Tuesday, November 1

I Can't Help But Speak Up

I want to take a moment to explain a few things, because frankly, I'm tired of people commenting on the issue of a few things that pop up in Spiral X. I don't want to accuse people of not paying attention, but it's clear that people aren't paying attention. If you haven't read Spiral X, then some of this might be spoilery so proceed with caution if you don't like that sort of thing.

Quick note before I get started though. I do appreciate any and all comments on Spiral X, Split, and The Plan (actually, skip The Plan, I know it isn't that good). However, I've received enough specific comments through reviews on one or two issues that I feel they need to be addressed.

1. On the subject of Cheryl's sudden revelation of psychic powers.

This is why I think people aren't paying attention. It first shows up in Chapter 7, and also coincides with the first time she runs into vampires! Tell me, at what point before then was it supposed to come up? Read the first 6 chapters and tell me exactly where that would fit and seem like it was appropriate to bring up at the time. Go on, I'll wait. Nothing? Thought so. My guess, based upon the general comment of it "showing up halfway through the novel", is that people are missing the mention of it during the encounter in chapter 7 and are instead focusing on when it shows up again (incidentally, the second encounter with vampires) in chapter 12. So really, the point here is that it shows up a lot earlier than I think people are realizing, but they're not paying attention and are missing it.

2. On the subject of Cheryl's hypocrisy.

It's deliberate. Very deliberate. I want to make it clear that Cheryl is a flawed person through and through. She's inconsistent. She's human. This really comes out in the second book but it's still on display in Spiral X. I do this for a few reasons. One, I don't like perfect heroes or heroes that appear to be flawed but really aren't. Anita Blake, for instance, is a fake flawed heroine. She was truly flawed at first but she hasn't felt like a real person since her vagina started being able to solve the world's problems. Harry Dresden, however, is a flawed hero. He routinely does things with seem right and jive with his morals, but which ultimately prove how human he is. I will always strive for the latter.

Let me ask you something. Have you ever had an epiphany? Like, even a minor one? Where you're sitting there trying to figure something out and all of a sudden it comes to you and makes perfect sense? Now, think about chapter 4, which deals with Cheryl's break-up with Thom. Doesn't it seem like she has something of an epiphany? I know it's not explicitely pointed out, but her actions (which follow the path of a lot of her actions, being impulsive and emotional (i.e. human)) clearly follow the lines of someone who suddenly put something together. In Cheryl's case, it was the revelation that trust is impossible for her in a relationship. It took someone else's break in trust for her to realize that this was going to be an issue with her, and ultimately forces her to push Thom away even though she might not want to.

3. Subplots

Speaking of Thom, I read a comment on a review blog that talked about how he could have been cut out and wouldn't have been missed. Allow me to put on my writer hat here for a moment and explain a few things. Within a book there is generally one main plot and a couple of subplots that tie back directly to the main plot. Thom is a subplot and he impacts the main plot fairly significantly. He shows up and affects things in chapter 4. He shows up again about ten chapters later and again has something of an impact. The payoff, however, doesn't come until just about the three-quarters mark of the book. The events that occur in that last meeting have a significant impact on what happens in the chapters that follow. If Thom isn't in the book, those events don't happen (or at the very least I have to figure out a new way to make them happen).

So, analyzing the ripples of the Thom pebble in the pool that is Spiral X shows that, 1) He has caused Cheryl to realize that true relationships are nearly impossible for her, and 2) Is the cause of one major death plus has a psychological impact that will extend beyond Spiral X. So no, Thom wasn't just a throwaway character. His subplot is very important, both for Spiral X and going forward.

4. Showing Vs. Telling.

I'll be the first to admit that I have work to do as a writer in this area. There is a balance to be had here though, and while I know I tilted too far into the telling direction, I figure there's enough showing to go around. In fact, in a few articles about the book that mention this I've had some hypocrisy pop up from the reviewer. They'll chide me for telling too much and then later comment on something they didn't understand because I didn't explicitely point it out for them. You can't have it both ways you know.

5. The stigma of an independent writer

On the whole I think I'm fighting a rear-guard action by going this route with my writing. When someone picks up my book, assuming they know I'm an independent author, they go in looking for problems. Instead of simply reading the book and enjoying it for what it is (which, if the 4+ star aggregate review from GoodReads, Amazon, and B&N are to be trusted, is damn good), they're actively wanting it to fail. Plus, right now the genre Spiral X fits in happens to be overrun by romance and Skinemax level erotica, so it's a double whammy because the people most likely to independently review it might be looking for something else going in. Heck, I've had reviewers actively say it was nice to read something other than romance in this genre, but then go on to make comments in the review that clearly indicate they were hoping to read a romance novel. Can't win.

Final comments.

As stated early, I accept any and all comments on my writing. However, I dismiss the majority of them because they focus on aspects that are intentional within the book, such as Cheryl's hypocrisy. The mechanical ones I do pay attention to, if only to know what I need to focus on the next time around. I know Spiral X has flaws, but despite those flaws it is proving to be an enjoyable read to many people. In the end, the only person I'm truly trying to please with my writing is myself. The final verdict from me is that Spiral X is good, but not great. I will strive for the latter but hitting the former isn't exactly a bad place to land, all things considered.

Tuesday, October 25

Why hello there!

It's been a while since I've posted anything here. I could make all sorts of excuses as to why, most of them legitimate, but the truth of the matter is that I'm simply not consistent. It's probably my greatest failure as a person overall, and one that will always be a part of who I am. One could argue that the circumstances of my life have dictated this pattern of beavior and they would most likely be right. For instance, the current house we own is the first time I've stayed in any one place for longer than a small handful of years. It's a level of stability I am unfamiliar with but it is something I have always strived for. At any rate, the gist of this revelation is to basically state that part of the package that is J. J. Westendarp is a bit of inconsistency.

Inconsistancy is why, after four months of being "done" with the first draft of Book Two, I have just now finished the initial edit. That's the initial edit mind you, the one I do immediately after the rough draft to find major inconsistencies in the story and get them corrected before I send it off to beta readers. Which is to say that there's still a lot to do and despite my desire to have a regular release of Eternal War books every year, that won't be possible for 2011. Split is the best I can offer for this year (and is a damn good offering if you want my personal opinion) and The Plan (which is mediocre in many ways but was a good try at a genre I don't normally touch) and for that I offer a bit of an apology because I was hoping to do more. I just got in my own way.

The current plan is to work as hard as I can to get Book Two ready for a release before my birthday, which is in early February. To accomplish that I have taken on a divergence of my routine when I'm not at work, which those of you who follow my Facebook feed already know about. Basically, I remove all distractions from my presence and go to the library to write and/or edit. It has worked out wonderfully so far, and it's a shame I can't do it more often. The main reason I can right now is because the kids are in school for a couple of hours past lunch so it allows me to go there without having to bring them with me. It's truly a distraction free environment. So far it has worked out wonderfully. I was able to edit over half the novel in less than three weeks, and was able to put the changes in as well. I anticipate using this distraction-free method quite often moving forward.

Despite my inconsistencies I am still a very imaginative person so when I get an idea I write it down. To that effect, I have the basic ideas for Eternal War books 3 through 6 already set down, plus at least two shorts. As well, immediately after Book Two I will be sitting down to finish some editing touches to a revision to a fan fiction novel I wrote back in 2005. The changes will make the story my own, though astute readers will know where the inspiration came from very quickly. The reason for doing this is because the most important thing for me to do as a new independent writer is to work to get product out there. And not just any product (a lesson learned from The Plan), but quality products that highlight my two strengths: Characterization and Action. I have the story in hand with this other novel, I just need to flip it around to my own making. In the end, you all should have two novels from me in a relatively short amount of time.

I'll hold from going further than that with my plans but know that my recent foray into distraction-free writing has rejuvinated my spirit as a writer and I feel it is something I can be consistent with. That's a good thing.

Wednesday, August 3

In a Field Near the Rainbow Bridge

Those of you with pets, especially dogs, probably know what I'm referencing in the title. If you don't, go here and read it and come back. My reason for referencing the Rainbow Bridge is because we had to let one of our basset hounds go yesterday.

