Archive for March, 2019

Writing Progress Report

Posted: March 25, 2019 in Uncategorized

It’s about that time where I should be updating you guys on what’s going on in my writing world.

Book 7

Aberration has hit 94,000 words. It’s already longer than some of the installments of Xenoworld Saga and at this point I expect it to be the longest of them all (beating out even Beacon, which was approximately 130,000 words if memory is serving me). I knew going in it was going to be a long one, maybe even twice as long as a normal book. And since I plan on charging the same price, that’s just a bigger bargain for you guys. I’m hoping the first draft will be done by mid to late April.

The first draft is always the bulk of the work, though the first edit will take a while, too. Of course, the longer the manuscript the longer the edit. But if all goes well, Aberration should be coming out in June at the earliest. March has been my most productive month in quite a while, and am very encouraged with how things are going right now. June is my goal. Don’t hold me to it, but it’ll become more firm and sure if the first draft is done next month.

Wasteland Prequel

Okay, I’m becoming more and more convinced that this will be a thing. I’ve more or less have a final outline of what I want to accomplish, and will be reusing a lot of the material from my Wasteland Wednesday posts from back in 2016. That said, for it to be an actual novel, it will need to be organized better and will have quite a different tone from the rest of my work, mainly because it’s going to be written from the third person, most likely with alternating view points. The novel, as it’s currently planned, will also span about a decade of time, beginning with Makara’s escape from Bunker One at seven years old and ending with her being sixteen. I’m not really sure how this is going to work, exactly, but I think you guys can expect it to be a short novel of about 50-60,000 words. Work is progressing on it right now, and it will probably be an intermediary project between the end of Xenoworld and whatever my next series is.

The main perspectives will be through the eyes of Makara, Raine, and sometimes, Makara’s brother, Samuel, and Raine’s brother, Ohlan. I want to keep the perspectives limited to that, as the novel will be short and any more would likely make it more complicated than I want it to be. This is something I don’t want to spend too much time on, as the best choice for my career is probably writing an entirely new series where I’ll spend the next two to three  years of my time.

That’s pretty much all the news I have. Nothing much has changed, aside from a higher word count and a greater willingness to make the Wasteland prequel happen. Other than that, I’ve just been enjoying life in sunny West Palm Beach.

Cultivating the Writing Habit

Posted: March 20, 2019 in Uncategorized

In writing, there are rainy seasons and dry seasons, at least for me. The dry seasons seem to come when I forget something important about what makes a daily writing possible for me. In short, a lot of stars need to be aligned for me to consistently put words on the page every single day.

I say the “stars need to be aligned” rather than “the stars must align,” because I’ve discovered that there are daily habits I can do to control and cultivate a steady word count, so that writing becomes more enjoyable. Hemingway is famous for saying that writing is easy, just sit at the typewriter and bleed, but it doesn’t always have to be that way (though days like that are inevitable).

So, what exactly are some of the daily habits and attitudes I practice to cultivate daily writing? It’s an important question, because words on the page is really the only thing that matters when it comes to being a professional author. You can market, tweet, blog, and promote all you want, but if you’re not putting words on the page, odds are, your career as a writer will be short-lived, or never make it off the ground to begin with.

There are things I’ve found to encourage a daily writing mindset, and taken together, these things make it easier for me to put words on the page every day.

Have a word count goal. It can’t be a number that’s big or intimidating. For me, my minimum is 1,000 words per day, but I don’t stop myself if I’m willing to go beyond it. The point is to do it daily. I’m a big believer that 1,000 a day is more powerful than 5,000 “whenever I feel like it.”

Know where you’re going for the day. What I like to do is write a few sentences outlining each scene I’m going work on that day. This is usually about 2-3 scenes, although sometimes a long scene will run more than 1,000 words. Even if you end up doing away with the outline or diverting from it, you can still rearrange it to something that works better. The point is to give you an idea of where to go. It gives control and certainty while leaving room for the characters to explore and make the story for themselves.

Minimize time in front of the TV and pick up a book instead. Cutting out TV (or my main vice, video games) is one of the single greatest things that makes writing easier. When I’m reading an hour or two every day, I notice my thoughts are clearer, my prose smoother, and I’m better at knowing what’s going to happen next in my own story. And books are rich with ideas which can inspire, and connections are inevitably made in the subconscious. The more I read, the more my fingers fly across the keyboard. I still watch TV and play video games, of course, but if I let myself do either one of those things too much, it becomes harder to get myself to write.

