and space with simple words.

9. The heart beating in your chest. Every second, your body is pumping blood into your veins. Every breath you take in, every motion, it all depends on such a fragile ecosystem, and yet here you are. Some of us are healthier than others, and some bodies don’t work as well as others, but it’s here. It’s breathing, beating, persevering, and you don’t even have to do anything!

10. The senses that let you experience the world. You don’t live in a void. You have something to connect you to the world: sight, hearing, touch, smell, or taste, or, if you’re lucky, all five. This is real, and you can say, “I can taste this meal. I can see that child. I can hear my voice. I can smell her perfume. I can touch him.”

11. Me. No, not me specifically, but what I represent: the future. The promise of tomorrow. You live in a timeline. You can think of the future, you can make plans, you can see into oblivion and say, ‘Yes.’

All right, I’m done being sappy. Enjoy your new year. You won’t regret it.

Emily Ann Ward is an author and freelance editor. She likes writing reflective, overly emotional posts every now and then. Check out her YA/NA Fantasy & Scifi books or her freelance editing business.

We Should Lead

(Another antithetical post against the common flow. I’m getting so good at this, I should just live under a rock.)

I’m facilitating Leadership workshops at my place of day employment, and every so often I go over a module that speaks to a person within their work sphere but also outside of that sphere, such as writing. It can be both invigorating and downright depressing.

Case in point: Leadership is the art of leading people to accomplish a goal, or getting others to do things because they really want to do them, not because you told them. It’s not a science. Management, on the other hand, is that science–how and when to put the pieces in place to help accomplish the goal.

When dealing with Leadership, you’re dealing with people.

When managing, you’re making people a resource.

The things we do as writers to get people to buy our books are nothing more than attempts to put the science of management to use on people. Think about that for a moment: we all use marketing techniques and social media to push our wares and then hope those who have bought and liked our work are going to spread the word.

It has a sickening corporate feel to it.

And frankly, I’ve become very sick of the corporate feel of anything. It’s all about the bottom line, and if we fail to accomplish the goal, we must have failed to be good writers. If we don’t succumb to the management tools that are offered us–social media, book signings, giveaways, etc.–we aren’t doing our business any good, and if we don’t see an increase in our sales, then we’re not very good managers.

But if selling books isn’t your goal, then don’t worry about it.

Personally, I’m over it. I’m over the corporate slant to this book selling world. I’m over the need to manage my resources so people buy what I want them to buy.

I’d much rather lead people to a river than give them a map and a kick in the rear.

Why should the science of getting people to buy books matter? Why is the management of resources more important than the message?

It’s time to think strategically

Creative Commons

By Scott Bury

It’s the solstice. The year-end approaches. At least this year, we’re not worried about the world ending at midnight tonight. Now is the time for festivities, gatherings with loved ones, eating and drinking a little too much and being determined not to worry about the credit card bills … until next month.

For the most successful people, this is also a time for starting to implement those strategies for the coming year.

Authors as business people

As members of the Guild of Dreams, we’re a pretty dissimilar bunch, with a wide range of writing styles, habits, approaches, genres — and market success.

If that sounds a bit business-like for a group of creative people, that’s because I’m encouraging us to think more like business people. The book field is an extremely competitive, fast-moving market. If any of us hope to carve out the slightest sliver of presence in it, we’re going to have to recognize it as a marketplace and ourselves as sellers of products. Marketers. Business people.

The authors who sell the most books treat their activity as a business.

Think strategically

I have to admit I’m not the greatest business type person in the world. But over the past couple of decades that I’ve been selling my words, I have learned that you’re a lot more likely to succeed at something if you have a detailed strategy to achieve it.

I am asking every member here, and every writer, blogger and reader who looks at this page to think strategically about your career as an author and about the success of this group. Set some realistic, if ambitious, and measurable goals. (Check out George Doran’s SMART project management approach.)

These should not be just a number of book sales. Your strategy has to list a lot of specific steps that will help you achieve your goal. What will you do to increase sales? When will you write your next book, who will review it, edit it, design the cover, take care of the production of an e-book or a paperback?

Are you going through Amazon exclusively via the Kindle Select program, or will you list it in the other e-tailers as well?

What is your promotion plan? How will you contact book reviewers? What is your social media plan? What will you do on Facebook, how frequently will you tweet, what will you do to increase your number of followers on Goodreads?

A collaboration challenge

As individuals, we don’t have the ability to make much noise. But if we work together, strategically, we can raise the profile of the group and its members.