I trekked up from Corpus Christi for Christmas with my family in '99. My wife, fiance at the time, also flew down from school in Philadelphia to join us. We were greeted upon arrival by the latest addition to the Westendarp household: A puppy by the name of Blue. She was the cutest little thing, but probably the whiniest little ball of fur I had ever met. She'd whine to get up on the couch, then whine to get off the couch, whine for attention, then whine when we gave too much. We fell in love with her though, and during the week or so that encompassed the visit she spent a majority of her time hanging around us. I'd be playing a game on the computer and she'd come in and fall asleep underneath my chair. Once or twice I'd put her in my lap and she'd fall asleep there.

We left after the holiday and I watched her grow up from a puppy. She earned the nickname of "Boo Boo" because she was always getting into trouble, but it was more mischief than anything. We also called her "Blue bird" because it was easy to get her worked up to the point where she'd start howling. After I left the Navy in 2000, I moved back home and my wife and I started figuring out how we were going to start our life together. Blue was a fixture during our tenure in my parent's house. She had continued along the touchy path of life, and had a very un-basset-like demeanor. Still fun to be around but she liked her personal space.

After we moved into our own place and got married, my parents ended up introducing the world to my baby sister. Everything was fine until she started to move around, and Blue being Blue, she didn't like this little pink thing invading her personal space. So she growled, trying to get her to move away. My parents, not knowing any better, reinforced the growling by yelling at her, and dogs being dogs, she attributed my sister as the reason she was getting yelled at, and continued to growl because she wanted her to go away so she wouldn't get yelled at. Eventually they called us and asked if we would be willing to take Blue in. They were afraid she was going to bite my sister. I thought it was preposterous, because Blue was not an aggressive dog. She growled, yes, but it was all gruff. But we took her in and from that point she was our dog.

For the last eight years she has been a part of our lives. The transition was a bit rough but it did happen. We worked on her with training and we were making some headway in that department. She continued to be a lap dog and she had an endearing way of letting us know she needed to go outside if we were sleeping: She'd get up on the bed and lay her muzzle on our face. It was nice having another presence in the apartment.

When my wife's parents moved down, we agreed to share a three-bedroom apartment for a bit to help them transition into Texas. My father-in-law took an immediate liking to Blue and spoiled her rotten. She was a slightly overweight but happy basset hound. During this time we also added another basset to the family, a puppy from another one of my parent's dogs who we named Buffy. For the first few days Blue didn't want anything to do with her, but on the third day, and I'll never forget this, we had Buffy up on the bed. Blue came up and laid down, facing Buffy, and the puppy started pawing her nose. Then Blue's tail started to wag and in her own way she started to play with our new addition. Blue was the dominant dog in the relationship, and they loved to play together though Buffy always ended up on her back.

After our stint with my in-laws, my wife graduated from culinary school and we moved to be closer to her workplace. The two bedroom apartment we moved into had a patch of grass out back of it, and Blue was an easy dog to herd, she never wanted to stray too far from home, so I would take her out to do her business in the mornings without a leash. For the most part I didn't have to worry about anyone coming through, but when someone did, Blue would start growling and rush up to the person. She'd growl but her tail would be wagging, her own unique way of saying hello to passing people. I'd tell them not to worry and move on, that she was harmless, and they would. Just Blue being Blue.

It was in the two bedroom apartment that we learned we were going to be parents and from there we decided it would be better for us to try and get into a house. We found a place we liked and moved in. My son was born a few months later and while Buffy was interested Blue was being Blue and didn't really care one way or the other. She just didn't want to be bothered. Unlike my parents though, when my son started moving around, we did our best to tell her it was okay, and as my son got older we taught him how to be nice to Blue and to move away if she was growling and didn't want to be bothered. We taught my daughter, who arrived the middle of the following year, the same thing. She was a bit bolder though, and seemed to understand Blue wasn't really serious. They didn't become best buddies or anything, but Blue seemed to appreciate the attention from time to time.

As it is with all pets, Blue got older. She stopped being able to get up on our bed and took to sleeping either on the floor in the bedroom or on the couch. Eventually she became unable to even get up on the couch. She played less and less and seemed less tolerant than normal. Earlier this year we had a bit of a scare when she somehow managed to get out of the back yard and we couldn't find her. Right as the sun was setting I spotted her in the front yard of a house about a quarter of a mile away. We still don't know how she made it that far, or how she lost her way home because she had never been one to wander away. Heck, back during our days living with my parents, she got out and we found her sitting at the front door whining to get back in. But we got her back in this case.

We think the downturn in her health had been going on for a while now. The vet said that dogs can be good at masking internal pain, and in this case we may have attributed signs of pain with the arthritis in her hind legs. The true clue that she wasn't doing well came after our recent weekend trip to Canyon Lake. We noticed she wasn't eating or even drinking anymore, and she was throwing up a lot. I scheduled an appointment with the vet, but we were afraid she wouldn't make it that long without being seen to so I took her to an after hours emergency clinic when I got home one day last week. The vet there gave her some shots to hold her over until we could get into our normal vet, which I did the next day. I brought her in and after hearing my explanation of her symptoms they took her in and performed a blood test.

A few hours later we got the news. Her kidneys were failing. Getting better was a long shot, but we wanted to try anyway and they kept her over the last weekend on a special diet with IV fluids to try and flush out her kidneys. She improved a little physically, and started eating again, but the second blood test done on Monday showed no signs of improvement. My wife and I talked about what we would do if that was the news we got. It was time to let her go. We brought her home and I called my parents to let them know what was going on. They came over to say their goodbyes, and I think the visit exhausted the last of Blue's strength. She could barely stand anymore, and couldn't even make it to the door to go outside. It was heartbreaking to watch.

Originally we were going to wait until today to let her go, but after Monday night, we couldn't bear to watch her in pain for another day. We took her in, and sat by her while we waited. I'm not sure how it's done, the euthanasia, at other vet offices, but the one we use gives them two shots. One to put them to sleep, another to send them on their way. They let us know that we could leave after the first shot, since she wouldn't be conscious, so we did. My last memory of Blue will be of her resting peacefully. No more pain. No more worries.

It still hasn't quite hit me, the gravity of losing her. Part of it might be the fact that the last couple of years, she's been more an object of annoyance than of love. She'd wake us up in the middle of the night to go outside. While in the kitchen she would be under foot and get in the way. She'd get in the way of the kids playing, and if we played with Buffy she'd bark at us from her doggy bed in the living room. I won't miss that Blue.

What I will miss is the Blue before that. The whiny puppy and the heaviest lap dog I'll ever own. The dog who had a unique way of waking me up, and the one that was infinitely loyal. The one who has been with me and my wife since almost the beginning. We have lost a friend and family member.

Rest in Peace Blue. One of these days I'll see you again, and we'll cross the Rainbow Bridge together.

Thursday, July 21

Thirsty Thursday #11

Thirsty Thursday is my own recurring meme whereupon I lift a glass (metaphorically speaking) to celebrate the triumphs I have experienced in the last seven days. They can be big, they can be small, but there has to be something because I believe life is all about looking at the positive. It's simply too short and too unpredictable to focus on the negative. So with that in mind, here is why I'm raising a glass today:

1. This isn't necessarily news to those who subscribe to my Facebook feed, but I finished off the rough draft of Bitter Nights last week and am into the Read-through edit phase of the process. Here's how it should work from here, but don't hold me to this because the process is organic:
- Read-through edit is merely trying to see early on what parts of the story need shoring up. However, since I'm close to the material, I obviously need help which means...
- ... it'll go to a few Beta Readers once I have the edits in. I'm going to try and be respectful of the schedules of my readers but theoretically they would get right to it, make their comments and I would be back into the comprehensive edit/revision by the middle of August.
- Comprehensive edit/Revision is just that. I start from the back of the book and work my way forward and try to objectively look at each paragraph and see how to make it better mechanically. Along the way I look at ways to take the reader suggestions and incorporate them to hopefully make the overall story better.
- Once that's done, it's off to a couple of select readers who have final opinion on the product. Assuming it doesn't require any more major revisions, I will run the manuscript through Serenity editor to point out where I need to fix things mechanically.
- Somewhere in that process I'll finalize the title and get a cover commissioned.
- Once all these things are done, then it'll be ready for release. However, in order to make sure there's some "buzz" to go along with the release, I will get advanced review copies out to about five blogs that will be set to post a review on "release day".
- No timeline for any of this. Again, it's an organic process.