Schedule social media rather than mindlessly browsing. This is probably the single greatest time sink, and it’s something I’m working on improving. Social media is the ultimate procrastination tool for the majority of people, and it has become the default thing to do when you really, really don’t want to be working on a dreaded or difficult task. Social media is hard to avoid since we carry our phones with us everywhere, and its reach is insidious and fully integrated into our lives. The best way I’ve found to resist social media is to let myself browse guilt free once my work is done. I’ve also recently taken up daily meditation, a practice I highly encourage because it unplugs you and teaches you it’s okay to be not have to stimulate our brains every second of the day. As a society, we’ve generally forgotten how to be bored. Which leads into my final point.

Embrace Boredom. Boredom can actually be a good thing. Getting bored and frustrated with a creative task, like writing, should be embraced. There’s no way to stop it, because writing is hard. When I hit a block, that’s when I feel the temptation to distract myself the most. But this is the most important time to continue sitting there, embracing the boredom and the frustration. I’ll usually let my mind wander a bit, thinking about things, before bringing my attention back to the blinking cursor.

When we allow ourselves to become distracted, we’re inadvertently teaching our brains that it’s okay to give up when the process of creation gets hard. We’re also not giving our subconscious time to percolate and process the block. For example, before before starting this blog post I was probably staring off into space for a good fifteen minutes, not sure of what I was going to write about. This shouldn’t be confused with writing fatigue, which is inevitable after you’ve already written your daily allotment. This is when you’ve barely gotten started and are tempted to give up before you’ve really gotten going.

It also helps to be in a lively environment, with plenty of sounds, smells, music, and things going on (a coffee shop is perfect for this, or an outside cafe). It’s a lot easier to get distracted if you’re working from home, where bad habits are more ingrained.

How I can make writing easily easier for myself has been something I’ve been chewing over a lot lately. Writing is draining by nature. Because of this, it’s important for every writer (or whatever your craft happens to be) to find the things that fill that emptiness. That could be coffee, music, books, art, working out, or having a good conversation with friends. And yes, within reason, TV and video games. And going off my last point about embracing boredom, it’s important to let your mind wander and daydream, and to limit activities that reinforce addiction and instant reward, like video games and social media. I’m not a complete Luddite, but I’m a strong believer that it’s important to consciously think about how I control my time, otherwise time be the one controlling me. Writing is anything but instantly rewarding. Many writers like to say they like having written, describing their need to write as more of an impulse and need than a pleasure.

And a lot of times, it certainly feels that way, and if we train our brains to seek distraction the moment we’re bored or frustrated, then we lose our reason and purpose for why we write in the first place.

Of course, is also important to treat oneself with grace and forgiveness. Writing is hard, and no one is perfect. It’s a process and a journey, and as long we’re making steps in the right direction, that’s what truly matters.

About a week and a half ago, I wrote a blog post challenging myself to follow the Rule of 3. For those of you who haven’t read that post, the Rule of 3 is the idea of writing down three daily goals: three for work, and three for your personal life. I got the idea from a book called The Productivity Project.

I started doing this because I wasn’t hitting my goals effectively. If the goals are only in my head, there’s no telling if they’ll actually get done. Writing them down makes it real, and keeps me accountable to myself.

For the past ten days, I’ve been following the Rule of 3, and I can easily say it’s had a very positive effect. The Rule of 3, when followed, definitely is in illustration of how small things can really, really add up over time.

I’ve been killing it as far as my business goals. In the past week and a half, I’ve written over 15,000 words, edited forty pages of the Wasteland Prequel I’m working on, and I finally got my paperback for Dissolution published through Amazon. I also have been regularly updating my blog, have been better about engaging readers through social media (including these blog posts), and am almost done with my yearly taxes.

As far as personal goals, I’ve also accomplished a lot. I’ve been cooking more instead of eating out, and I’ve hit the gym three times a week. I finally assembled a bookshelf that we got from the wedding three months back. I’ve even made more time for reading. I scheduled fun things, too, which I can honestly say I’ve never done in my life. I enjoyed a nice day at the ball park watching the Astros do their spring training, something I’ve always wanted to do since moving to West Palm Beach.

In short, I never thought I’d be the type of person to make lists and cross things out. If this  is only ten days, I wonder just how much can be accomplished in a month with this method.

I really don’t want to sound like I’m shilling the Rule of 3, but I think if you’re like me, and find that you’re losing a lot of time to things that don’t matter instead of focusing on the things that do matter, you should give the Rule of 3 a shot for at least a week and see how it goes. I’m realizing that this is something that could potentially be life-changing if it’s faithfully adhered to daily. But even thinking about that seems daunting, so I’m just going to take it a day at a time.

Writing Update

Posted: March 11, 2019 in Uncategorized

I suppose you can consider this a news post. I wanted to share some developments with you guys to keep you in the know as far as what I’m working on.

Xenoworld

First, and by far most important, is a progress report on Book 7, Aberration. Just this morning, the final entry to the Xenoworld Saga passed the 80,000 word mark. This is normally where I’d start winding things down, but this story still has a bit more juice left in it. Maybe even more than a bit. It wouldn’t feel right to make the final book of Xenoworld short and sweet.