I don’t think that one person can devise the ultimate strategy. This is my challenge to the group as a whole for the coming month: let’s each of us start to propose some ideas for a group marketing strategy, suggesting some specific actions that we can take, and share them. And together, let’s find the best ideas and put them together into a specific, realistic and measurable strategy, and then volunteer to carry out tasks and activities according to what each of us thinks is our individual strengths. Know a lot of book bloggers? Think you can raise the Guild’s profile among them? Willing to spend the time to do it? Go for it.

Sure, your efforts will be on behalf of others, as well as yourself; but teamwork, as we all know, can achieve great things.

Merry Christmas, Happy Yule, Cheery Holidays and I look forward to reading your thoughts on this!

Pic-ScottBuryScott is the author of the historical fantasy The Bones of the Earth and the contemporary occult fantasy Dark Clouds. He lives in Ottawa with his wife, sons and cats. You can follow him on Twitter and read his blog, Written Words.

New Adventures in Time Management

Roughly a month ago (and no, it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long) my family relocated to Michigan. (Ostensibly it was to be closer to my wife’s family. I think it’s because we secretly love snow, and just refuse to admit it to ourselves.) We haven’t moved into our own place yet but have staying with my In-Laws, as they have a tremendously over-sized house and have been happy to have us.

It’s been loads of fun staying with Lib’s family. We’ve been to some fun places, had a great Thanksgiving dinner, attended Great Grandma’s 90th birthday party, visited an Amish market, and put up the Christmas tree. Two of Lib’s brothers live here as well, so currently we’ve got eight people under one roof.

In addition to doing all of those things you do when you move to a new state (first and foremost has been getting the kid’s paperwork in order) and trying to finalize the sale of our house from halfway across the North American continent, I’ve also been frantically searching for a job, Lib has been trying to finish up an extensive on-line computer programming/web design course, and I, of course, have been doing my best to finish up PATH OF BONES and get to work on VAMPIRE DOWN.

time-management

And I thought I was busy before.

Wait a second, you might say, you don’t have a job, shouldn’t you have more time to write/edit/blog/make an ass out of yourself? Surprisingly, this hasn’t been the case. There are a number of reasons I’ve suddenly found myself challenged to get anything done. Some of these will seem familiar to all of your writers out there, so maybe you can identify with these issues..

  1. Job Hunting takes a lot of time, and I say this as someone who isn’t necessarily “hitting the street” but filling our applications online (some of these companies really need to get over themselves with these ridiculously lengthy and convoluted forms). I’ve been going on interviews (6 so far and counting), on the phone a lot more than I’ve ever wanted to be, updating my resume/Linkedin page, scouring the internet for job resources I haven’t seen before, etc. No, it’s no 8-hour workday with a commute, but at the end of the day I honestly think it’s more stressful and, ultimately, less rewarding.job hunting
  2. No work = more time with my son. This is of course a good thing…it’s also a “draining” thing. My son has autism, hyperactivity and ADD. He’s vibrant, full of “piss and vinegar”, as they say, and loves to get out and do things. He also needs his routine, and with the upheaval of moving things have been sort of turned on their end, meaning he needs more one-on-one parenting time and reassurances than ever before. He’s worth every second of my time, but holy $@#! he’s exhausting!
  3. We’re disrupting someone else’s routine. Lib’s family welcomed us with open arms, and without them there’s no way we could have made this move in the first place. That being said, I’ve had to “train” my children to be good house guests, and Lib and I have done everything we can not to dishevel our host’s lives more than we already have.
  4. I’m not the only one with a big To-Do List. As I mentioned, Lib is plowing through some hardcore online courses, and she needs just as much/more time to do her work than I do and has had fewer opportunities. I try to accommodate her as much as possible and give her a chance to get work done, but the obvious trade-off is when I give her more time, I have less.  (We’re working on it.)
  5. It’s a different environment. I’ve always prided myself on my ability to get work done pretty much anywhere. I’ve written on buses, commuter trains, between calls at work, in various spots in our Washington home, etc. As it so happens, I’ve met my match in Michigan. For some reason I haven’t been able to focus through the distractions of being in a crowded home, and despite the size of this house I’ve yet to find a place with enough peace and quiet to get much of anything accomplished, which is why this latest edit of PATH OF BONES has taken almost twice as long as usual. I’ve had some modicum of success at the local coffee shops, but finding the time to get out and do that (see Reasons 1-4, above) has been the challenge.starbucks

All of this adds up to some new adventures in time management. This is a challenge faced by any Indie author, of course, and part of the fun is trying to find a way to work around it and be productive in spite of difficult circumstances.