2. My daughter turned four today. FOUR!! Where the heck did the time go?

3. Quick shout out to my old childhood friend Devon for the birth of her baby boy, and to an old friend of my wife, Diane, for the birth of her baby girl. It's a baby-fest! That's the third person in about a month who has had a kid, and the fifth in the past year. Love babies. Don't necessarily want another one myself, but I'm happy for others.

I think that's it for this version of Thirsty Thursday. I know it's not much but lately I've been pretty busy and haven't been keeping track of a lot of the little things that I used to. Ya'll stay happy!

Saturday, July 16

I have a blog?

I am not a prolific blogger. It's important to note that this is merely an extension of my life as a whole. I only have enough energy to go around, and as the day wears on, depending on how everything went on said day, my capability to form more than single word thoughts starts to deteriorate. Which is why you'll see gaps in this blog and in my twitter and in my Facebook page that encompass days or even weeks. It's usually when I'm too busy to get around to it, or at least busy enough that it's not the first thing I think of when I have a free moment. Family, School, and Work come first. Writing is a distant fourth. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before but it bears repeating. Some days I can rearrange the order, except for Family because my wife and kids always come first, but at the end of the week, that's generally how it's all laid out.

Bitter Nights (working title) is currently in the first Read-through Edit phase. In this phase, I attack the manuscript as a reader and do my best to focus on the story and any glaring editing issues that need to be stamped out before moving on to the next phase: Beta Readers. I'm working on my ability to show versus tell, the overall pacing, keeping the exposition down to necessity, and doing my best to keep out major repetition of ideas or events. The more I write, the better I get at spotting these issues, which will ultimately end up making for a stronger read.

A lot happens in this book, both on a personal level and on a wider scale. My hope is that I've properly conveyed the issues Cheryl is facing and that her decisions at least make sense. They do to me, but then I'm biased. There's also an expansion of the lore of the Eternal War and you will learn a lot about Father Harold. He steps up to the role Rev occupied in Spiral X, as a side-kick to Cheryl, but at the same time it's a different dynamic than what those two experienced. All the usual characters are there along with a few more. Some you will like, some you won't. I'm looking forward to showing you all here in the next few months. No firm release date, not yet, but I'm going to do my best to make sure the wait isn't very long.

I guess that's it for now. I'll do what I can to make sure the time between blog posts isn't more than a week though. We'll see.

Have a nice day!

Thursday, June 30

Thirsty Thursday #10

Thirsty Thursday is my own recurring meme whereupon I lift a glass (metaphorically speaking) to celebrate the triumphs I have experienced in the last seven days. They can be big, they can be small, but there has to be something because I believe life is all about looking at the positive. It's simply too short and too unpredictable to focus on the negative. So with that in mind, here is why I'm raising a glass today:

1. A special shout out and lead off entry to my best friend Dan. He and his wife have brought a brand new baby boy into the world and I couldn't be happier for the both of them. Congratulations you two.

2. We have pumpkins! I color this as a reason to celebrate because, despite the fact that it's several months still before Halloween, the pumpkin plant in our garden had done a lot of growing and taking over (to the point where I jokingly refer to it as the pumpkin infestation) without a whole lot of producing. That has now changed as we have two growing and a what looks like a couple of more on the way.

3. This actually took place over a length of time but it is only now that I feel like it is an actual accomplishment. My son has graduated into a full-time potty-user. If you're a parent, you understand the significance of this statement. Now we just have to work on my daughter, who has half the equation down and still goes to bed with a diaper on. However, we fully expect by this time next year, or even sooner, she will have broached this milestone as well.

4. We stayed within budget on our grocery shopping this month, but actually ended up buying much more in terms of worth. Our coupon-saving efforts have worked out and we're going to attempt to drop our monthly grocery budget down a bit since we don't need to buy as much for a bit.

5. I discovered something awesome last month that has me giddy and hopeful for my future as a writer. Over the course of about a month, in the Sony e-book store, The Plan, my failed contest short story, had been downloaded over 300 times. I have done no actual marketing on it, so people are basically coming into it on their own. It has also been downloaded a lot in the iBookstore, and while I don't have any numbers there, it has 19 "reviews" (current standing at 3-stars, which just reinforces my thought that I could have done better). I'm also interested in seeing the numbers on B&N when they come in. As an experiment, and to see if it'll help sales to Spiral X, I have permanently reduced the price of Split to FREE on Smashwords and its distribution channels. This was the plan anyway, for later this year, I'm just accelerating it a little bit. The sales were minimal at best, so doing this isn't going to hurt and might even help garner me some new fans.

That's it for now. I'll see you guys in a couple of weeks.

Thursday, June 16

Thirsty Thursday #9

Thirsty Thursday is my own recurring meme whereupon I lift a glass (metaphorically speaking) to celebrate the triumphs I have experienced in the last seven days. They can be big, they can be small, but there has to be something because I believe life is all about looking at the positive. It's simply too short and too unpredictable to focus on the negative. So with that in mind, here is why I'm raising a glass today:

Thirst Thursday

Today I want to highlight the following, which have happened at various points in the last few weeks.

1. As posted before, I'm a huge Dallas sports homer (except for the Stars... NO GOAL!), so consider this my fan post about the Mavericks NBA Championship. YEAH BABY! I got my sports cry on the next day watching the mini movie put out by the NBA on YouTube. The point I got choked up was when Shawn Marion and his mom were hugging and she was crying and saying, "We did it baby!" Indeed they did. The players are the ones who do the task, but it's the coaches, the trainers, and ultimately the family members who back them up. When they won, everyone won. *sniffle* Consequently, that's why I haven't been around for the past week.

2. Finished my previous classes, Small Business Management and Intro to Java Programming. I aced both classes. For my SBM class I had to submit an actual business plan, which I did for my business as an author. The professor (Dr. Fail!) said it was very well done and wished me the best of luck. That said, being able to see three years into the future and what the goal is by that point, I'm better able to put the present into perspective and realize that I have time before this become viable as a career.

3. Son finished pre-K and he's set up for Kindergarten. Looking forward to not having him around for a bit during the day. Won't be complete silence because daughter is still only going to Pre-K, but a couple of hours of childless silence might slow down some of the grey hairs creeping in (not really).

4. New Boss-Boss at work. I have a lot of confidence that he will bring about positive change to the culture around there. Which is a good thing, cause things haven't been all roses and kittens for a couple of years.

And that's it.

Thursday, June 9

June 9th Journal

Starting Word Count: 65,824
Ending Word Count: 66,867

Much better day writing wise but I was seriously distracted most of the day and could have gotten more done.

Line: I pulled the trigger, and in a split second the back of the vampire’s head disappeared in a spray of blood, bone, and brains.

Earned one hour of playtime from writing, but I also did some schoolwork and chores so I tacked on an hour for that as well.

Game: NBA 2K11

Summary: Two tough games. Miami game was a loss, mirrored parts of the series going on now, down in the 4th but fought to come back and came up short. Then a last second loss to Orlando as well. Ah well, can't win 'em all.

Wednesday, June 8

June 8th Journal

Starting Word Count: 65,614
Ending Word Count: 65,824

Didn't get a lot done today because of a couple of reasons. The first of which is that today was the first day of the new term, so I had to go through the usual start of term rigamarole of introductions and syllabus and such. Plus, at work we're doing a fair about of installs for a refresh project and I didn't have a whole lot of free time. Plus, when I did have free time I found myself looking up articles about the Mavs win last night.

Line: Father Harold had always said the vampires, at their core, are still human, and still thought much like a human.

No earned playtime but I decided to use my 'banked' hour after my Mobile Systems seminar.

Game: NBA 2K11

Summary: Game against the Suns. We killed them and won by 20. Next game is against the Heat. Let's see if I can beat them senseless. /smile

Tuesday, June 7

June 7th Journal

Starting Word Count: 64,596
Ending Word Count: 65,614

Close to being done with Chapter Twenty-One. Going much like I expected. Sometimes what you figure is going to happen ends up changing a little as the story is told, but there isn't too much deviation from what I had outlined. I did recognize something I need to change to sort of have things make more sense, but I'll get to that in the revision.

Line: For a long moment, the flash and blur of movement too fast to catch fully with the human eye was all I saw.

I did a little over 1000 words so that's one hour of playtime.

Game: None. Watching the Mavs in the Finals, so I'm banking this one hour for the weekend.

