The Rough Draft

If you can't go through it. Go around it.

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Today I was giving a presentation to my motorcycle group on successfully blogging about your trips. It went pretty well and I hope everybody came away with something. I’ve been blogging now since about 2002. I started off talking about independent filmmaking and writing for independent film. Of course this also began to cover my experiences both positive and negative over the years right up until the somewhat bitter end of that part of my writing life.

For the two years after that where I wasn’t writing anything except on this blog, it became a lot about riding my motorcycle and photography (one of my other real passions). It was a decent outlet and for the most part I tried to keep it free of my rage. Which was pretty hard as I was still pretty angry. When I decided to start writing books again it was pretty obvious I’d be posting about that as well.

I think my main point today was that no matter what, life is a story and everybody likes a good story. While the bulk of my travel tales don’t involve crossing Africa, Siberia or the Mongolian steps. I do like to focus on the beauty, sometimes staggering beauty of Canada and the US. How it really is the journey and the people you meet that make it special. How my experience has been that 10 times out of 10 people want to help when you’re in trouble. Now this just might be a brotherhood of bikers thing but I think that’s too narrow focus. I’ll just keep on thinking people at their core are good.

I do find the people or at least some of the guys in my group find it a bit weird that I am a writer because it’s such an esoteric pastime. You get the usual questions, “Where do you get your ideas?” and such but today I got asked one that sort of stumped me. “How do you write?” As in how do I transfer what’s in my head onto the page. And to be honest, I’m not entirely sure. Like most writers I have a process. I’ll be the first to admit it’s not the same for every project. Most things I will outline, based on the thought or an idea that I’ve had. Other times, like this blog post I’ll have a vague idea and then I’ll just wing it. I like to keep this blog as raw as possible and try not to censor myself. After all in many ways this is a journal and a pretty good record of what I’m going through or thinking about or mulling over at any given point relative to the date. For me that’s part of living an honest life. I simply don’t have time for all that subterfuge and bull shit that so many people seem to revel in or the very least splash through.

So I guess the gist of my presentation today was above all else be honest on the page and let people see the real you because that’s where the power is.

 

As always you can find my thrillers Devil’s Gambit and Reliance on Amazon.

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Phil Lutzi and Jordan Kanner posing for a promotional shoot I was doing at the time. Both are phenomenal actors.

We were discussing the sales of books that had won literary awards at my writing group the other night. And one of the authors there had commented on how many of these books that had won prestigious awards had around thousand sales only to their credit and that after winning the award sales had not really increased. Now granted this is very much apocryphal information but I will admit for me I’m not that interested in running out and buying the next Booker or Giller prize winner. It’s not that I don’t like literary fiction but for the most part their subject matter always tends to leave me a bit cold. That could just be because I am a genre ape, and live firmly in the blue-collar (some would say lower-class) neighbourhood of writing.

Of course this all comes down to what your personal concept of successes is. For some being a name amongst a very narrow swath of peers is what they crave, it’s how they assign meaning to their work. They are about the art and more than likely they have tenure in a writing program at a university which gives them time to write. Meanwhile the rest of us proles scrabble about in the salt mines. Working harder not smarter. Who’s to say.

The only time I’ve ever been nominated for an award to do with my writing was at the 2002 Leos. A Western Canada industry award series for film and television. I was up for, “Best writer in a short film.” It was a strange experience because of the five films in my category, I had written a horror film while every other one was an art film in every sense of the word. Right up until the award ceremony, which was weeks away when I was notified, I checked the website to make sure my name was still on the list and that they hadn’t in fact made a mistake. The night of the awards, I stood in the foyer of the Theatre with the other hopefuls making small talk and marvelling at the whole experience. For the first and only time in my life, I understood what the phrase, “It’s an honour to be nominated,” meant. It sounds trite, it sounds contrived but the weird thing is it’s really true. Because the second I crossed the threshold into the theatre to find my seat for the start of the ceremony and it finally hit me that there was a chance I would win this thing, my legs turned to complete Jell-O. So it was a bit of a relief actually when I didn’t win, though maybe things would have worked out differently for me in film if I had. Considering the state of the industry as a whole, probably not.

Don’t get me wrong, awards are nice, especially industry awards given to you by your peers. They very much represent a validation of your work from people you respect. In film a prestigious award can raise your quote and allow you access to material previously denied you. It can also be the kiss of death to your career (but most times that’s really a reflection of how the person who received the award proceeds with their life career).

Literary awards are probably a little different. They may provide you with a key to a publisher you previously had no truck with. They may give you access to that agent you’ve always wanted but sales? I’m just not so sure, mostly because I simply don’t have the data. If anyone does I’d love to look at it.

