Writing Music – Dad

One of the biggest hurdles I have to face when writing at home is that I live in a teeny, tiny apartment.  In other words, the TV is about five feet away from me when I’m trying to be productive.  What I used to do is put on some idiotic TV show, just so that there’s some sound other than traffic and neighbors, but it always ended up distracting me.

Today, I wanted to get into some editing and decided that I really needed music instead of some dumb show.  I managed to figure out how to stream music through my ill-used game system without straining myself too much (as a technophobe, that’s saying something).

Then I reached the next big decision.  What to play?

This is a tougher question than one might assume.  I’m a very picky music listener.  I used to play in bands during High School and College, there’s not a lot I can stand and it was important that I find something conducive to writing.  I couldn’t just put on anything, if the vocals were too loud, or the beat too techno, or a million other variations it wouldn’t work.  I’ve tried writing to music before, but often found it as bad as TV.

So, what to play?

And here’s where we start down the rabbit hole that inspired this post.

My Dad is an amazing guy, talented in a million different areas.  But, when I was growing up, his taste in music used to drive me INSANE.  He used to buy the soundtracks to big budget movies and play them all the time.  And I mean the original soundtracks, not just a bunch of bands thrown together.  John Williams, Danny Elfman, etc.  Last of the Mohicans, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, there’s dozens I know by heart.

At fourteen I’d be sitting at the dinner table, mentally stewing because “Why are we listening to this when I’ve got a perfectly good Nine Inch Nails album in my room?”

Among the many talents of my dad are he’s exceptional with photoshop, digital animation, video and photography, and graphic design.  He spent so many hours in his office perfecting his work and it shows.  Calling him a talented hobbyist would be a dramatic understatement.

All while listening to movie soundtracks and similar music.

As I perused my options today one stood out: movie soundtracks.

That’s perfect, right?  The music varies, there’s a bit of every mood, there often aren’t big vocals or distracting flurries.  It’s meant to be subtle but evoke emotion.

And it works perfectly for me.  Now, when I’m writing I know what to pull up.

I had to laugh at myself a bit as the opening strains of Jurassic Park came through the speakers today.  How many times had I complained about my Dad’s music choices and now they’re my go-to?

It’s also nice that every once and a while a familiar tune plays and I get a little smile thinking of him.

When to leave a review

I’ve got a question for all the authors out there, is it alright to leave a less than stellar review?  I’ll explain.

Over the last year I’ve met and followed a lot of different authors on WordPress.  I try to be a good part of the network by picking up their books and other recommendations, supporting indie authors.  Some of these books are fantastic and I make sure to leave a good reviews, some… aren’t.

Since I started writing seriously I found that I’ve gotten a lot more critical over my own writing and what I read.  I’ve also gotten a lot better at identifying problems, in my own writing and others’.

There have been several times that I’ve seen glowing reviews for a new indie book, on multiple sites, then picked it up myself and had a hard time even finishing it.  That’s not to say I’m an editorial genius, I’m not, some of those needed a lot of work but others were just not to my taste.

When I do finish one of those books I face a dilemma, do I leave a three-star (or less) review or do I just stay silent?  It might be better for them even if I left something less than positive with the way Amazon does their rankings, I don’t know.  And what if I know the writer (on WP, anyway)?  Should I email the writer if I had problems with the story, or just say nothing?  If it was me I’d want to know, but some people are protective over their baby and might not like unasked for criticism, even if it’s intended as constructive.

What’s in a genre?

I’ve been doing a lot of rewrites and adding sections to The Apocalypse Gazette.  While it was first started as kind of a silly, fluff story it’s quickly become one of my favorites.  It’s still silly but it’s also got a fun voice and personality.

However, there are a couple problems that have been bugging me about what to do with it.  I mean, it would be a really fun project to self publish, and that’s the goal, but there are some… logistical issues that are tripping me up the more I think about it.

First, there isn’t really a plot.  It’s basically a story about a guy all by himself in a town after the apocalypse going crazy.  He has a few minor problems that he has to figure out, the biggest being boredom, but there’s no bad guys, there’s no epic adventure.  I mean, it’s all playing off the fact that he’s losing it, a lot of the things that happen aren’t easily distinguishable between reality and his fantasies.  Personally, I’m fine with all that because it’s still a really fun story, I don’t feel like anything is missing, but how does one sell a story about a guy slowly going crazy and everything getting weirder and weirder?

Second, and this is arguably the bigger issue, what genre does The Apocalypse Gazette fall into?  Ok, fiction, obviously, but beyond that I’m not too sure.  Humor is probably the closest fit but at the same time that’s a broad category.  It’s not romance, fantasy, mystery, horror, science fiction, inspirational, or thriller.  It’s… dystopian… apocalyptic… humor?

Well, I suppose if Dystopian-Apocalyptic-Humor is a category on any of the main sites at least my story wouldn’t have much competition.

And, at least I have some time before I have to sort all that out, there’s still plenty of work to be done before I get to publishing.

If any of you have suggestions I would really like to hear them.

Writing Humor

Some stories are easier to write than others, the most difficult I’ve found so far is humor.  I love a funny story but I’m also picky, probably like most readers.  Humor is such a subjective thing.