Summary: N/A

Monday, June 6

June 6th Journal

Starting Word Count: 63,570
Ending Word Count: 64,596


Line: "You and me!" I shouted to Brett. "Get in front of him so the way is blocked."

I did a little over 1000 words so that's one hour of playtime.

Game: NBA 2K11

Summary: Tough loss to the Trailblazers. Back and forth all game long, and it ended up going into overtime. Unfortunately, I had five fouls and was the only member of the team on a hot streak going into it. I fouled out a minute into the extra time, and they never scored another point. So we lost.

Sunday, June 5

June 5th Journal

Starting Word Count: 62014
Ending Word Count: 63570

Finished Chapter Twenty, and things are about to get interesting.

Line: Everyone here, even those without a lick of psychic ability, knew where we were going.

I earned two hours for 1500 words, plus I added an hour for getting the lawn done (front and back).

Game: NBA 2K11

Summary: Actually ended up only playing two games because after the third game, it crashed and I was forced to reload a previous save. No biggy. Two wins and one player of the game. Mavs sit 4th in the West.

Saturday, June 4

June 4th Journal

Starting Word Count: 60514
Ending Word Count: 62014

Started into Chapter Twenty and it's the calm before the storm.

Line: "I want weapons hot, but do not shoot civilians, even if you think they might be vamps. If you have to, pop a knee and move on."

I earned two hours of playing time for 1500 words.

Game: NBA 2K11

Summary: Been on a kick with the Mavs in the playoffs and now in the Finals. I also love Role-playing Games and the 2K games have something called My Player, which fits into that neatly. So I started a player a few weeks ago and have been having a blast. I'm on the Mavs (of course), and currently sit as their second best scorer behind Dirk. Right now I'm actually the #1 scorer because he's playing hurt and gets a lot of bench time, but normally he's the first option. Mavs are 4th in the West at the moment, and we're roughly 1/4 of the way through the season.

Something New

I'm going to try something new to keep myself motivated to write. I've always done what I could to balance out my fun with the things I consider work. And to know me is to know that if it's not fun, it's probably work. It's no real secret that work on Bitter Nights took a massive dive around the time of my vacation back in April. I'm at a loss to explain what happened, but I think it's best summed up as a need to take a break. I'm doing this writing thing while also being a father, working full-time, and going to school full-time. As tough as it may be to say it, the writing really does take a back seat to all of that. Family is obvious, work pays the bills, and school will eventually pay the bills. However, that's not all of the reason why I stopped playing. Because when I check out, I check out. So the rest of the truth in this is that I went on a gaming binge. When I had spare moments, I'd play games. But that, it seems has drawn to a close. At least, I've decided to do something to help me get the best of both worlds.

From now on, I can't play any games until I write at least 1,000 words for the day. Then, I get an hour. For every 500 words beyond that initial 1,000, I get an additional hour. And that's how it's going to work. When I don't have anything to write or edit, I will outline. The gist of it is that I need to put the writing ahead of the gaming. And so far it's working, as this is my 3rd day on this.

However, I think I need something else. I think I need to let you all in on what I'm doing. So at the end of the day, before I go to bed, I'll do a recap of what I've written (without spoilers) and something that happened in whatever game I'm playing. One, it'll put content on this blog, which I will admit has been woefully lacking. Two, it's a way to let you guys in on what I'm writing, a way to keep you informed of my progress. Three, I'm a gamer, so I like crowing about the things I do.

So let's give this a shot and see what happens. At the very least, you'll get a week's worth of something to look at.

Monday, May 30

Memorial Day

Memorial Day has a special meaning for me. I'm a Navy vet, having served four years from '96 to '00 and conducting two tours in the Middle East. I did my service, left honorably, and still count it as one of the best decisions I've made in my life. In fact, I question at times how different my life would look if I had taken a deal offered by my CO to stick around for another four years. But ultimately, my heart wasn't in it anymore. I knew that when hearing the Star Spangled Banner failed to elicit any response out of me, good or bad. I think if you want to make a life out of serving your country, your heart has to be in it 100%, and mine wasn't.

Beyond that, I have two relatives who unfortunately are no longer around anymore, that I remember often, but especially on days like today. My grandfather, Doyle Johnson, served in the Army at the tail end of World War II, after the fall of Hitler but while Allie forces were still going through the process of putting things back to relative normalcy. Also, my father-in-law, Ron Tasch, who served in the Air Force during Vietnam. The work he did, I'm certain, will never be made public. All I know is that his unit worked closely with the CIA in a place in the Philippines that technically didn't exist until sometime last decade, when documents surrounding it were declassified.

I miss them both, and remember them on this day for the service they gave to this country. /salute

Sunday, May 29

I'm a Sports Guy

I think that's fairly evident, given that I namecheck the Dallas Cowboys as my favorite team in my bio, but it goes beyond that. I like sports. I like competitiveness. I think the best qualities of humanity come out in the midst of competition. The desire, the drive to compete, to do our best. It doesn't matter if the competition is on a field, or in an arena, or in a classroom. Participating in competition is something we all have done as part of our life process. But getting back to sports, I think our collective psyche as Americans live and breathe in our sports heroes, and in our desire for competition.

The Dallas Cowboys are my team. I was a fan during their 1-15 season, and even after I found myself in Buffalo living with my mom, I rooted for them. Their first two Super Bowls of the 90s didn't win me over any new friends. It was in Buffalo, however, that an appreciation for Basketball and Hockey came into being. Buffalo is a hockey town, first and foremost, which is why I think that if the Bills ever do move, it won't be a catastrophe. Take the Sabres away, however, and there will be blood. Now, Buffalo doesn't have a basketball team (fun fact: The L. A. Clippers were originally a franchise in Buffalo), but the 90s had a certain superstar by the name of Michael Jordan. It was impossible not to see him everywhere you turned. So it was during that time that I learned the rules of both games and found an interest in the competition therein.

It wasn't until recently that I gained an appreciation for Baseball. I have my good friend Bill to thank for that. He's a die-hard Rangers fan (and one could say long-suffering), and it was through him that I gained insight into the intricacies of how a game plays out. It helped that last year the Rangers made it to the World Series. One of the first things I did when they knocked the Yankees out of the ALCS was call up Bill and congratulate him on the accomplishment. He's not on the team, and is just a fan, but as a Sports Guy, when a friend's team succeeds, they are part of the experience.

I am lucky to live in a 4-sport town. Granted, I don't follow the hockey team (may they rot in hell), but in the age of the internet, I don't need to live in Buffalo to follow the Sabres. Though, being able to see them on TV would be nice. So I get sports all year long. It's nice, being a Sports Guy, to always have something to look forward to. And right, now it's a good time to be a Dallas Sports Guy. And here's why:

Saturday, May 21

Fail Over

Somewhere around the middle of the day, Verizon resolved their issue and I could access my email again. So people can once again (not) send me email.

On another, non-fail note, I love our new desk. Not only does it look good, it's big enough to keep everything associated with it on top and still have room to spread out my notes and whatnot. Went out yesterday and got a wireless adapter for the computer so I could move it from the old desk to the new one. Our router has long had wireless, and we use it mainly for the laptop and my mother-in-law's netbook, but I've always just plugged a cable into it for a connection when it came to our main computer. With the new desk being somewhere else, running a cable just wasn't a feasible solution. Plus, going wireless allows me to put the router back behind the couch, where the wall connection is, and get rid of this ugly blue network cable that's been hanging over the living room entrance since, well, I don't remember. It's been a few years. It's gone now, the old desk is out by the garbage for someone to pick up, and everything looks a whole heck of a lot better.

It was time for a change, and I'm thrilled that it turned out the way it did.

Friday, May 20

Verizon Fail and Random Stuff

In a very odd turn that makes absolutely no sense, I can no longer access my jjwestendarp@verizon.net account. So if, for some reason I can't fathom, someone wishes to get a hold of me, your best bet is to leave me a line on my Facebook Wall. At least, until Verizon gets their act together.

Since I don't want to make a post that's just one paragraph (and a short one at that), here is what is currently on my plate in terms of things I need to do:

1. Small Business Management Final Project - This is a miniature business plan and is what most of my energy is being put towards these days. Like many of my final projects for school, I am not very confident in my ability to produce something that is going to "make the grade" as it were, but that's not going to stop me from trying. The bulk of the work is done, now it's just putting it all together. It is my hope that I will be able to make use of the business plan to potentially finance future works, at least until this becomes a self-perpetuating process.