Because of my own personal background, I hate to say it but I’ll take sales over acclaim. Not because I’m, “All about the money.” More so because every book I sell is one more reader and hopefully one more fan who will keep reading and enjoy what I write.

Not that I won’t take the money…

 

My thrillers Devil’s Gambit and Reliance are available on Amazon. Reliance is currently priced at $0.99

 

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I’m Scottish, so being taught the value of money started from an early age. This does not make me a spendthrift, I firmly believe you can’t take it with you. Money like all things is a tool, though it can be a tool that both gives and takes.

Part of the problem is that many authors, not all, take a very short term view in regards to the money they invest in their book prior to publishing. There are many things to invest in when you’re publishing your first book. The software you write on, your cover, and of course what goes between the cover and your back flap.

So far all of my covers have been based on photographs I’ve taken. Posed or rendered and then placed on a background of solid colour and a black or dark gradient. I bribe my daughter with easy transport to destinations of her choice in return for her expertise with Photoshop. Like most authors I agonize over my back flap and my blurb. I will probably hire somebody to help me with that for my next book.

Where I do spend a lot of money or should I say invest, is in the editing of my manuscript. I am not one of those people who thinks that every word I use in any article or story that I write is golden. I am well aware of my shortcomings as an author. Hell, I’ve had more than a few producers, directors, agents and lowest of the low (as far as low points go) actors comment on description or dialogue they didn’t agree with. There are vast legions out there on the inter-webs who take great pleasure in pointing out your grammar or spelling mistakes. Though truth be told I try to recruit those people as beta readers.

Though at a recent writers group meeting, when I raised the prospect with of one of the writers there about hiring an editor to look over their work I was treated or at least looked at as if I had three heads. They even asked me what value with that bring to their work. They didn’t like my reply of, “Another set of critical eyes to look over your book.” It was a bit of a shock to come across such obstinance in a group that actually prides itself on how open we are with each other. We really are there to help each other, not to feed our egos.

The thing is, as you work your way through your own manuscript, pass after pass, you are editing but you’re editing with your eyes and your brain, both are easily fooled. Your brain possesses powerful self editing software that will automatically correct mistakes in your writing it comes across. So you may read the same passage fifteen different times and literally never see your mistake. I’m not saying an editor will pick up on these mistakes every time either but I can’t tell you your readers will. And some will write to you privately about it, while others will be more than happy to put it in their review of your book on whatever platform they bought it on. Not optimal. Beta readers are also very important in your editing process.

I guess my point here is if you have access to a good editor cheap (though those two things don’t tend to go hand in hand) great, have at her. More realistically it’s going to cost you between a few and several hundred dollars to properly edit your book. It’s a bit like a marriage or a high-stakes business partnership. It’s tough to find an editor you click with but when you do you know it. A good editor will really up your game. In fact that really is what they’re there for. It’s not just about the line edit, it’s about suggesting to you a better way to go, a different take. It’s about elevating your work. Because as they say, “A rising tide floats all boats.”

It does your editor no good to do a poor job on your book. You won’t be happy, which beach will not promote their work and they will lose any future work from you and the income that brings. So it really is a case of everybody bring their A game to the table. I’m very lucky as I have found an editor who I enjoy working with and whose opinion I respect. They are one of the reasons I am trying very hard to hit my deadlines for. I really want to get this next manuscript into their hands so we can take it to the next level.

As always, you can purchase my thrillers, Devil’s Gambit and Reliance on Amazon.

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Sitting at the Dragon’s Mouth, Yellowstone National Park, 2008

I’ve been having a hard time as of late keeping up my daily word count. Where before I was able to hit one thousand to fifteen hundred words a day, I found myself struggling to even put out three to five hundred words in a writing session.

My day job which requires a lot of thinking and planning to hit daily goals in the installation process tends to leave me wrung out and physically exhausted. So a good chunk of my computer / writing time was becoming nap time. It’s pretty hard to get your head in the story game when what you really want to do is sleep.

A good while back I’d downloaded the Dragon Dictation app for my phone and iPad but to be honest it really wasn’t working for me. It seemed to find my voice unintelligible and would produce words on the screen that supported my suspicions. That aside, it wasn’t or at least it certainly looked like it wasn’t going to be increasing my word output.

