Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Book Review: The GunDigest Book of the Revolver

The GunDigest Book of the Revolver is a fine book and should be a valuable resource to anyone interested researching, shooting, and carrying a modern double action revolver.  That said, I will list my quibbles, which almost all have to do with what strikes me as a somewhat misleading title.
With a title like ‘Book of the Revolver’, I was expecting a thorough treatise on the revolver, including its history from the very earliest models through current iterations.  I looked forward to a learned exposition on, for example, such things as the Colt Paterson, cap & ball conversions, the Smith & Wesson Schofield, 20th Century refinements and improvements, and such oddities as the Webley-Fosbury semi-automatic revolver.  Nope.  The book ignores all that and instead concentrates on modern, currently produced double action revolvers, and virtually ignores the single actions.
Setting aside my mistaken expectations, the book is an excellent resource for anyone deciding between a revolver and semi-automatic handgun.  Once the decision to go with a revolver is made, the author very clearly and intelligently discusses many aspects of shooting, carrying, maintaining, and customizing the weapon.  Mr. Cunningham clearly states his own personal preferences and why, but also presents alternative views on such things as sight picture, types of grips, etc.  Also, the book has many black and white photos that clearly illustrate the points made.
All in all, once the book’s focus is understood, the GunDigest Book of the [Modern Double Action] Revolver is highly recommended for anyone who wishes to thoroughly understand the weapon.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

1,000 Miles on My Bike

This is off the usual topics, but I can't resist.

Today I made my goal of riding 1,000 miles on my bike in 2011.  As of this writing my iPhone bike app has recorded 1,003 miles of pedaling for the year.  That's inconsequential for serious bikers, but it's not bad for someone who is out of town half the time.  This photo is from early 2011:

With regard to a usual topic, Redemption on the River, Laurie's edit should be done any day now.  (Breathe, chill, go ride a bike.)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Book Review - BADWATER

I enjoyed BADWATER by Toni Dwiggins, an independently published thriller that compares well with traditionally published paperbacks available at any bookstore.  
Cassie Oldfield and Walter Shaws are forensic geologists—a new term to me, but I know about it now thanks to the book—who are called in to assist in the investigation of missing radioactive waste in Death Valley.  The setting is well described, the technology well researched, and the bad guys engineer diabolical plot twists.  The action continues right up to the end.
My only gripe worth mentioning has to do with the narrative perspective.  The book is written in a mix of first and third person that I personally find to be distracting.  I don’t know if this is a recent trend in fiction—this is the second book I’ve recently read that does this—but I find it jarring at each change.  It may well be a personal preference, but I can’t help but penalize a star for it.  
BADWATER gets three stars from me, others who don’t mind the narrative perspective would likely rate it higher.  It is available at Amazon in ebook (at 99 cents as of this writing) and paperback.

Monday, December 5, 2011

I Heard From Laurie the Editor!

My editor, Laurie, was kind enough to send me a short email halfway through her edit of Redemption on the River.  I had to unplug my laptop and take it downstairs to my wife so we could read it together for the first time.  And.....she had nice things to say.

Actually, even nicer than her comments was the fact that she took the time to let me know how it was going.  She normally doesn't send progress reports, but she had somehow sensed from 3,000 miles away how anxious I was and gave me some early feedback.

Whew.  I took some of that just-released pent-up energy and went out for a 38 degree bike ride.  (OBTW, only 22 miles left to go to reach my goal of 1,000 miles for 2011.)

Speaking of pent-up energy, I've already warned Teri that once Laurie's report arrives there is going to be nothing else I'd rather be working on than the book.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Book Review - Super Zombie Juice Mega Bomb

I’m not a big fan of YA—I’m not a YA—but SUPER ZOMBIE JUICE MEGA BOMB is a good YA read about teenagers dealing with a nasty, localized zombie outbreak in their hometown.  The zombies mostly follow the conventional zombie paradigm and rules of engagement outlined in THE ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GUIDE by Max Brooks, save for the fortuitous discovery of an unexpected zombie vulnerability that allows construction of the Mega Bomb.  SCJMB should be enjoyable to any young adult fan of the genre.  

Link to SZJMB on Amazon, the Kindle edition, also available in paperback.

Note:  I'm going to start doing book reviews, focusing on independently published e-books.  I'm hoping that it will be something of a pre-give-back to the independent author community, because I will likely be one myself some day.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Blurb the Blurbing Blurb

In my continuing efforts to keep busy and connected to the book while Laurie ( ) takes her red pen to the manuscript I've been working on blurbs.  If I do decide to pursue independent e-publishing the marketing efforts will be entirely up to me and that includes coming up with an irresistible blurb.