2. Java Programming - I have a final project due in this class as well, but that's on hold until I get done with the SBM project. In fact, in order to make room for the SBM stuff, I did this week's assignment ahead of time and turned it in yesterday. I'm not really expecting too many problems here, but it's still something I have to do.

3. Catch up on what I've written for Bitter Nights so far so that I can continue writing. I'm expecting that I'll be able to get a lot done over the next month as I finish off my current courses and get to work on the next. Still shooting for an early fall release, but a lot of that depends on how the next month goes in terms of production.

4. Write down the ideas I have for the series. I have not done this yet, and it needs to be done. Currently I have the overarching plot of Book 3, the basic plot of Book 4, ideas about 5 and 6, as well as a sort of 6.5 that be written between 6 and 7. Plus there's the shorts, of which I have three or so in my head that need to be written down. And of course, since The Eternal War isn't the only idea I have, I need to write down my other ideas as well. If only I weren't so good at procrastination.

Thursday, May 19

Thirsty Thursday #8

Thirsty Thursday is my own recurring meme whereupon I lift a glass (metaphorically speaking) to celebrate the triumphs I have experienced in the last seven days. They can be big, they can be small, but there has to be something because I believe life is all about looking at the positive. It's simply too short and too unpredictable to focus on the negative. So with that in mind, here is why I'm raising a glass today:

1. New Desk! For years my wife and I have bounced around between department store desks that you put together yourself. Not this time. We went to an actual furniture store and picked up something that meets our needs and will last us a really long time. So exciting!

2. Savings! My wife continues to expand and refine our budget saving weekly grocery store shopping trips, and so far this month we're over 30% savings. We're already spending less than we normally were, and that's with stocking up on items as we come into good deals.

3. Reading! I read "Legacies" by F. Paul Wilson, the second in the Repairman Jack series and I was struck by the similarities in the pacing of the book compared to what I did with Spiral X. It starts off kind of slow, there's a few "moments" but nothing too heart racing, but it's all build up to the last half of the novel, which starts and does not stop until the end. A very good read. Also the first book I've read in a few months. There's always a correlation between me writing and me reading, and I have to keep up the latter in order to keep up with the former. Me reading is a good thing.

4. Giveaway contests! I am participating as part of a giveaway contest for Mommies Who Love Freebies. Instructions are in Album 1 on the 4th picture (consequently, Spiral X/Split/The Plan are in Album 1 as well). Overall there are something like 500 items up, so if you're a Mommy and you love Freebies, head on over and check it out.

And that's it for tonight. And, because I can, GO MAVS!

Saturday, May 14

Where I Stand

I'm sure the people who follow this blog have wondered about the lack of updates, or really anything substantial on my part for the better part of a month, and I thought it a good time to step in and say a few things.

I'll be upfront in saying that right now I'm really, really frustrated at how things have gone for me in a literary sense for the past few months. It's not because of something someone did, but more along the lines of something no one seems to be doing, and that's buying my books. I've sold less than ten copies across all three titles in the past two months. Half of those sales belong to The Plan, which is kind of odd to me because it's available for Free at Smashwords. But The Plan is, and pretty much always will be, something of an afterthought. I put my best effort into it, didn't make the cut at the Red Adept Reviews contest, and since I know it's pretty good, I put it out there. My focus remains on The Eternal War, and that's where the frustration comes from.

I think I could live with the fact that people weren't buying it if it sucked. However, I have well over thirty independent confirmations that it doesn't suck. I have people who can't wait for the follow up. And yet, despite this, The Eternal War seems to be having a problem gaining an audience. Konrath talks about needing a bit of luck to take off, or that it takes a while for something to find an audience. Intellectually I understand this, but emotionally I find myself unable to accept it. This book is good, damnit! But it seems hardly anyone cares.

I think that's part of the reason why my writing took a dive around the start of my vacation last month. Another part was burnout, that was my first staycation in a long time, and despite my best intentions, I just couldn't bring myself to keep writing all the way through it. Instead I dove into a couple of games, and I've been using my free time almost exclusively in that regard since then, whereas before I would moderate my gaming with writing. However, a part of me wondered what the point was. Why should I write if no one was going to read it? Call the last three weeks my rebellion against doing something without the promise of fulfillment from outside myself.

Now, for those begging me to back away from the edge on this, I'm not saying that I've decided to stop writing. I have too many story ideas in my head to do that, and despite the low number of people who do enjoy what I've written, the mere fact that I do have fans means I can't just walk away. Not anymore. I have people counting on me to finish Bitter Nights so that they can enjoy the next adventures of Cheryl and the people around her. And not only this book, but the ones coming after, the twists, the turns, the surprises, and the eventual moment that will result in people wanting to find me and scream, "Why!" in response to something I plan on doing down the road. This is something I want to do, and I am happy to do it.

Sometimes, the motivation won't be there. And it hasn't been. But it's coming back. I wrote today, something I haven't done in three weeks. I'm getting into the meat of BN, and I'm looking forward to bringing everything to a sound conclusion. Call this me getting back to work. Pity Party over, it's time to buckle down and give my fans a reason to shout my name from the rooftops.

Thursday, May 5

Thirsty Thursday #7

Thirsty Thursday is my own recurring meme whereupon I lift a glass (metaphorically speaking) to celebrate the triumphs I have experienced in the last seven days. They can be big, they can be small, but there has to be something because I believe life is all about looking at the positive. It's simply too short and too unpredictable to focus on the negative. So with that in mind, here is why I'm raising a glass today:

1. In an effort to reduce our costs, the wife and I have embarked on a mission to more effectively use the coupons that come with the Sunday papers and in our mail every week. And by effectively, I mean not just using them because they're available, but coupling them with in-store deals and the like in order to get the best possible deal. With that in mind, we saved about 30% off our purchases this week and loaded up in several items that we won't have to look at replacing for another three months or so... when the next deal for those items rolls around. The hope is that we will reduce how much we spend on groceries by over 50%. This is the perfect thing for my wife to be doing, because she is the list-lady and she loves toying with spreadsheets. Seriously, you should have seen her in our MMO days.

2. Signed up for next term's classes. Introduction to Mobile Computing, and Networking Essentials. Like I've said before, writing is something I want to do, but in the meantime I have to pay the bills, and that's what the degree is about. Now, I really wanted to continue my Java classes, because I've got a good handle on the subject matter and want to push into the more complex stuff, but apparently it's one of those that is only taught every other quarter, and the next quarter isn't one of them. However, the silver lining here is that the book used is the same as the one I'm using now and it's conveniently in e-book form with PDF files for each chapter. Intro to Java is 1 through 8 and Intermediate Java is 9 though 16. So I'll just download the latter and work on that with the other classes since each chapter only takes me about a day to run through. Aside from that, I'm really excited about the next term, but I have to stay focused on finishing out this term.

That's it for this week. Not much, I know, but some weeks there won't be. I'm also being conscious about repeating myself, so there's that as well. There are victories that come every week, but they're not always worth repeating.

Oh, and just to show my homerism here... GO MAVS!

Thursday, April 28

Thirsty Thursday #6

Thirsty Thursday is my own recurring meme whereupon I lift a glass (metaphorically speaking) to celebrate the triumphs I have experienced in the last seven days. They can be big, they can be small, but there has to be something because I believe life is all about looking at the positive. It's simply too short and too unpredictable to focus on the negative. So with that in mind, here is why I'm raising a glass today:

1. Ahh, vacations. Or, more specifically, staycations. I took a week off of work, which equaled two weeks between my working days thanks to a quirk in how my schedule plays out, and it felt great! Haven't had one of these in a while, so if you were wondering where I went after my post on Tuesday, the 12th, then wonder no further. The vacation was buoyed by the fact that my Mother-in-law was out of state at a wedding for most of it, so it was just me and the wife (and the kids of course) for the majority of it. I love my MIL something fierce, but it's been a while since we've had some time like that, and it was needed. 

2. One of the accomplishments for the vacation belongs not to me, but to my daughter. She took a huge step toward becoming a little girl by not wearing pull-ups during the day. It's now only a nighttime thing, and we're hoping she'll transition out of them completely by the end of summer. Those parents who read my blog will understand how huge this is. She'll come running up to me and say, "The wet is coming!" and we'll trot off to the bathroom and she'll do her business. So proud of her!