Still, there’s a couple of long running threads on the Kindleboards about what a great thing Nuance’s Dragon platforms are. I decided to have a look at software reviews and yes, Dragon occupied the top four slots. I wasn’t about to go for, “Platinum,” the most expensive version at $300 USD as our dollar is in the basement right now but the, “Professional,” version at $175 USD seemed to fit the bill nicely, plus there was a thirty day money back guarantee so if it still couldn’t understand me, nothing ventured, nothing gained. The digital copy was ordered and installed. It took a couple of hours to get it up and running but that was more me than it. Me being me, I dove right in and put the sucker to work.

For the first time in a couple of months, my output hit the one thousand words mark in fact I shot by my daily goal and hit almost thirteen hundred words. Now yes, there are certainly more verbose writers out there who probably scoff at my tiny goals for daily word count and that’s cool. Maybe even the use of something new forced me to get work done. After all I’d paid good money for it and having it not get used makes it a big minus on the books. But the simple fact is there are many demands on my time and any way I can up my productivity is a good thing. As long as the ball is being moved down the field I’m happy.

Now that being said, the Dragon and I are still getting to know each other. The fact I’m missing a front tooth right now (my new partial plate should be ready in a couple of weeks) isn’t making things easier and I’m wishing I’d done more elocution lessons as a child instead of being raised in a Scottish household which… shocker… leads to some interesting verbal ticks. Though my Dragon seems to understand me much better than SIRI.

While it’s early days yet, I’m interested to see where the Dragon takes me and how much I can achieve output wise, this year.

Happy writing.

As always my thrillers Devil’s Gambit and Reliance are available on Amazon. Reliance is now priced at $0.99

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I’ve been a member of more than a few writing groups. Most were informal a couple were professional, all of them were worthwhile.

I’m currently involved in a group that meets in Oakville about ten minutes away. We meet once a week and read and discuss what we’ve written. I’m working my way through a first person military SciFi piece I’m working on and the immediate feedback is handy to keep you grounded.

It’s too easy to disappear up your own ass when you spend all of your time alone in a room writing. Having people to call you on your bullshit or to let you know that that great piece of exposition you thought you crafted didn’t work as well as you thought. Which is particularly handy when you’re working in a genre not everybody is familiar with.

It’s funny how groups have their share of ego but most times its checked at the door. It’s always best to go into these meetings with an open heart and ears. I’ve been in writing classes where that wasn’t the case and the end results were ugly to say the least. The groups I’ve been involved with are there to help you up and along and that’s never a bad thing.

Besides, you can never have too many friends with a common goal.

 

My Thrillers, Devil’s Gambit and Reliance are available in ebook and print on Amazon. Reliance is now only $0.99 and both are free on Kindle Unlimited.

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2015 has certainly been a year of trials. I had to take a break of several months from my day job to deal with some issues regarding my adult autistic son’s needs. The irony of that break was that we didn’t actually get initiate anything official until three weeks after I was back to work but then that’s the way things tend to go isn’t it.

I did take the opportunity of the time when I wasn’t embroiled in the fight for more services for Colin to start the sequel to Devil’s Gambit and also publish another short novel called Reliance. And while for the most part I didn’t miss the constant stress of my day job (people mostly call when they’re in dire straits), I did miss the general banter and ball busting that goes on in any places where a bunch of guys work. There really is no better school for dialogue and some of the running commentary you get through the day is pretty hilarious or at least it seems so, maybe to outsiders it can play a little too close to the wind.

Family is also a very critical component because if anything is going to keep you grounded in the real world it’s going to be through being with them. You might be trying to be the next Stephen King but your autistic son’s meltdown that’s in the process of kicking off is going to take priority no matter how great your idea for the next scene is.

Not that I don’t spend swatches of time alone either, especially when I’m on the road doing a motorcycle trip that’s going to appear in a future book. Though because I’m beginning to focus on more technical and difficult tracks and terrain, I’ve taken to partnering up either on the trip itself with somebody you meet on the road or planning the trip with somebody else. My SPOT tracker’s over watch only flicks my way once every five minutes and it’s always a bit of a surprise how much distance between pings you can cover. Plus the added benefit of riding solo is nobody can see you cry under your helmet.

Writing by comparison is a pretty lonely profession and you spend a lot of time alone in front of your computer while your mind ricochets off the walls inside your head. Which is fine, though I do like to bounce ideas off of other people as I fumble my way through breaking a story.

So to clarify this upcoming next bit, you need to know a few of my deeply held beliefs. I don’t expect you to agree with them but I want them out there so you get my, “Me,” a little better.