While it’s definitely over the halfway point, it’s going to be one of the meatier entries to the saga. It if were a book you held in your hands, it would feel a bit heavy and need two hands to hold. I guess that means Aberration may prove to be the longest entry. Only time will tell.

One of my goals for this week is to start coordinating with my cover artist to find something worthy of the final book. I’m excited to start working on that, and will share more as time goes on. The current goal is to have the first draft completely finished by mid-April.

Paperback of Dissolution

I finally got around to it. I’ve submitted all the necessary files to Amazon to put Dissolution in paperback form. This is something I always put off, because the final product often goes through ten or so revisions before I’m fully satisfied with how it looks. Long story short, I was able to knock this out in about a couple of hours, much to my surprise. I know there’s people out there who can’t believe a book is a book until they’re holding in their hands. I’m somewhat like this myself. For those folks, my guess is the paperback of Book 6 will be available for purchase from Amazon next week. I’ll keep you posted.

A Wasteland Novella?

I don’t really want to tease anything. But I’ve dug up a lot my old Wasteland Wednesday posts. For those of you who don’t know (or don’t remember, it was 2016 after all), I was writing a Wasteland prequel focused on Makara and Samuel’s story prior to meeting Alex (along with Raine, their father figure and mentor). The posts are in a rough state, and the story was never completed . . . but reading them over, there seems to be something of a story there, and it’s a something I’d like to explore.

The question of how Makara became Makara, and how Samuel became Samuel, has always been an interesting question to me. A lot of things are alluded to in the series but we never really get the full story. We know that there’s a man named Raine who headed up the Lost Angels gang who was instrumental in Makara and Samuel’s life, but we never get to meet that man or see what was so great about him.

In short, I compiled the posts in a Word doc and have started cleaning up them up a bit, the way an archaeologist might clean up a dusty artifact . I wrote a lot of these posts on the fly and it’s not up to snuff compared to my other stuff. So, I’m toying with the idea of cleaning these posts up, revamping the story, and writing a fitting ending while trying to keep the whole thing around 30,000 words.

Before you guys think this is a sure thing that is definitely going to happen, I want to warn you not to get too attached to the idea. All I can say at this point is that I’ve been working on it, and I’m actually having a lot of fun going back to the Wasteland of yesteryear.

Of course, who knows if this will turn out to be anything, but at least for now, the idea is interesting to me and I’m actively working on it.

So, What Comes Next?

One of the things I’m struggling with is what to work on once Xenoworld is over. Because it will be over soon, sadly enough. It’s hard to believe, but I’ve been working on the series for almost five years. It’s taken a lot longer than I thought I would, and it’s hard to believe the end is around the corner.

And though it will be the end of the series, it will not be the end of my writing. I’m already thinking of other universes, along with the stories and characters that will populate them. That’s all I’m willing to say for now, because even where I’m standing, the future isn’t entirely clear. All I know is that I have to continue working day by day. Things in the distance become clearer when you walk closer.

That about wraps it up, and gives you guys an idea of where my mind is at. Whatever I work on next, it’ll be like Wasteland in a lot of way: a big setting and canvas on which to paint my stories.

The Malaysian Vacation

Posted: March 8, 2019 in Uncategorized

So, my wife and I are a bit unique in that we’ve had three weddings. We were married in Nassau, and in Malaysia twice for two different sides of my wife’s family.

That may sound stressful, and believe me, it was. But at the same time it presented me with the opportunity to meet her family and see a part of world that most people never get to see (much less even think about).

Sabah, Borneo is a bit of a hidden gem, at least to Americans. It’s far away and not too easy to get to (we had to switch planes four times and the journey took two days). But once there, I had the most amazing time, seeing lots of beautiful jungle, meeting many friendly and interesting people, and eating loads of delicious food, most of which you can’t find anywhere else in the world. I often tell my wife that Malaysian food could be the next big thing in the States, if only people here knew about it! Sabah is a seafood lover’s paradise and everything is much fresher and cheaper than you would find here.

We took lots of pictures and made lots of memories, to the point where it’d take too much time to share it all. So, I’ve selected a few pictures that might give you something of a picture of what it’s like.

Besides Sabah, we also visited Bali and Singapore, and it feels like we only scratched the surface of what this side of the world has to offer.

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Nassau Wedding

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Gaya Island Resort

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Kota Kinabalu Waterfront

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Sacred Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali

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Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center

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Traditional Kadazan-Dusun Wedding Costume

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Rice Terraces in Bali

Below is a small sampling of the food we tried. Aside from the McDonald’s Prosperity Burger (I have to try the local McDonald’s in every country I visit), it was all indescribably good!