In my case, it seems that the solution would be to find a way to get out to the coffee shop more often, and to maximize the time I spend there and get as much done as humanly possible. Easier said than done, I know, but I’m sure I can do it. The amazing author Lucia Berlin, who I had the great pleasure of learning under on two separate occasions during my time at the University of Colorado at Boulder, once taught us that we need to learn to find the time write while we were still in college, because with the introduction of jobs, families, and other commitments it was only going to get tougher to squeeze reading and writing into our daily grind. I always took that lesson to heart, but it’s been tough lately.  Time to put what I learned to the test.

51RWpNJ62OL

Writers, what time management challenges have you faced? How have you overcome them?

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Steven Montano is living proof that a purely coffee-based diet is NOT a good idea. He’s also the author of the Blood Skies novels (Blood Skies, Black Scars, Soulrazor, Crown of Ash, The Witch’s Eye, Chain of Shadows) and the Skullborn Trilogy (City of Scars and Path of Bones, coming this February). Learn more about this raving lunatic at http://bloodskies.com/

The Modern Writer: Authors and Audience

The modern era has brought an unprecedented level of connectivity to the world in general, and that has spilled over into the world of the modern writer.

With Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and an Author’s website, readers can interact with their favorite authors 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

This level of contact can present both problems and advantages, both for the author and their audience.

Continue reading

When Stories Grow

by Bruce Blake

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WHEN SHADOWS FALL (The First Book of the Small Gods)

WHEN SHADOWS FALL (The First Book of the Small Gods)

As I write this, I’ve just finished the pre-planning for And Night Descends (The Third Book of the Small Gods). The second book (The Darkness Comes) is with the editor and it was time to forge on. For those of you who haven’t read When Shadows Fall yet…first of all–shame on you…the story follows a number of storylines (7 in the latest books) and even more characters, so my first step is to do a quick sketch of  where the story will go. It’s nothing too major, just the guidelines that will lead to the outline, but it serves as the bones of the story.

Today, it scared me a little .

My own stories typically don’t intimidate me, but one storyline seems to have taken an abrupt left turn I wasn’t wholly expecting. Even that’s not so bad, but the trouble is: I don’t have any idea how it can possibly end up reconnecting with the other storylines. I’ve had similar things happen before in my writing and taken joy from it; my thinking is that if I don’t know where it will go, that should be a good sign the reader won’t either…always a good thing.

This time, however, I’m worried the direction it’s going may have added another whole book to the series.

So the question becomes: do I write the story as planned, or do I re-think it to keep it from growing out of control?

NOT the cover of THE DARKNESS COMES

NOT the cover of THE DARKNESS COMES

I lean toward the former. I prefer stories to grow organically rather than force them into places they weren’t intending to go. At the same time, I’ve kind of been expecting this series to run to six books and don’t want to end up doing a Robert Jordan on it. Who has the patience to either read or write a series of 10+ books?

In the end, I’m confident I’ll write the story as it needs to be written, but it caught me off guard when I found out where Teryk was headed off to. Dilemmas and dead-ends tend to sort themselves out the more times a writer’s fingers punch those little lettered keys, so that’s probably what I’ll do.

What would you do, fellow authors? Have you ever scared yourself?

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Bruce Blake is the author of almost nine books, all of which he loves dearly and wishes more people would buy. If you’d like to help his Christmas wish come true, you can find his books here, here, here, or here. If you don’t feel like spending the money, you can also check out some free samples here, or find out more about Bruce here.

Happy Holidays!

Getting to the Point

by Autumn M. Birt

I’ve been working hard on the final book to my epic fantasy series, the Rise of the Fifth Order. Things have been flowing good, but a few weeks back I was typing away and hit a wall.

It wasn’t writer’s block.

I’d just started a new chapter and it wasn’t flowing. I picked and prodded, typing notes to myself more than really writing. What I ended up typing after a few minutes was this:

Writing with purpose

That really summed up my feelings at that moment. I had no idea why that chapter was supposed to be there. I knew it HAD to be there for a variety of reasons: pacing, character development, so forth. But what it added to the entire arc of the story… I had no concept.

That is why I said it was’t writer’s block. I’ve dealt with that before and have learned quite a few tricks. Usually, if I start describing what the character is seeing, the weather, or make the characters talk to each other. Everything gets going again. I can delete the bits I don’t need later, no problem. Usually it isn’t too many wasted electrons.

But when it comes to a whole chapter that I truly feel needs to be there but can’t fathom how it progresses the actual story one iota… well, then I get stumped.