I've found that writing them sucks.

My first thought was to simply adapt one of the 100+ queries that I wrote when I was assuming that I would pursue traditional publishing.  Nope, I finally got through my dim brain that a query and blurb are two different animals.  They're both sales pitches, but one is to an agent and reveals a lot or nearly all of the plot, and a blurb is much more of a cryptic tease that induces a reader/customer to buy the book to find out what happens.

Here is my latest effort:

     A guilty conscience, a woman, a twisted enemy—and redemption rides on a riverboat poker game.
     Mississippi steamboats offer escape and Silas Jacobson tries to forget his past by fighting, fornicating, and cheating at cards.  It’s a hell of a good time, but the guilt is always there.
     Eventually Silas finds a purpose, a woman, and love.  He might also find redemption if he can overcome betrayal—especially his own.

     REDEMPTION ON THE RIVER is historical fiction set on the Mississippi River in 1848.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Holy Crap!

Laurie emailed me yesterday with the news that she is going to be starting her edit of Redemption on the River this week.  It will be two or three weeks until she is done and sends me her report.

Holy crap.

What do I do now?

I recently had the idea to write a few short stories featuring minor characters from the book.  I've outlined a few and started on one.  I'll work on that just to keep myself from climbing the walls while awaiting Laurie's verdict.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Time passes slowly when waiting.........

Just to keep myself from going too stir crazy I've written an Historical Notes afterword to Redemption on the River, which gives background on the historical figures and places in the novel.  I don't know if I'll use it or not, but I just had to do something with regard to the project.

I've also been working on a marketing plan for when the time comes.  It's a brave new world of publishing out there, and I want to be well prepared to sally forth when the time comes.

Of course, as we said in Naval Aviation, a plan is just the starting point for doing something else.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Milestone - Off to the Editor

There it is:  Redemption on the River in manuscript form, painstakingly printed on the home system and carefully hand collated, boxed, and entrusted to the USPS for delivery to the editor.

Now comes what is always very difficult - waiting.  Laurie expects to get to it later this month, then it will take her several weeks to go through it.  I'm hoping to hear back from her by mid-December, but it will be a great Christmas present if it shows up by then.  I figure on buckling down to the rewrite by the first of the year.

As I said to Teri, "Well, before long we'll know whether what I've spent all this time working on is complete crap or not."

Sunday, September 25, 2011

It's Tough Waiting - Meanwhile

I'm in the queue for the editor I picked to begin work on REDEMPTION ON THE RIVER; she told me she expects to begin working on it in November.  In the meantime, I've been doing a number of things.

First, I entered a contest at Red Adept Reviews, namely their Worst Ending to a Novel contest.  I'm proud (?) to report that my entry in the horror genre garnered second place, and my entry in the Romance Category earned a fourth.  That and $5 will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks, but it was fun.

Second, I've been editing an old short story of mine called IAN'S MINE, which is encouraging from the fact that it appears, at least to me, that my writing is much improved from when I wrote it.  I may offer it up for free if & when REDEMPTION ON THE RIVER launches.

Third,  I've been toying with a new novel concept.  With a working title of KANSAS, it will be set in—wait for it—Kansas, in the 1850's.  It's a very dynamic and bloody period in US history and I have the two main characters in my head, but no semblance of a plot as yet.  I have vague ideas, but thus far they take up less than a page in my Moleskine notebook.  Inspiration has yet to strike in a major way.

I think a big reason for lack of motivation for Novel #2 is the hiatus that REDEMPTION ON THE RIVER is currently in.  Laurie Rosin, my editor, advised me to not begin another book as she wishes me to save all my creative energy for rewriting RotR once her edit is finished and returned to me.  She also tells me to only look at Redemption when I want to, as opposed to when I feel like I must, and this is resulting in a very spotty self-edit of version 10.3.  It also causes guilt when I consider Kansas.

Sigh.  As the title of this post states— it's tough waiting.

Here's a picture of the sunrise that I took yesterday from the cockpit on descent into Miami after an all-nighter from Seattle:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

eBook Review - THE JACKPOT

I've recently been exploring the world of inexpensive, self-published eBooks, and while for the most part they have been better than expected, none have measured up to what one expects from a traditionally published novel that has made it through the filtering process of agents, publishers, editors, etc.  Happily, I just read one that does measure up.