3. My wife and I took the time during my vacation to start getting our house in order. Both of us work and watching the kids is a full-time job in and of itself, so beyond the normal, everyday stuff, we always felt like everything else was sort of overwhelming. Not any more. My wife found a nice app for our iPod called Motivated Moms that is essentially a daily list of things that need to get done, plus one to five additional things that come around every once in a while. We're a scatterbrained sort of people, so lists are necessary for certain things, and this has been one of those that has helped us immensely. It's now a lot easier to keep up with the day-to-day stuff, and do extra, than it was before. And the important part is that it doesn't seem overwhelming. So things are getting done. It's amazing what a simple list will do for that.

4. I'm rejuvenated for writing! Seriously. The plan was to keep writing during the vacation so that I could hit my end-of-month deadline. But I sort of fizzled and didn't get a whole lot done. Which, while seemingly anti-TT, is actually a good thing. For one, it gave my mind a break. Writing is work of a sort, and the idea of the vacation was to take a break from working. So that's what ended up happening. For another, my mind didn't take a complete break, because I now have a very clear idea of where The Eternal War is going after this book, including what I can do for at least two of the between-book shorts, how Book Three is going to play out, what I want to look at doing with Book Four, and coming up with a major event for Book Six which would then lead to a "History" book about a major character before Book Seven comes along. 

5. Halfway through this term and so far I'm doing very well in both my classes. The Small Business Management one is important to me, since as I highlighted in another post, my writing is a Small Business, however I'm also doing very well in my Java course. For the SBM class I have to write up a mini business plan, and the hope is that I will be able to take that and wrangle some investments into it. 

That's it for now. I'm sure I'm glossing over some stuff, in fact I know I am, but these five were the big ones to me and I thought I would share them. I'll see you guys soon!

Sunday, April 24

Sample Sunday #13

Today's Sample Sunday is brought to you by the Easter Bunny. He has loaded up my kids with chocolate and sugar. Pray for me.

So I'm back after a nearly two week hiatus, which was necessary in order to recharge my batteries. Things have been great around here, which I will highlight some of that in the next Thirsty Thursday post. Sufficed to say, going forward I think things are looking up, despite how down my sales have been. That's because I have a clear idea of where I want to go for the next few years in terms of my writing. It's always nice to have something to look forward to, and my next four projects are going to be both challenging and fun at the same time. I'm looking forward to bringing it all to you.

One more note before I get the sample. Because of my hiatus, which did include a halt in my every day writing, I will not hit my internal date for finishing the First Draft. I'm okay with this, though it does mean the ultimate date I had in mind for a release of Bitter Nights is pushed out. I'm still shooting for a late Q3 release but the actual date won't be hammered down until mid-summer at best. There's also a couple of things that I plan to do between now and then which might impact the release date as well, so until I can solidify a few things, I'm going to be keeping my targets a bit close to the vest.

A few weeks ago I detailed Alison Crawford, intrepid reporter, who was pestering Cheryl about getting an interview done concerning some of the events in Spiral X. Today I bring to you a scene which gives her what she wants, and more, thanks to some help from Cheryl's corporate nemesis, Joseph Redmond. Disclaimer: First Draft, yadda yadda, don't crucify me too bad for any mistakes. Hit the break to read.

Tuesday, April 12

On Business and Writing

One of the benefits of being an indie author is that I have the luxury of being transparent and completely honest in how my business is going. And make no mistake about it, it doesn't matter if you're published by the big six or you're hoofing it alone, the moment you have a book in play is the moment you are a business unto yourself. Joe Konrath recently said in the second half of his talk with Barry Eisler... well, here's the quote:
But I know a lot of writers, and the ability to run a small business is an entirely different skill set than it takes to be a writer (and once you self-publish, you are the president of a small business.) They simply aren't cut out for it.
And it really is true. The Professor for my Small Business Management course spent a lot of years running a music store and as a result he came into contact with a lot of musicians. He said to me, in a discussion during the first week, that the successful musicians aren't necessarily the ones who are the most talented. He knew a lot of talented musicians who struggled to put food on the table. No, the successful ones he knew were those who could blend the talent they have with an eye for how to run a business. I imagine the same is true with writers.

Writing the book is half the battle. I know that now, but when I was set to release Spiral X, I had managed to convince myself that my job was done. That once it was released, I didn't have to do anything else. I was so wrong it's kind of comical when I think about it. Let's face it, when you trying to sell a product, the worst thing you can do is nothing. To not support it. I made a few posts in a couple of spots, but I figured that would be enough. The book would stand on its own. Readers would find it and either like it or not and then pass the word along. Laughing yet?

My wife, bless her heart, pushed me aside and took over the task of getting my book into the hands of book reviewers. She knew I was delusional. I can't thank her enough for what she's done so far, to the tune of over twenty reviews with a lot more waiting for reviewers to get around to it. But getting back to the business aspect of being a writer, she understood something I did not, and that was the need for exposure. It's tough to sell something if no one knows about it.

However, one of the mantras that Konrath preaches is that you can do everything right, you can have a good cover that catches the eye, a blurb that intrigues the mind, an affordable price, and a good book to back those up... and yet you're still at the mercy of Lady Luck. He'll even admit that he has no idea why certain books sell and certain ones don't, even out of his own stable of products. About the only thing you can do is be patient and keep working on taking up virtual shelf space.

That's where I stand at the moment. Sales aren't there, despite my best efforts so far to generate them. I have a bit of a web presence, but not stellar, and I could probably do more to sell myself in that regard. I have a lot of great reviews, and more than a few people in my corner doing their best to sell me to the people they know (or those who read their blogs), but so far it hasn't done much. Lady Luck hasn't looked my way yet.

But you know what? That's okay. Studies show that it can take up to three years for a business to finally take off. By the time I hit the three year mark, I should have around five novels available and several short stories. Each book will likely bring in new readers and if I'm good enough they'll go around to my other offerings. Maybe they'll even recommend me to their friends. The takeaway from this is that I need to keep working. I need to keep working and keep getting better and honing my craft because if I don't, then I will have allowed my business to languish without even really giving it a chance to flourish.

The sales aren't there. But they will be. In time.

Sunday, April 10

Sample Sunday #12

Today's Sample Sunday is brought to you by the minions. Won't you hug a minion today?

For those who pay attention to my random postings on Facebook and Twitter, you would know that I'm over halfway through writing Book Two, which now has the working title of "Bitter Nights". We'll see how well that one holds up through the end. At any rate, I thought I would take the opportunity to present to you a small bit from the very beginning of the novel. 

Disclaimer: This is a work in progress and the final product may or may not match up with what's ahead. It also hasn't gone through editing, so any mistakes are my own and should not be there when everything is all said and done. 

With that out of the way, hit the break to read the first page or so of Chapter One.

Thursday, April 7

Thirsty Thursday #5

Thirsty Thursday is my own recurring meme whereupon I lift a glass (metaphorically speaking) to celebrate the triumphs I have experienced in the last seven days. They can be big, they can be small, but there has to be something because I believe life is all about looking at the positive. It's simply too short and too unpredictable to focus on the negative. So with that in mind, here is why I'm raising a glass today:

1. Crossed the halfway point to Book Two, and since Sunday I've written over ten thousand words, which is something of a personal record for me. I've also just hit a month straight of writing every day. My minimum is five hundred words, which if I can keep up until the end of the year will equate to over 130,000 words between now and then. Can someone say two books in 2011?

2. I had a breakthrough on some of the details of Book Three. Yes, I know Book Two isn't written, but I tend to have a lot of things stewing in my subconscious, and that just happened to be one that bubbled up at an unexpected time.

3. Started work on a collaboration project with a writer friend. We're in the initial idea phase at the moment. This one will take a while because not only do I intentionally want to go slow, but I have to fit this in with everything else going on in my life. As an advisor told me, "Don't ignore your own work just so you can do this." Sound advice. Of course, part of why I'm doing this is to help my writing friend, who has had some issues completing her own work. Maybe having someone like me to help push her along will get her over that hump.