  • Life falls into two piles. Shit that is my problem and shit that is not my problem. The trick is to keep pile B way larger than Pile A.
  • Anybody tells me they hold the, “Secret,” to doing anything in life other than a cool knot, I head in the other direction. They well may hold such a, “Secret,” but nine times out of ten that sort of thing ends up with you being asked to drink a dubious cup of Kool Aid.
  • I’m a hands on sort of guy but I like to read the manual first. At some point I will be up to my elbows in something, trying to figure out where I’ve gone wrong (the point in any process where the real learning begins). I’m automatically suspect of people with, “Soft hands,” offering advice. Scarred knuckles speak of experience.

And there you have it. My central essence. I prefer to do, rather than talk about it. If it’s in one of my books, I’ve either done it or something like it or I’ve interviewed at length people who have, “Been there and done that.” I don’t just pull shit out of my ass and present it as fact. I have a lot of different and varied people who advise me on what I’m writing about be it combat, security, science or soup. The Devil really is in the details.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to write about this next part but then I reasoned that mental health is something we all need to keep an eye on and if just one person reads this and it moves them to get some help, that would be a good thing.

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I recently had a meeting with a fellow writer Who doesn’t seem to have any of my interpersonal supports or other anchors in their life. It’s just them, the page and the desert of the second act. That’s a pretty lonely expanse to be confronted with on a daily basis. It’s also somewhat daunting from my point of view to be presented with somebody who over the course of a few hours conversation turns out to possess such a negative outlook on the world and humanity in general. It becomes a chicken and egg moment, and while I’d seen the seeds of it in them before, I was sort of shocked when I saw how deeply they’d taken root. The fruit they look to bear seems very bitter indeed and coloured by loneliness and isolation as their attitude and worldview drive away friends and support.

So here’s my feelings on the matter of isolation.

I know it’s hard and sometimes the effort is almost too great to be initiated but you have to get out and be with people. Even if it’s just for a coffee. Get out, have a laugh, recharge the mental batteries. Unless you’re a research MD writing a book about curing cancer, you’re not curing cancer but you may be helping yourself in ways you can’t yet guess at.

I recently joined a local writing group and it been pretty great. Everybody reads a bit of what they’re working on. I’m working my way through a first person experimental science fiction piece I’m looking to publish later in the year. The best part though is just chatting and batting stuff around. You leave your ego at the door and just be open to what’s being said and suddenly writing isn’t so lonely a profession anymore.

It’s okay to take a break now and then.

It’s okay to breathe.

Life isn’t personal, it just feels that way sometimes.

Your friends and family miss you.

 

I wish you all a Happy New Year. May it be prosperous and filled with experiences big and small that lift you up and carry you forward.

As always my books, Devil’s Gambit, and Reliance are available in paperback and for Kindle on Amazon.

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Well we’re closing in on the end of the year and of course this is the point where I’m supposed to offer some introspection as to how the last twelve months have gone. Of course as a writer who still holds a day job (as most of us do) I won’t bore you with the stuff that goes along with that. Though due to circumstances beyond my control I had to take a leave of absence of some several months to deal with some issues around my Autistic (adult) son.

I will say this about my break from the routine, I was able to keep my word count up and was consistently above one thousand words a day. For some people, that’s not a huge amount but when you’re dealing on a daily basis with an adult with special needs, it’s not bad and you feel like you’re moving the ball down the field. Of course now that I’m back fully in a day to day job, my word count has fallen off dramatically. Is this frustrating? Of course it is. Some nights I’ll admit, I’m so worn out from dealing with the job, it makes it hard to string two words together let alone a thousand.

Doesn’t stop me from keeping at it though.

I published Devil’s Gambit last December 14th and as of today I’ve moved just over thirteen hundred and fifty copies and the book continues to sell well. The majority of my reviews are positive. I’ve learned a lot from this first year of Devil’s Gambit’s existence though I will admit, I’m certainly no wizard when it comes to Amazon.

Two Wheeled Maniac continues to sell steadily if not in small numbers. I’ll be toning down the opinion factor for the next riding book because, I don’t really need the hate mail. The next book by the way, will focus on riding around Colorado and Moab, though my focus is going to be more on the dirt roads than tackling the bike busting terrain of Moab proper. I do after all have to ride my motorcycle back home and we’ve been through enough it would kill me to leave her behind.

Reliance as always is my problem child. Sales are slim to none. Which does sting a bit because it’s one of my favorite stories and I’m pretty heavily invested in it. It probably doesn’t help that Amazon has placed it in Westerns. I had a similar problem with a Producer once trying to explain that a Sheriff was an elected position and that in the US it’s a common job in law enforcement. It probably doesn’t help that my figure on the cover is wearing a cowboy hat. It really is more of a heist story that just happens to be set in the modern west.