Goals, and the Rule of 3

Posted: March 5, 2019 in Uncategorized

It’s already March, and despite it only being over two months into the year, I feel so much has already happened.

I spent most of January on the other side of the world, touring Borneo while getting married to the love of my life. We had two weddings, one here in the states and one in Malaysia, where she grew up. I felt privileged to see her childhood, meet her family, and try a lot of the local food (including the infamous durian, which according to legend, no white person can get within a mile of without dry heaving).

I was awed by verdant jungle, high mountains, flowing streams, tropical islands, and most of all, some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.

Crammed into those two weeks were lots of food, family gatherings, breathtaking vistas, shopping, and in Bali, lots of massages, relaxation, and sightseeing.

Two months later, I’m settling into married life and pretty much back into the flow of things. Work on the last book of The Xenoworld Saga is going well, and I expect the first draft to be done by the beginning of April. We welcomed our first child (fur-child, that is) a black and white domestic short-hair kitten that we decided to name Luna Lovegood.

So back to what I was going to talk about before these huge, initial digression: my goals.

I’m usually bad with resolutions and goals. The only new year’s resolution I truly stuck with was the one I made back in 2015, when made a habit of going to the gym three times a week. Despite some slip ups here and there, I’m still keeping that one up. I met my goal of becoming much stronger and healthier, not just physically, but also in my diet. As a byproduct of that, I learned how to cook for myself rather than just eat fast food all the time (The Wasteland Chronicles were fueled by nothing more than coffee and Panda Express).

But I’ve never really been a person to stick to a goal well. I’m not sure why, but I’ve just never really been much of a planner or organizer. Even now that I’m 31, it’s not a skill I’ve developed well, which might sound strange for a guy that’s written 14 books. It makes me wonder just how much more I could’ve written with a bit more organization.

Even when I write my books, instead of outlining like I should, I just have a vague idea of where I’m going. I picture some neat scenes or interactions and let the rest pretty much happen organically.

At the same time, I’ve recognized that I do have the need for organization, at least some. I was telling my wife earlier this year that maybe that should be my goal (she agreed, maybe a little more passionately than I would have liked).

One of my main faults is that I tend to be a person of extremes. If I decide to be more organized, for example, I’ll get very excited and want to plan every detail of my schedule down to the dot. (Breakfast at 8, start writing at 8:30, lunch at 12, that sort of thing). That might work for some people, but unsurprisingly, this never lasted more than a day or two for me.

This time around, I’m going to try something that’s a little bit kinder, using a technique I read about called the Rule of 3. If you haven’t heard about it, it’s basically the idea that you set three goals every single day that you want to accomplish in the realm of your work, and three goals in the realm of your personal life (so really, six goals). As long as you fulfill those goals, you can consider yourself a productive person, pat yourself on the back, and spend the rest of the day however you like.

Likewise, the Rule of 3 also applies on the weekly timescale: 3 personal goals and 3 business-related goals per week that are longer term.

This feels a bit kinder and more manageable that how I tried to go about it before, and still allows for a lot of open-endedness on how I can achieve my goals without letting me get away with thinking “I can just do this tomorrow.” It also prevents me from throwing the out the baby with the bathwater, in the sense that just because I can’t stick to a super strict schedule, I should get rid of daily organization altogether.

So, for today, my three business-related goals were:

  1. Write 1,000 words (done)
  2. Update my Twitter account to something more current (done)
  3. Write a blog post (done)

I finished the 1,000 words easily enough. For me, writing a thousand words has less of a barrier in my mind than doing anything social media related. Did I mention that I’m extremely weird?

I used to post here regularly, and the fact that I don’t do it for months at a stretch fills me with a lot of guilt, strangely enough. The things we know we should do, but don’t, tend to weigh us down. Sometimes, it gets to the point where you feel like there’s so much you should be doing, but you’re not, that it ends up being a bit suffocating and it doesn’t seem like there’s any point to doing anything.

The Rule of 3 is a way for me to fight back against that type of paralyzing mentality. It’s easier to say, “I’ll make it a goal to blog for today,” than to say, “I’ll make a goal to blog three times a week for the rest of time,” which sounds far more daunting.

And in case you’re interested, my personal goals for the day were:

  1. Cook a healthy meal instead of eating out (done)
  2. Start reading my next book (done)
  3. Clean my desk (done)

That last one might seem a bit silly, since cleaning one’s desk takes less than five minutes. But for some reason, the simplest things in life can feel like huge mental hurdles, at least to me. And my desk has become quite cluttered lately. It’s not even perfect now, but is much better than it was before.

As a bonus, my weekly goals will be:

  1. Finish filing my taxes
  2. Finalize a paperback version for Dissolution
  3. Write 10,000 words total by Saturday

Well, that’s all for today. Another box to tick. I really only planned to write 350 words for this post, but for some reason, it blew up quite a bit.