4. On Sunday we replaced our kitchen table with one my parents gave us. They replaced their rectangular table with a round one and gave us the option of taking it. We've always liked their old one, so we told them yes and I picked it up on Sunday. I thought it was funny when my dad looked at my Honda Fit and declared, "It won't fit in there." I simply smiled and five minutes later he was shaking his head, and saying, "I didn't think it would fit." For those interested, a Honda Fit is a lot more spacious than you would think. Mainly because you gain an extra 66% of storage space in the back with the seats down. So anyway, I brought the table home and we set it up later, so now we have a table that'll fit everyone without having to pull it away from the wall.

That's it for this week. A lot of writing related triumphs, which is awesome. 

So what are your reasons to celebrate the last seven days of your life?

Sunday, April 3

Sample Sunday #11

Today's Sample Sunday is brought to you by the Print copy of Spiral X! Buy it HERE today or enter a giveaway contest to win a signed copy at GoodReads HERE.

One of the things I wanted to do with Book Two of The Eternal War series was to expand the world a little bit, both in a lore sense and in the introduction of new characters that have an impact on Cheryl's life. I have done that with three new characters, all of them varying degrees of minor. One I have already highlighted, Joseph Redmond, and you can read the Sample Sunday posts on him HERE and HERE. Today, I bring to you one more.

Hit the break to meet Alison Crawford.

Thursday, March 31

Thirsty Thursday #4

Thirsty Thursday is my own recurring meme whereupon I lift a glass (metaphorically speaking) to celebrate the triumphs I have experienced in the last seven days. They can be big, they can be small, but there has to be something because I believe life is all about looking at the positive. It's simply too short and too unpredictable to focus on the negative. So with that in mind, here is why I'm raising a glass today:

1. The proof copy of Spiral X came Monday, and it looks awesome! I have since approved the book and it is on sale at Amazon as of today! You can go HERE to order it.

2. The first week of the term is over and I am really looking forward to the weeks ahead. Small Business Management, especially, is one that I know will give me great insight into what I'm going to do going forward to build my business of being a writer.

3. The Plan, a short story I wrote for a contest, didn't win the contest I entered it into. However, since I was told by a few people that it was pretty good, I released it into the wild. You can look back to my Sample Sunday #10 post to read the entire thing, or to grab the link to where you can download it for free.

And that's it for this week. Not much, but it's been pretty slow overall. Work on Book Two has slowed down a little but I'm looking for it to pick back up this week.

So, what your reasons to celebrate the last seven days of your life?

Sunday, March 27

Sample Sunday #10

Today's Sample Sunday is brought to you by the word FREE, because that's what you're getting. On Friday I received word that my short story The Plan didn't make the cut at Red Adept Reviews recent contest. This doesn't make me happy or sad really. Like I said the other day, I know I have a ways to go when it comes to my writing, regardless of what other people say. Plus, the genre I was working in wasn't my norm, so it was a gamble. However, it was a win/win proposition. The people I showed it to during the Beta phase said it was good, so even if I didn't place in the contest (top 7 got into an anthology), I could still publish it for free to Smashwords and get my name out there. So that's what I did. I put together a cover image, did some quickie formatting, and uploaded it last night.

So for today's Sample Sunday, you get two choices. Hit the break to read The Plan in its entirety, or hit THIS LINK to go to download it for free from Smashwords. Hope you enjoy it.

Saturday, March 26

Thinking. Knowing. Comparing.

So how good do you think you are at something? Pretty good? Awesome? Not so good?

Okay, now how good do you know you are at something? Is it the same answer?

Now, how good do you think someone is at that same thing? Do you view them higher? Lower? On the same level?

I ask these questions because it's important for me to be able to put things into perspective. I think I'm an okay writer. Based upon the reviews I've received for Spiral X, I know I'm better than what I think. However, when I hold myself up to the writers I admire the most. Eddings, Butcher, Salvatore, Williams, I don't see myself as being in the same league. I want to be as good as them, or better. I have a lot of work to do.

I had an odd conversation with my academic advisor when I was set to sign up for this term's courses. Once I had finished confirming my choices, I was asked, "So how are you doing with your current classes?"

My response? "I think I'm doing okay, but we'll see." Keep in mind that I always have access to my grades, since it's an online university.

A few seconds later, after the advisor had called up my grades, she said, "But you're on pace to finish with an A!" She was confused by my hesitance. I imagine almost anyone would be. Why would a person, who is doing well enough to keep pushing through to get an A in a course, doubt what the end result would be?

It's because of who I am. I never doubt that I will get the grade I'm shooting for. When it comes to college, why wouldn't you give 100% and do whatever you could to graduate with an A? After all, it's money out of your pocket, not to mention the foundation for future success. Of course, it helps to have perspective over the whole thing. I'm quite sure if this were fifteen years ago and I was fresh out of high school that I wouldn't feel this way, but I guess that's what wisdom is all about.

I feel the same way about my writing. I know I'm a good writer, but I question that because it keeps me on edge. It forces me to look at what I'm doing, at how I'm doing it, and work to make it better. Egotism has no real place in the world of being a writer. When you feel you've got nothing left to improve, that you have nothing left to do in order to up your game, then it's time to get out. If you're surrounded by people who constantly tell you everything you want to hear and don't ride your ass on all the little things that make you better, then it's time to surround yourself with new people.

I want to be a writer. In fact, I want to be a successful writer. I would love nothing more than to make a living at doing this. But for as long as I live, for as long as I choose to write, I will always think of myself at a level lower than where others see me. Because while I know I'm a good writer, I also know I can get better. I know I can be a great writer.

I hope you all will join me as I work toward that goal.

Thursday, March 24

Thirsty Thursday #3

Thirsty Thursday is my own recurring meme whereupon I lift a glass (metaphorically speaking) to celebrate the triumphs I have experienced in the last seven days. They can be big, they can be small, but there has to be something because I believe life is all about looking at the positive. It's simply too short and too unpredictable to focus on the negative. So with that in mind, here is why I'm raising a glass today:

1. I got my final grades back from the two courses I was taking during the first term of the year, and the results are two As and a continuing 4.0 average. I'm very proud of this, not only because of how hard it is to maintain that average, but because with one of my courses, Composition II, I never felt as if I had a firm grasp on what I was doing or where I was going. Even after I handed in the final. I need not have worried though, and my professor was impressed enough that he told me I should forward the project to my congressional representative.

2. One set of classes ends, one set begins. I started my new term last night and got to interact with my Small Business Management professor for a bit. Not only does he have the second greatest last name in the world, Fail (he's also a doctor, so he's Dr. Fail), but he's very approachable and he understands completely why it's necessary for an artist such as myself to have something of a grasp on what it takes to run a successful business. Writing is only half the work, and not understand what is necessary to carry out the other half is why so many artists fail. I'm seriously looking forward to working with him over the next 10 weeks.

3. I finished off Chapter Eight and Nine. I'm still behind, and I'm beginning to think I will be until I hit my vacation next month, but that's okay. I'm still on track to complete the first draft of Book Two by the end of April, and that's the important thing.

4. And, to tie into #3, I've now written at least 500 words a day for the past two weeks. That's huge. I've never had a stretch where I've written consistently as long as that, not even during the one NaNo I completed back in 2003.

And that's about it. I'm sure I'm leaving one or two items off the list (and likely always will since my mind is like swiss cheese at times), but they are all reasons to look at this past week and say, "Good job!"

So what are your reasons to raise a glass?

Monday, March 21

Monday Musings

So I didn't do Thirsty Thursday and I didn't do Sample Sunday, and you must be wondering what did I do? Well, truthfully, not all that much. Then again, it doesn't feel like I did much, but that's actually pretty far from the truth. What actually happened is that I worked six 12-hour shifts over the course of seven days. I don't care who you are, I don't care what you do, that takes a lot out of a person. So ancillary stuff, like this blog and a few other things, sort of took a hit on the participation aspect of their collective existence. Things should get back on track this week.

So as a belated sort of TT, here you go:

- I crossed the 25% mark of Book Two (still searching for a title), which is to say 7 out of the 28 planned chapters have been written. I'm still about two chapters behind where I want to be, but I'm within the time limit of being 100% done with the First Draft by May 1st. Assuming I hit that date, things are looking up for the release date I have in my mind, which you will learn if I can hit the second milestone date of being done with the comprehensive edit by July 1st.

