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Archive for November, 2011

You Can’t Fight Crazy

November 14, 2011 3 comments

In addition to my day job and writing I also own Novel Concept Publishing with J.E. Taylor. Jane is primarily the editor and person who determines the thumbs up or thumbs down on submissions, but she defers to me when it comes to science fiction and fantasy stories. Thus far we haven’t had a lot of stories in those genres submitted to us, but one early one came from Marc Hamlet and I jumped at the chance to help him out and publish The Capable Man. Great sales on it thus far have reinforced my decision. But that’s just filler and an attempt to drive a little more traffic Marc’s way. Now onto the crazy…

The nature of the game is that for every one title that is accepted, there are a greater number that get turned away. It’s not out of spite and it’s not because we’re afraid to take on the work. It’s because the manuscript just won’t work or it is need of so much editing that we don’t feel we can take it on. In some cases that disappoints me, because I see some potential in a story but I know it’s going to take too much work to bring it out and make it shine. Between my schedule and Jane’s we wouldn’t be able to devote the attention it requires. I had one of those just recently, in fact, and I’m hoping that writer takes the feedback I gave him to heart and acts on it.

Then there’s other submissions that won’t work because they read like a plate of spaghetti. Nothing makes sense, there’s no proper flow to it, the sentences are jumbled, and perhaps even accepted formatting standards are blatantly ignored. I had that recently too. My first thought was to suggest the author try writing it in a version of English I might understand, but I realized that might sound inappropriate. After all, writing a novel is a lot of work and putting that much effort into something deserves a degree of respect, even if it does read like a randomly generated spam comment.

So I sent a respectful rejection letter. There’s no such thing in NCP’s library as a form letter, everything we do is hand written and tailored to each person. We want to help out even those who aren’t ready yet, such as this case. I offered some feedback and suggestions, even a direction I thought the writer should take. At no point was I rude or belittling. The almost immediate response I received from the writer was:

Piss off and get lost!!!!!

My reaction? A moment of shock, a moment of sadness, and then laughter. What else can you do? I shared it with my wife, who went through the same emotional process I did, then I shared it with Jane. Her response turned into the title of this blog.

The lesson for writers everywhere is to keep an open mind. Take feedback in every form and use it to improve yourself. Equally importantly, act professional. Burning bridges and flying off the handle doesn’t get you far in the world. Unless this particular would-be writer can open their mind and learn to accept feedback, they’ll forever remain a would-be.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Writing Outside of the Box

November 13, 2011 Leave a comment

I had somebody ask me a while back on this very blog if it was suicide for a writer to write in more than one genre. My feelings are that it should be quite the opposite, and here’s why.

I’m a science fiction writer, but my second most successful series is a fantasy series called Voidhawk. Granted, Voidhawk is a space fantasy, but I assure you there is little to no science to be found in it. I’ve also dabbled in a few other genres, including romance. Only once so far, but it was a fun experience and I may very well revisit it in the future. So with that said I clearly have no qualms about jumping genres. In fact many of my titles cross genres. I’m reckless like that. I’ve been known to let my veggies cross the line on my plate to mingle with my steak as well.

I believe in a story, whether its mine or not. The story, if it’s good, determines how enjoyable a read it is, not the genre or length. So you’ve got astronauts landing on a derelict space ship, neat. They stumble into a locked vault that hasn’t been opened in centuries? Cool. Their are giants entombed in the hold with the bodies of horses? Rock on! They just woke up and sank their fangs into the human astronauts, sucking out their blood and turning them into vampires? Um…sure, why not?

My stories aren’t quite that exotic. If I could find a way to make it work I wouldn’t be opposed to giving it a shot. I do have a series that starts with urban fantasy and jumps heavily into paranormal (Dark Earth). From there it continues to blend in science fiction and more paranormal (The Lost Girls, Voices), and also introduce a heavy dose of mystery / hard boiled detective (The Lost Girls, upcoming release of Traitor).