The advice to ‘just write!’ is great, but isn’t entirely realistic. Like so many other indie authors, writing for me isn’t a full time gig. I have a full time job, a husband, family, a house (which we finally moved into btw). On an average week, I can cobble together eight hours of writing time. That is in bits and pieces, usually at least half an hour, but sometimes less. I actually get a little gun shy when I find over an hour and a half of solid time that is empty of commitments and I am free to write. It gives me a nagging feeling that I’m forgetting to do something (like cook dinner). Hmmm….

Sure, if you look at the basic numbers with eight hours of writing time in a week and an average productive typing speed of 60 wpm, I could write a 90,000 word novel in Pi… errr, just over 3 weeks (I love math!). But if most of that ‘novel’ has no plot or direction and I have to delete a third of it… well, I haven’t really written a novel,  have I?

Now THIS is writing with a purpose!

Now THIS is writing with a purpose!

There is more to a story than typing speed and words on paper.

To actually produce enough words written in an order that tells a concrete tale within a year, I need to have a strategy to use my time efficiently. That is why I’m (1) a plotter and write when I have a solid storyline already in mind, (2) write notes to myself within the novel on the set up of future chapters and events, (3) work a lot on character development before I write, and (4) don’t waste my time writing things that I just KNOW I’ll delete (I apparently also make lists. This is new…). I don’t have the time to wander aimlessly in a word forest. I’d rather do dishes or spend time with my husband then stare at a little blinky cursor. When it all makes sense, then and only then, will I sit down to write.

It can be a tough balancing act. There are times I’m wondering if I’m procrastinating. Am I stuck? Maybe I should I try to write – at least flesh out the notes on what I think should happen to see if that clears things up? I love writing enough that I can never stay away for too long. Even the chapter I’m using as an example resolved itself with an ‘aha!’ after a day of pondering. I finally found something to include that was important to the overall plot and story. It added something rather than just existing. Whereupon at that point I abandoned my family, my chores, and dinner to sit down and write (I had to make up for some lost time)!

What about you? Do you find ways to make your writing time more efficient?

– Autumn is the author of the epic fantasy series on elemental magic, the Rise of the Fifth Order. She also has lots of other WIP (read TOO MANY), but she has put them ruthlessly aside to concentrate on Spirit of Life, the final book in her current series. It is going well! You can find her occasionally online on Twitter at @weifarer or on her Facebook page or on Goodreads. But after writing this and realizing that she can write a book in a month, theoretically, well, you might NOT find her online!

In Memory of Divot

Writers sometimes end up researching pretty strange things and finding inspiration in the most unusual places as a result. Divot was one of those inspirations and just like many of the things that influence my writing, his presence was fleeting.

I’m assuming it was a him. It could have just as likely been a her, but I’m not exactly an expert of how to tell male and female crows apart from a distance, so I went with my first inclination. Long before I made any sort of connection with Divot, I came up with the idea of exploring a post-apocalyptic tale from the perspective of a crow. The likeliest survivors would be the scavengers, I hypothesized – the clever ones, the most resilient and the most adaptable – right? Better yet, the likeliest survivors would be the misfits who had already manage to thrive despite their inadequacies, so I made my crow smaller and strange-looking but smarter than his brethren.

Then I started my written research, and I found out many incredible facts about crows. Aside from facts about socialization and breeding practices, I discovered just how intelligent they actually are. They use tools, they store food cross seasons and they have episodic memories. They problem-solve and they can vocalize outside of the range of human hearing (like elephants) so who knows what they might be saying to each other. It provided a lot of opportunity for my story.

But everything I found out about crows made me all the more interested in them. Knowing what I now know, I started feeding some of the local ones and they started identifying me as a “good” human. They have facial recognition when it comes to humans and will label the ones they like or dislike – even attacking the ones they learn to dislike.

And that’s how I met Divot. He was a misfit like my narrator, Ash, only with Divot his peculiarity was a gaping gap in his wing. It meant that he was different and easy for me to identify, and he would make a point of showing up when I was outside waiting for the bus or walking the dog – hoping for food. I thought of him whenever I wrote about Ash. Divot was something in my life that made Ash seem more real.

Well, I’m now on the final chapter of the first draft of “Sifting the Ashes.” Ash’s story has almost come to an end for me. Unfortunately, it has also come to an end for poor Divot. My daughter found his body while on an outing and there was no mistaking the old injury that had scarred his wing, leaving that opening in his feathers. He’s going to be buried in our backyard – gone but not forgotten.

I’ve never dedicated a book to an animal before, but I think he deserves his place among the other people I feel deserve acknowledgement for their contribution to my writing. I hope the book gets published someday so he can claim that recognition.

The world is a sad and mysterious place – and I’m going to miss my little friend.