What else have I learned? Well Twitter based promotions generate no sales. The majority of sales are generated through this blog, believe it or not and not because I’m constantly saying, “Buy my books,” though I sort of am and I realize that but the real focus of my blog is to present myself as a human being and to show everybody some of the things I find fun, interesting or that just bug me but mostly the first two because everybody has stuff that bugs them and most times nobody wants to hear it.

So here’s wishing everybody a Merry Christmas and best of the season and keep on writing no matter what anybody says to you.

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Fear is your body and mind’s way of keeping you in check. Essentially its a system designed to avoid pain. We don’t like pain, physical or otherwise. The trick in life most times is knowing something’s going to hurt, accepting that fact and doing it anyway.

Learn how to do this and you will be amazed at what you can accomplish. This is covered extensively in the book, The Tools by Barry Michaels. Give it a read, you won’t be sorry. But back to my point.

Fear will hold you back if you let it rule your life. It’s okay to be careful or diligent. It’s also a smart thing to plan for worst case scenarios. There’s no stigma in being prepared. A lot of my trip planning when it comes to off road stuff is about serious, “What ifs.” it’s why I have a satellite tracking unit on my bike and why I laid out the extra cash for the, “Helicopter rescue,” package. If I go big, I’d also like to go home.

Fear in writing though, that will hold you back too. You see we all have a tendency to self censor. We’ll pull our punches because something we’re writing makes us feel a bit weird to be putting, “That stuff,” on paper. Or we’re not sure something is the best it can be. For some writers it leads to years and years of rewrites for others it means never showing their work to any but a select few or anybody.

Which is sad.

The simple fact is, you’re never going to please everybody so simply start by pleasing yourself and once that’s done, clean up and write something that makes you happy or at the very least satisfied.

Now I’m not somebody who bangs a book out a month. I simply don’t have that sort of output but I can put one out every eight months to a year and that seems like a decent time frame for me. When I was writing screenplays you sometimes only had a few weeks to get that first draft of a project done and then it seemed that every rewrite after that was two weeks until you went to camera and then things really got interesting. The thing is pressure like that forces you to really step up your game and get the work done. There’s no time to be blocked when there’s a film shoot on the line.

There’s no reason writing a book should be any different. You set a deadline and you meet it. The only trick is knowing what stage you need to be at within the framework of the time allotted and who the crew is going to be to help you get there. Be it your editor, beta readers, etc.

Is it scary?

Yes.

Does it feel like you’ve given yourself an impossible task?

Sometimes but so what? If this was easy everybody would be doing it. Oh wait, everybody is doing it.

So if you’re going to stand out, your quality should be high and your story tight.

Happy writing.

Please purchase my thrillers Devil’s Gambit and Reliance, available on Amazon in Trade Paperback and for Kindle.

You can also enter to win a copy of Reliance in my Amazon Giveaway. The Contest closes on Sunday.

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At the lake on a very warm January morning, with my son Colin.

I’ll be honest, Christmas is tough for me. I have a hard time with the crowds and the noise they make. Even with my ear buds screwed firmly into my head and the volume on my iPod up as high as it can go, the situation gets to me and it starts to feel like my face and scalp are trying to pull themselves off of my skull.

That’s the joy of my particular brand of PTSD, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

So imagine how I felt when I went into Costco in August and found Christmas trees and light displays. I mean we’re talking pre thanksgiving (both of them), Halloween and Remembrance day (which to my mind was more than a little disrespectful). Deep deep down, I knew this year was going to be a really long haul to make it through.

You would think that I’d have developed coping mechanisms by now. After all, the Holiday Season is a yearly thing. For the most part I have but in recent years it’s been a race of a pound of defense against twenty pounds of offense. Even bunkering down and trying to stay put only works so much. It’s impossible to barricade yourself in your house for a month and a half and not come across as more than a little nuts. Not that I can manage that on even a daily basis but you get what I’m saying. So you take a few deep breaths and venture out.

Of course, there is an upside. This condition of mine really knocks the commercialism out of everything. I really do prefer to focus on the things we do as a family. The meals we cook, the baking (my wife and daughter – for some reason baking eludes me as a cook) and the friends we visit or have visit. Back in BC, Boxing Day was always an open house for us and would almost always end in a house full of family, friends, food and live music. It’s a little bit tougher to manage out here in Mississauga and Rockband, doesn’t quite cut it in the music department.

Anyway, Black Friday is officially behind us, now the season kicks off in earnest. So do I have a Christmas wish? Yes I do. My wish is that people focus on what they have not what they want. Because happiness lies with the former and not the latter.

 

You can purchase my thrillers Devil’s Gambit and Reliance thru Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

Adam Dreece's Blog

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