Readers are smart people. They know what they like and when they find it, they’ll read it. In most cases they’re not going to view a writer who strayed from their chosen genre as a traitor. In fact, it’s far more likely that they’re probably going to be more likely to step out of their own comfort zone and try something out of the ordinary because of it. I have a few readers who have told me that they’ve strayed into unfamiliar waters because they liked my writing style. The end result was them being excited at being introduced to a new genre.

Now if you’ve got a genre where you’re consistently nailing best sellers with each release it might be prudent to stick with it. Otherwise expand your horizons and branch out. Try something new, you’ll grow from it and more than likely grow your reader pool, rather than decrease it!

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

The Future Awaits

November 13, 2011 2 comments

I released Vitalis – New Beginnings a couple of months ago to begin a new futuristic space-based science fiction series. And if that’s not enough buzzwords for you, it ends up including dinosaurs, pirates, and an undiscovered planet. The story is centered around a woman who has trouble recalling much of her past. She has skills and bits and pieces of her memories, but no good explanation for why she’s so good at what she does. In fact, she doesn’t think very much of herself in spite of her continuing successes. One thing happens after another and she ends up saving the lives of most of her crew on the transport ship she’s piloting. Unfortunately, she ship itself doesn’t fare so well. The good news – they’ve made it to the aforementioned undiscovered planet. That’s where the alien dinosaurs come in.

Now I’m happy to say book 2 in the series, Vitalis – The Colony, is getting ready to launch. I’m working with Willsin Rowe on cover art for it. And by “working with” I mean he’s doing virtually all of it with me giving a thumbs up or down. My experience with Australians is limited but if they’re all as laid back and decent as Willsin is, then I’ve got an entire continent worth of people I’d really like to get to know.

The Colony takes up a few months after New Beginnings left off. Those that survived are making a living as best they can on the hostile new world, but the problem is they’re stranded light years outside of human settled space lanes and they’ve got no means of communication. They did launch emergency distress signals towards the core worlds before they crashed – the question is, were those signals received and if so, how long must they wait until a rescue mission is mounted?

Not to worry – you can find out the answers to some of those questions as soon as The C0lony is released! Stay tuned to my blog, website, Facebook page, and tweets to find out more. The first book earned some great praise, including a review that called it Fantastic and a great introduction to science fiction.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Starting Over

November 11, 2011 Leave a comment

I emerged from my warm house this morning to find a blanket of heavy snow on the ground. I believe I may have said a bad word. Or five. I need new windshield wipers on my car and my windshield washer fluid is low. Oops, another bad word just slipped out. Yes, it’s November and yes, I live in northeastern Ohio. Suck it up, right?

Well not to worry, in spite of the inconvenience of cold hands and slow drivers, I remain positive. Very positive, in fact, because Willsin Rowe and I finished a great new cover for one of my books last night. The book is Dark Earth and it was supposed to be my attempt to enter the YA genre. It turns out I have a hard time telling a story from the perspective of a thirteen year old girl, so instead it launched my first foray into urban fantasy / paranormal.

Dark Earth follows Eric Baxter, a devoted single father who has not had the easiest life. His daughter, it turns out, is very special. So special that people want to kill her. It becomes Eric’s job to protect her, even if that puts the world as we know it in jeopardy. We all know the good of the many is supposed to outweigh the good of the few, but try telling that to a man who’s lost everything except his little girl.

In the process of keeping her safe Eric learns that part of what makes Jessica so special comes from him. He’s got a little something special inside him too, something that comes out when the moon is full.

Dark Earth also establishes my Dark Earth series. Already published in this series are The Lost Girls and Voices, with Traitor pending release in December of 2011 or possibly early in 2012.