Told you I didn't do much. Well, there's some other stuff we did but most of it was under the headline of "big chores we had been putting off for a while and finally had the time available to get to it". Of which there are more, of course, you never truly get rid of those, but they ate up a lot of time. Oh, and I played some games, well a game. I also wrote, but that one of those things I do every day now.

Now, for SS... I'll hold off. I think I mentioned before that I was running out of material, and at the very least I wanted to limit how much I show of Book Two before I've had a chance to do some editing.

So I guess that's it for now. See you guys on Thursday.

Tuesday, March 15

The Value of an Opinion

I got called to the carpet the other day by a member of a gaming forum that I frequent about my admission that I would have a hard time reading a certain book because the author wrote it in Present Tense. For those unfamiliar with what I'm speaking about, it's as simple as the difference between saying, "Abe nods his head" and "Abe nodded his head". One gives a sense of happening right then as opposed to having already happened. For those with children, if you watch the Nick Jr. show Peppa Pig, it's told by the narrator in Present Tense. At any rate, the gist of what this forum member was trying to get at was that I was picking on the book because it didn't appeal to me, and that maybe I was experiencing a bit of writer envy. However, I think the member was missing the entire point of my original post, in that it was my opinion that I would have a hard time getting into the book because of the author's use of Present Tense. I still intend to read the book at some point, but with Book Two in the midst of being written, and with it being 3rd on my "to-be-read" list, I'm not sure when I'll get to it.

This kind of goes back to an earlier post where I talk about the importance of letting things go, where I talked about an author who went off the deep end based upon a negative review of her book. The value of an opinion is placed solely in the eyes of the one who holds that opinion. The fact that someone might not agree with said opinion does not make it any less valid or wrong, because you ask a hundred people what they thought about a subject, and why, you'll get a hundred different answers. Which one is right? The answer is "all of them", because when it comes to opinions, there are no wrong answers. The proof is in the pudding on this one, and for that I call attention to The Godfather, arguably one of the greatest movies of all time. Why arguably? Because despite the love, there are still a lot of people who simply don't like it, or place a higher value on another movie. That's okay though, because they're all right.

I finished up Chapter Five last night, which puts me a hair shy of 17,000 words. I was expecting Five to be shorter than it was, but as I was writing it I found myself adding a scene that gave depth to a minor character while also furthering the overall plot. I'll probably detail said minor character over the next couple of Sample Sundays, and in fact will probably detail the additional characters I introduce in Book Two over the course of the next few weeks. There's not a lot, but they all serve a purpose, and I want you to meet them.

Warning: Football Opinion Ahead. Read at your own risk.

Sunday, March 13

Sample Sunday #9

Read an E-book Week is over and I think it went fairly well. 37 copies of Split were sold at 100% off, and 3 copies of Spiral X were sold at 50% off. As well, during this promotion, Split remained prominent on the Short Story Best Sellers list for Smashwords' Fantasy (paranormal) and Thrillers and Suspense categories. Because I consider this a resounding success, I have decided to create a new coupon code so that anyone interested in picking up Split, but who might be on the fence about the decision, may do so at no cost to them. The code is on the button to your right, so click through and pick it up!

For today's Sample Sunday, I continue to bring you small excerpts from Book Two, and again, this one is from Chapter One. The setting is that of the famous Reunion Tower, and it has something of a unique view. Read on to see Cheryl's thoughts on it.

Disclaimer: Rough Draft, not everything is finalized, and the overall description is broken up a bit so the information is fragmented across the chapter, so I've only picked out a small portion to show you.

Thursday, March 10

Thirsty Thursday #2

Today's Thirsty Thursday is brought to you by Read an E-book Week, where Spiral X is 50% off HERE and Split is 100% off HERE.

Thirsty Thursday is my own recurring meme whereupon I lift a glass (metaphorically speaking) to celebrate the triumphs I have experienced in the last seven days. They can be big, they can be small, but there has to be something because I believe life is all about looking at the positive. It's simply too short and too unpredictable to focus on the negative. So with that in mind, here is why I'm raising a glass today:

1. Finished Chapter One of Book Two and have made progress into Chapter Two.

2. Set a date in the future to have Book Two done 100%. I will let that date slip here when it's almost a given that I'll meet it.

3. Finished my Composition final project and turned it in. I was unsure of how everything would turn out in regards to this, but I am happy to say that I'm confident in what I'm presenting.

4. Signed up for my next term's classes. Looking forward to tackling some new subjects.

5. Since this is Texas, our grass is growing already, so we got out there and got the lawn mowed and almost all the leaves raked up. Next week I get to do some lawn fertilization. Going to try sugar to help the nutrients and lower the nitrogen in the soil so the weeds will die out.

6. A couple of weeks ago we picked up a bunch of seeds (pea, pumpkin, watermelon, marigolds, and sunflowers) and planted them inside transferable pots. This is a family project. We weren't expecting much overall, at least not initially, but holy cow did those seeds sprout really fast! It's not totally "safe" to plant them outside yet, but we may not have a choice. Some of the shoots are topping over 6" right now and the roots of the pumpkins are already snaking around in the containers. So it looks like we'll have a garden this year (the first).

And that's about it. A lot of little stuff this week, and I'm sure I'm leaving one or two items off the list, but they are all reason to look at this past week and say, "Good job!"

So what are your reasons to raise a glass?

Sunday, March 6

Read an Ebook Week & Sample Sunday #8

Thought I would double up this Sunday's posting with the kickoff to Read an Ebook Week on top of Sample Sunday. So if you're here for the codes to get Spiral X for 50% off and Split for free, that's coming shortly. If you're here for the sample, that's after the jump. Navigate accordingly.

So I didn't know this, and I like to consider myself a repository for useless information, but apparently Ebooks have been around for forty years. Yes, you heard me right, forty years! You can dig into the history of the Ebook by hitting this link, which also happens to double as the official Read an Ebook Week website. I'm all about doubling up today, apparently. Despite how long it's been around though, it is only within the last few years that the Ebook has hit the big time, so it's been an interesting journey. I only hope my journey doesn't take forty years to take off. Just sayin'.

At any rate, as part of this occasion, Smashwords is holding a site-wide celebration, and any author who wanted to could take part in this endeavor by offering between 25-100% off of their books. Since I'm all about promoting myself these days, I have signed up.

So go to here to grab Spiral X for 50% off with the code RAE50.

Go here to grab Split for 100% off (that's FREE!) with the code RAE25.

And hey, while you're at it, go grab a few others. Indies authors need all the support they can get. Happy Read an Ebook Week!

Thursday, March 3

Thirsty Thursday!

Life is all about challenges. Whether you succeed or fail, we set these challenges in front of us all the time. It's the little things, like, "I'm going to get my laundry done today," to bigger things, like, "I'm going to go back to school and get my degree." We set these challenges so that we know where we stand in life, and each success or failure improves us as a person. So I thought I would take today to celebrate the challenges my family and I met this week. Raise a glass, and celebrate Thirsty Thursday!

1. My wife and I had our second parent-teacher conference this year for our son. We came out of it very proud at the progress he's made since starting Pre-K. Not only is he more vocal, he's starting to voice his disagreements more, which is going to be important as he grows up. Overall, he's a very smart, very capable little boy who is growing up way too fast for our tastes. However, I'm looking forward to helping him grow.

2. Two and a half years ago, after the passing of my father-in-law, my wife and I took in her mother and gave over the master bedroom of our house for her to live in. We moved our daughter into my son's room, and my wife and I moved into her room. At the time, it was pink with purple polka dots on the lower half of the wall, plus purple trim. And that is how it stayed for almost two-and-a-half years. Why didn't we change it? Time. Money. Take your pick. Well, this week we finally got fed up enough to do something about it, and over the course of a couple of days, we repainted the room. Three walls are an off-white, while the fourth is a sponged-on dark blue color. It looks awesome, and the room is finally ours.

3. I finished the outline for Book Two and have started the actual process of writing. This is a huge moment for me because this will be the first time I sit down with a book and know exactly how I want it to look from beginning to end. And it should line up so that I won't have to go back and do any major revisions. I'm expecting a few snags along the way, no book project makes it through without them, but overall I'm thrilled to be able to get going on this. I also think people are going to enjoy it immensely, but then I'm biased.

That's it for this week. For me, at least. So tell me, what were your successes this week? What are you raising a glass to?