THE JACKPOT by David Kazzie  is a first-rate contemporary thriller.  A janitor wins a $450 million dollar lottery, goes to a prestigious law firm for legal advice, and everyone from his 'friends' to his enemies to his lawyers begin to realize just how much money that is and what they could do with it.  Plot twists keep coming and I never was able to predict the ending.

I couldn't find a single flaw so endemic of self-pubbed ebooks—no typos, formatting errors, misspellings, etc.  The author has written an excellent novel and presented it in a thoroughly professional manner.  

I gave THE JACKPOT five stars at Apple's iBook Store; my first five star eBook review.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Funny - So You Want To Write a Novel?

This video hits so close to home it hurts:  So You Want to Write a Novel?

Yes, I wanted to write a novel and I have done so, but I hope it's been with a little more awareness than the wannabe in the video.  Gotta love his optimism, though.

It's interesting also in that the video was uploaded in November of 2010 and is obviously oriented towards traditional publishing as the knowledgable character refers to query letters, agents, and Big 6 publishers.  Now, less than a year later, the video's creator has epublished his first novel.  The times are a'changin'—fast.

At David Kazzie's blog he announces the availability of his new book, THE JACKPOT.  I just happened to have finished my last ebook and figured I would support Mr. Kazzie in return for the great video, so I bought it for my iPad from the iBook store.

With regard to the self-published, low-price ebooks that I've been reading lately, I have to say that on the whole they've been better than expected, but I have yet to come across one that I would heartily recommend.  

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

1,000 Miles on My Bike

Okay, this is off of the usual writing topics, but today I passed the 1,000 mile mark on my bike.

I got it last August for exercise because my right knee is pretty rickety, and I enjoy it far more than I expected.  Now I ride it more for errands and practical use than just riding it to ride it.  For example, I rode it this morning for a blood test then this afternoon to the shooting range, then to stop off at the local brewpub to have our growler refilled.

More on the local brewpub later, it's definitely worth a post, but for now here's a link to a bicycle blog that I like:  Lovely Bicycle.

Also, my daughter and her best friend are eating crow (whether they know it or not) because of their predictions that I would buy the bike, ride it for a few weeks, and park it in the garage to gather dust.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Flash Fiction Contest

I came across a Flash Fiction Writing contest the other day, which is something I'd not heard about before.  (There are many things I've not heard about.)  Austin Briggs offers a monthly contest where entrants respond to a prompt with a 55-word-maximum story.  Yes, 55 words max.  It intrigued me, and on a deadhead leg from Las Vegas home to Seattle I wrote two.

Mr. Briggs further requires a setting,  one or more characters, some conflict, and a resolution.  Oh yes, the title can be no more than seven words, and it does not count toward the 55 word maximum.

It certainly causes one to focus on what's important and agonize over each word chosen or struck out.  In that way it reminds me of my 10+ drafts of Redemption on the River, and the word count reduction from 220,000+ to the current 155,000.  Yes, I've agonized over each and every word of the whole manuscript over and over again.

My entries are The Red Balloon and Kick Me, but rather than show them here I'll link to the Mr. Briggs' September Flash Fiction Contest.  Oh, yes, he also offers a cash prize to the winner.

P.S.  One more thing:  I like the looks of his book Five Dances With Death, and have added it to my eBook List.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Bucket List Items - One & Done, or New Vocation?

I've never had a bucket list, at least in the sense of actually writing things down.  That said, there are certainly things that I’ve always wanted to do and rather assumed that someday I'd get around to them.  Come to think of it, maybe I have had a bucket list, just in nebulous form.
Why bring this up?
I’m wondering how often a bucket list item, once accomplished, leads to a new hobby, a new job, or a new way of life.
For example, I’ve always had a vague desire to climb Mt Rainier, and I may do so some day.  If I do, I really doubt that it will lead me to take up mountain climbing.  In this particular case it is due to advancing middle age, accumulating nagging injuries, and the suspicion that I won’t enjoy it all that much.  Still, the mountain is there so I’d like to climb it, and if I do accomplish the feat I will likely just check it off the list, start pounding ibuprofen, and never do the like again.
My bucket-list writing of a novel, however, has the potential to be a game-changer.  I’ve always liked to write, and over the years I mustered the motivation to write and sell a few magazine articles as well as crank out an annual Christmas letter.  But, in the back of my mind lurked the thought that I should bestir myself and write a novel, and in 2007 I actually began.  I gave myself one year to write it, the first draft was complete after 14 months (not bad, really), I revised up to a third draft, then let it simmer for over a year, and took it up again in the summer of 2010.
I really, really like working on it.  So much so that, although it’s an extremely intimidating thought to think of writing another, I may do so.  Writing is at the very least a new hobby and could very will morph into something bigger.
How often do bucket-list items, once accomplished, become life changers?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Impotence of Proofreading