Paranormal thriller Dark Earth

Dark Earth, by Jason Halstead

Amazon

Amazon UK

Barnes and Noble

Smashwords

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

A Rare Quiet Moment With J.E. Taylor

November 11, 2011 4 comments

I cornered Jane recently and forced her to answer the questions. It wasn’t really under duress but then again, history is written by the conquerors… Of particular note I have personally read her book, Vengeance, and it was a very captivating read. I highly recommend it (and her others).

Tell us about your books – share some of your misery with other would-be writers to give them hope.

My publishing journey has been a bumpy rollercoaster ride to say the least.  I started writing in 2007 and by this, I mean every waking moment when I wasn’t at my day job or attempting to feed my kids and get them to their activities – I wrote.  For eighteen months, I plunged head down into this alternate world of fiction, fantasy, sex, violence and crime.

When I submerged from my writing stint, I had eight novels – eight full-length novels.  Of course, those first drafts sucked.  But I didn’t know that – I thought they were the next best selling phenomenon – the best thing since sliced bread, you know – I thought they rocked.  Wrong!  So very wrong!

I also didn’t know the first thing about querying agents.  So, by the time I had figured out the right way to approach the query-go-round, I had burned the bridges of my “most wanted agents” list and I just wanted to hide under the dining room table in embarrassment.

After a litany of rejections and some shrewd advice from a wonderful writing group I joined, I took some writing and editing courses and honed my craft, applying what I learned to my manuscripts.  Then I started searching for a home.

The first three books I wrote were not mainstream. Nope, they were edgy erotic thrillers. A serious blend of steamy scenes and violence along with a paranormal twist that no one expects.  The first book in the series – Survival Games – either people LOVE it or they can’t get through it.  There’s no middle ground on this one and I was floored when I got a publishing contract from a small erotic press and Survival Games went on to get great reviews and even a Grade A Select rating from Romance At Heart.

So my next hurdle focused on getting my FBI thriller series out the door.  The first in this series had the original title of Mirror Lake and I attempted the agent route again, getting a couple full manuscript requests that really didn’t lead anywhere outside of some decent feedback.  I took what those agents said to heart and dove in with new edits.  I also rebranded it under the title Dark Reckoning.  So with the re-tooling of both the book and the blurb, and re-branding under a more appropriate title that fit more readily with the other two in the series, I started getting more read requests from agents.  But by this time, my erotic publisher announced the opening of a sister company that would focus on mainstream fiction.  I veered from the agent search and jumped at the opportunity – and Dark Reckoning – the first in the Steve Williams series – found a home.

Why self-publishing?

Well, after going through the publication process for the Games Series as well as Dark Reckoning and Vengeance, and working for my publisher formatting and uploading to distribution sites as well as editing manuscripts for the better part of a year, I decided to step out on my own for Hunting Season.   About that same time, my publisher announced she was reverting to a co-op, which meant they’d still collect a cut off the top – but offer no other services.  The author’s were on their own for cover art, editing, formatting and uploading as well as requesting reviews.  I didn’t see an upside to this and I had enough experience under my belt, so I opted out and pulled my books with me.

About that same time, another author under the same publishing umbrella approached me about a venture – starting our own publishing house.  Novel Concept Publishing, LLC was born and you guessed it – my partner in crime is none other than Jason Halstead (Editors note: Jason Halstead is a great guy).

And my latest release through our publishing house is the fourth book in the Steve Williams series: Georgia Reign.

What advice can you give to other writers trying to be published?