As posted earlier I've hired an editor, but Laurie is a developmental editor who I hope and expect will do great things to improve my book in terms of the telling-of-the-tale.  She's not a proofreader, which I expect to need once I've produced my best self-polished revision based on Laurie's inputs.

As I understand it, a poofreader is a poison who catches catches misteaks in a banuscript.

So, without further ado, a YouTube video that I discovered via a KindleBoards Author's Cafe post, The Impotence of Proofreading:

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Blog as Journal

This blog is going to move beyond its original purpose, which was to act as a kind of journal of the gestation of my work in progress, Redemption on the River (former working title:  Overboard).  Now I'm going to use it as my general write-about-what's-interesting to me build-it-and-they-will-come (maybe) blog, which will be focused mainly on books and writing, but will have plentiful dollops of other stuff thrown in.  We'll see how it goes.

So, what is the status of the (formerly) Secret Project?

First, the title is almost certainly finalized as Redemption on the River.  It's fairly short, rolls off the tongue reasonably well, and I believe it makes for a good four-word representation of the story.

Second,  I will almost certainly pursue electronic rather than traditional publishing.  There are many reasons for this, and I plan to discuss them in a future postt.

Third, I just completed incorporating the red-ink changes that resulted from three complete, beginning-to-end self-edits of version 10.0.  The changes are not significant to the story, but Chapter 2 is tightened up, some redundancies are gone, and a number of pesky adverbs no longer clutter things up.  The word count dropped from 156,408 to 154,867, a reduction of 1,541.

I have christened the new draft as version 10.3.  Although the changes make the book incrementally better, they are not really significant.  I have been through it so many times the words are starting to wear grooves in my brain.  I am going to do my best to leave it alone for a while, although it will be hard to wait until editor Laurie Rosin gets to it in November.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Shifting Gears

I've given myself a new title - Author.  Given that I consider that I've written a book I consider myself worthy to assume the mantle.  Of course, said mantle has nothing to do with the quality of said book - folks who produce crap as still authors.

I'm also planning to shift the orientation of the blog to focus more on writing about and discussing things that interest me.  It reflects the fact the my book is no longer a Secret Project, and the blog is no longer primarily to document its long gestation.

After some thought I decided to keep the backlog of posts that go back to—gulp—2007.  Many of them cause my toes to curl, but they do give a history of my big project.  I've learned a ton since then, my writing is much better (I think), and I hope that this blog grows from its original very narrow focus.

So, changes in format and subject matter are forthcoming, but right now son Spence is Skyping me and I have to go.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I Have Written a Book - and Hired an Editor

When I started this project my goal was to write a novel. Furthermore, I told myself that I couldn't say "I've written a book" until I had not only written a first draft, but had made the book as good as I could make it. At long last, longer than I care to recall, I've reached that point. After ten drafts the manuscript is as good as I can make it. I've written a novel.

The trouble is, the book can be and needs to be better. I know it can be improved but can't figure out how to do it. I've been over it so many times the words are wearing grooves in my brain.

My daughter recently finished reading it for the second time and said, "Dad, it's really good, but it's not ready to be published. It's like a car with a manual transmission instead of an automatic." My wife just finished her third read and says that the second half is great, but the first half doesn't measure up to the second.

I need an editor. A good editor. No, a great editor.

I researched editors at Preditors and Editors and made a list of about a dozen, then culled it to four finalists. Three offered various levels of editing, from proofreading on up, as well as 'sample edits' of the first chapter. I received two sample edits and estimates for the whole 156K manuscript in the neighborhood $2500.

Whew. Am I that committed to my book and my writing?

Evidently I am, because after much thought and email discussions, I committed to the fourth editor and her substantially higher fee (which I won't disclose). Laurie Rosin impressed the hell out of me with her track record (she has edited 38 national best sellers), experience with historical fiction, confidence in herself and her service, and way of challenging me to be serious about writing.