Here’s a check list that may help you before you begin the submission process:

  1. Do you have too much back-story in the beginning?
    1. Back-story dumps can slow the pace and bore the reader, so make sure your back-story is limited to what the reader NEEDS to know.  You as the author should know far more about your character – but limit the information to a need to know basis.  If it does nothing to move the story forward, kill it.
  2. Do you have a consistent point of view?
    1. If you head hop – it will dilute the impact of the story and create an emotional abyss between your characters and your reader.  They won’t connect and will likely put the book down.  Think of Point of View this way – what can you see, hear, feel and think? – you’re not seeing things behind you – unless you’re an alien with eyes on both sides of your head – so your characters shouldn’t be able to see someone rolling their eyes or approaching them from behind.  Sounds of someone approaching – yes, but sight – no.  Unless your character is a mind reader – he can’t know for certain what anyone else is thinking – but he can deduce it from the other character’s body language, which means showing the reader the body language too.
  3. Do you show your readers your character’s physical reactions to stimulus?
    1. Visceral reactions – someone jumps from behind a tree and yells boo – do you tell the reader that your character is startled? Or do you show them the sudden jar to the heart, the gulp of breath – or yelp that escapes, the step back – or in some cases, stumbling fall back and then the startled expression or the shift in emotional state when they realize it’s someone they know just trying to scare them.   If you don’t show the reactions – go back and fix this – especially in the scenes that are pivotal in your story where emotional hits make or break the scene.
  4. Have you gone through every sentence, paragraph and scene and validated that it moves the story forward or gives the character more depth?
    1. If it does not add to the story, take the sentence, paragraph or scene out.  Objectivity is one of the hardest things to come by with your own work – but it is a necessary evil.  Do the right thing and trim the fat.
  5. Do you have a great hook/blurb/pitch?
    1. This is necessary to get an agent or publisher to look at your work – this is your foot in the door and without boiling your book down to a marketable slogan, you’ll continue to have a hard time selling your manuscript. This takes practice and some feedback, so find a writers group like the Backspace forum or a Yahoo group in your genre that offers feedback and put the blurb you have up for comment.

I think that’s enough of a start for those writers trying to publish.

Ebooks vs. print books, your preference for writing AND reading?

E-books lately, especially when I’m at the beach.

Kindle, Nook, or something else altogether?

Kindle – and loving it.

How do you find your readers and how do you interact / relate with them?

The main places where I’ve connected with readers are my networking sites: facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Kindle Boards to name a few.  I also have a website and people are free to contact me on any of these platforms to let me know what they thought of my books or to say hi in general.

I know you’re a busy girl, what’s your near to mid future road map look like?

Publish.  Publish. Publish.  J  Not just my novels, but those of authors that we’ve taken under the Novel Concept Publishing wing.

Finally – share a little dirt. I know you figured out a way to balance family, day job, editing, and writing, so what’s your kryptonite?

5 Hour energy drink.  Not kidding.

Actually, I haven’t figured out a practical way to juggle all my obligations.  Something always has to give.  In the past, it has been the family.  Sure I’m sitting in the family room with the lap desk – in the middle of the action, but I’m not really here – and this year, the kids have given me a little grief about it.  Balance is key – and I’m still searching for the perfect balance of business and family life.

Where can anxious readers find you on the web?

Website: www.JETaylor75.com

Blog: http://jetaylor75.blogspot.com

Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/JETaylor/190872939774

Twitter Page: https://twitter.com/#!/JETaylor75

Goodreads Page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3153969.J_E_Taylor

Kindleboards Page: http://www.kindleboards.com/book/?asin=B004WOY07E&sample=N

Amazon Author Central Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003FER8M6

Smashwords Page: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/JETaylor75

 

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

If You Can Dodge a Wrench…

November 9, 2011 Leave a comment

Don’t worry, I’m not going to throw anything. This, instead, is my belief that anybody who wants to write can learn how to do so. It might require some hard work and even some time spent in awkward or uncomfortable places though. And no, I’m not talking about the back seat of a Volkswagen.

People write for different reasons. Some of us think it’s a patch to money and fame (and boy are they wrong!). Others do it because they’re trying to change the world. Still others do it because they love doing it. There are as many reasons as there are writers, but what’s the most important is figuring out why you want to write. I recommend this to every person who wants to get into the business: take some time and write up a short essay on why you want to write. This can and should be a personal document, and by personal I mean something you write about yourself, for yourself. Start with that, you’d be amazed at the understanding you gain just from putting it down on paper.