Throughout this whole project - though the hot and cold spells, the breaks, the highs and lows - I've told myself repeatedly to do the best job I could. Right now, that means sucking it up and going with the best editor I could find. The best, for me, is Laurie, and she tells me she'll get to my project this fall.

I'm really looking forward to working with her.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The $50 First Chapter Flogging

The reviews from beta readers have been almost uniformly stellar, but it is sometimes hard to extract constructive criticism. I suppose it's a good thing that many of them say, "No, I have no suggestions to make, I just loved it", but I'm very aware that the manuscript still needs improvement.

One friend (thanks RL) did do an edit with red pen in hand and she caught a number of things which made me wonder if I am blind, but that's not going to produce the same results as a thorough review by a professional editor. So I paid to get flogged.

Ray Rhamey at Flogging the Quill offers a variety of editing services, from free 'floggings' of reader-submitted first pages clear on up to complete book edits. I popped for his $50 edit of a book's first chapter. Off it went, and he returned it to my inbox in about 10 days.

First, Ray does a thorough job and his $50 flogging is well worth it, particularly if you've never had your manuscript looked at by a pro before. He returned 60+ individual edits and comments, as well as a summary overview of thoughts and suggestions.

Second.......... Holy crap. Looking at the trees rather than the forest for the moment, I had thought that Chapter 1 was relatively clean. Wrong. It's covered in green with erased adverbs, inserted commas, struck-out adjectives, etc. Sigh. I particularly appreciated his finding potential point of view (POV) errors, something I haven't been watching for closely enough because it's pretty easy to err that way when writing in first person.

The forest: In Ray's FWIW (his signature line) opinion the opening, indeed the whole first chapter, is too slow. He finds not enough story tension, conflict, and sense of plot. Not enough hook early enough. Hmm.

His major point, and it's supported by numerous blogging agents, is that you must hook an agent's - or a reader's - interest no later than the first page or you're done, you've lost them.

I returned (in an email exchange) that there are plenty of fine novels that start slowly. He granted that, but allowed as how those are almost always by established authors who can, so to speak, get away with it because agents, publishers, and readers will give them the benefit of the doubt and persist through a slow opening.

I'm thinking that may well be true, but I'm primarily concerned with writing the best book I can, not necessarily the book that will best appeal to an agent reading the first page.

Furthermore, although I have had beta readers comment that the opening is slow, when I did cut about 1/3 of the first chapter to open it in the afternoon rather than morning of the first day, some beta readers complained, saying, "Oh, I loved the opening and being eased into the story, you should have kept it."

Sigh. What are you gonna do?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Yet Another Edit Complete

The current hard copy of the project is 9.0, which is in accordance of the software version type of numbering scheme I've been using. I just finished another complete red-pen edit of the manuscript.

What is amazing to me is the number of times I can go through this thing and still miss such obvious things as missing words, doubled words, misplaced words, grammar mistakes, punctuation, etc. I estimate that I've been through the whole book from start to finish, on the laptop or on hard copy, in editing mode at least twenty times and I still find errors.

And that's not even to talk about the things that I'm really trying to find and improve. Such things as awkward phrases, clich├ęs, redundancies, characters who enter a room they never left, and just plain trying to make the writing itself better.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

80 Query Iterations

I just did a quick count of my query efforts and realized I've written approximately 80 of the darn things. The early ones are pretty embarrassing and, thankfully, will never see the light of day. I think the latest and greatest might be pretty good, and it's posted over on Nathan Bransford's query critique forum:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I'm Back

Holy smokes I had no idea that it had been this long since I'd paid attention to this blog. Several things led me to ignore it.

First, I realized that, based on feedback from beta readers, I realized that I had to do a MAJOR rewrite of the Overboard, including a 100% rewrite of the entire second half of the book. As my last post says, I couldn't decide what to do, and that led to my motivation deserting me for well over a year.

Second, last summer (2010) my motivation mysteriously reappeared stronger than ever. I realized that I needed to follow the story where it led rather than where I had planned it to go, and I sat down to write. I set a goal of completing the major rewrite in six months and I made it happen. Then the follow on rewrites started.

Third, I realized that I was spending far too much time reading blogs and websites rather than working on the novel, and this blog was part of the distraction. I made the decision to ignore the blog until I felt that the novel was finished or nearly so.

That time has come, the book is ever-so-nearly-done, and I need to start thinking about how to seek publication, should I decide that it's worthy to do so.

More on that and a lot more later.