The next part is all about the mechanics of writing. You have to learn how to write. Not the secrets to technique or story flow, rather the ability to string words together into proper sentences. This can be taught in classes, by practicing, or by reading. It will probably be the worst part of the process, but it’s a necessary part and one that all writers are constantly doing.

Once you’ve learned the correct rules of grammar, the advanced class is in learning when to violate them. Don’t think you can skip step 1 to go to step 2 though. Blatant disregard for proper grammar on a repeat basis is also unacceptable. Think of a PG13 movie – they are allowed to drop the F-bomb twice in a movie like that. The trick is to find the scenes with the most impact and deliver it then and there. The same thing applies with breaking proper syntax structure.

Once you know how to write a sentence the trick becomes learning how to string those sentences together. This is called maintaining a proper flow through the manuscript. The best way to figure this out is once again through practice and through reading. Write something up then find a masochistic friend. Have them read what you wrote and listen to what they think of it. And by listen I mean bend over and grab your ankles – it’s going to hurt the first few times because you think you’ve written the best thing ever, when in fact it probably reads like a fingernail on a blackboard.

You’re ready for the big time now. You can write sentences and paragraphs, but what about scenes? These can be all or part of a chapter, what’s important is that they have a purpose and a tone. Every part of a story should advance that story in some way, whether it’s by exploring the character or actively promoting the plot. Figure out what you want your scene to be and move through it. Don’t be bothered if it changes before your very eyes – that’s typically how my stories work out. Some times I feel like I’m just taking dictation from the voices in my head.

String those scenes together, maintaining a proper flow and explaining to the read what’s taking place every time you switch scenes, and before you know it you’ll have a book. It may not be a good book, but it’s a starting point. From there you just have to keep doing it. Perseverance is the secret, not only in writing but in life.

I skipped over an important part, the book’s concept. I did that on purpose because there are probably as many ways of conceiving and writing a book as their are writers. My idea is as unique to me as every other writers is to them. I may share common themes, but ultimately each one is our own. I know I’ve got something really good when the character(s) take over the story and tell me what to write. It’s awkward, being used by fictional voices in my head, but it also gives me plausible deniability in case they ever find the red stiletto heel boots in my closet.

I’m kidding about the boots, by the way.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

 

The Sound of a Thousand Whispers

November 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Wouldn’t it be neat if people with similar interests had an organized means of helping each other out? Or maybe ‘organized’ isn’t the right word, how about convenient? I’ve been tossing the idea around in my head for a few months now, wondering just what sort of administrative nightmare it would be to try and organize a group of people with similar interests or topics into helping one another out. The results, as always, were daunting.

Then today something happened that knocked my socks off. An opportunity fell into my lap that I viewed skeptically – after all, there’s no free lunch in the world. With suspicion in mind I checked it out. “It” is called Tribberr.com.

The way it works is that people with similar interests join groups called Tribes. Not so impressive yet, but just wait. The Tribberr site receives the RSS feed from your blog and makes it available to everyone in your various groups. These people then have the ability to see the blog and comment on it or go to it, or more effectively to tweet about it and raise the awareness to others who you may have otherwise not have known existed. That means this post, when it goes out, has the opportunity to reach close to 100,000 people, considering the Tribes I’ve become a member of.

And the cost of the service? Free. You just need an invite from an existing member. It looks pretty slick, but I’ve only just started using it today. As with anything I suspect the usefulness of it will be directly proportional to how much work I put into it. The beauty of it is there’s not much work that has to be done. Just logging in a couple of times a day to accept the otherwise automated tweets of people in my tribes.

So I say thank you to the people who created Tribber.com. You’ve saved me a ton of work and thought. Granted, you may have also prevented me from developing a product that would have made me a lot of money – but I’m okay with that. At least up until the point where you buy your first yacht, then I might get a little snarky.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.