The last few stories I’ve written for NaNo were light-hearted.  I chose those stories very specifically because they wouldn’t be too heavy, they’d be fast and fairly easy to keep up the word count.

Geeks, Greens, and Guns was more situational humor, crazy stuff happening to fairly normal people.  It’s humorous without really being funny, if that makes any sense.  There wasn’t pressure to make jokes or have good one-liners, it was more about coming up with weird situations to stick the characters into.

The Apocalypse Gazette was almost the opposite, less crazy situational stuff and more funny stuff.  That wasn’t intentional, per se, it was just how the story turned out.  The main character goes through this boredom inspired insanity that leads to him writing the gazette.  In essence, he’s finding ways to amuse himself and humor played a large role.  Not a lot actually happens in the story, the humor has to carry a lot of the burden, which had me nervous at times.  If the reader doesn’t get the jokes they’re going to put down the story pretty fast.

Well, I can’t speak for other readers, but as I was perusing some of the chapters of The Apocalypse Gazette this evening I found myself chuckling over jokes that I’d forgotten.  I’m taking that as a positive sign.  Whether or not anybody else is amused, well, at least I’ve amused myself.  Life imitating art.

Free to Pirate

I had a thought today while reading through some posts.  One writer mentioned how he was playing with advertising his ebooks on various places and how the most success he had was when he broadcast the days his books were free.  That day he had a lot of new downloads from other countries, including a large number to India.

Hmmm…  That got me thinking.

Piracy has been a problem for a long time but it’s only recently, with the advent of the ebook, that authors have had to really worry about it.  It’s becoming a bigger and bigger issue, almost every week I read about how a writer googled their own work and found it on a pirate site.

Free books are a useful tool for gaining new readers, it gives them a chance to check out your work before paying anything.  Cool, right?  But I wonder whether those free days are giving pirates a chance to easily steal writers’ work.

Think about it like this, if you were going to pirate a hundred books… are you going to pay for them first?  A hundred books at $3 a pop?  Uh uh.  I wouldn’t, I’d go to amazon every day and download all the free books.  Every day.  Then convert them and put them up on my site.

So, are those five free days offered by KDP select (or other deals) making it easier for pirates?  They grab our work on one of those days without paying for it, then turn around and sell it.  It’s what I’d do if I were morally bankrupt and looking for easy money.  (It’s possible that Kindle Unlimited could also be a contributor, but I imagine anyone in the Unlimited program that downloaded too many books a day would get flagged really fast.  I don’t know though.)

That thought right there makes me hesitant to ever discount my books too much.  The only way I can see to avoid having our work vulnerable would be to never put it out for free, that way at least the pirates would have to pay for the first copy (which I doubt they’d do unless you’re top in your genre or something).

But what about getting your work out to readers before they have to pay for it?  Sample chapters would be one way.  But the best option I can think of is to put a single book perma-free, accept that it’ll probably be pirated (but it’s free already, so you’re not really losing anything), then keep all your other books at regular price.

Just a thought for the day.

Camp NaNo Win!

Wow, April just flew by but somehow I managed to eke out over 51 thousand words and complete Geeks, Greens, and Guns…

Camp-Winner-2015-Web-BannerIt’s not one of my favorite stories but I stuck it out and I posted it to Wattpad as it was written.  That might be a headache when I start editing but it was amusing.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get much feedback during the whole process.  I’d been hoping to get more interaction going on, oh well.  It was a fun experiment and I think that’s the way I’m going to keep doing NaNo in the future.  I like the idea of all writing together but also being able to check out what other people are doing.

If you’re interested in checking out Geeks, Greens, and Guns… on Wattpad, it’s available here.  Yes, I made the cover, and finished the story, I’m quite pleased with myself.

So, what’s on the agenda now?  Actually, I’m going to be pretty busy this month.  I got the name of a good editor and I’m going to be passing her a couple of my stories.  She’s local, which was important to me because I didn’t like the idea of sending money and my work to someone I’ve never met.  A couple of the projects I finished in the last six months are in good shape (I think) and shouldn’t require too much to make them publication-ready.  I think, we’ll see what she has to say.

One of the first stories that will be getting the editor treatment is one of my favorites, I’m really excited to see how it goes.

Writing about fear

I got to hear a really fascinating TED talk about fear the other day.  The speaker went over the difference between the things we fear versus the things that are actually dangerous.

A recent example could be the fears about Ebola in the United States compared to the fear of the common flu.  Every year the flue kills thousands around the world (1)whereas Ebola infected two people in the states and both survived (2).  Rationally, the flu should be far scarier than Ebola but fear isn’t a rational thing.

The speaker for the event used a fantastic example of what fear can do to us.  The crew of the Essex, a whaling ship, was struck by a whale (inspiring Moby Dick) and sank in 1820.  The crew managed to escape the ship on the smaller whaling boats and faced a big decision; they could either make for the Marquesas islands (closer) or make for South America (far, far away).  The crew was so afraid that the islands were inhabited by cannibals that they tried for South America despite knowing they didn’t have the food or water to make the trip.  A captivating, unrealistic fear versus a very realistic, practical fear.  Most of the crew died of starvation and dehydration before being rescued by another ship 95 days later.

To me, this TED talk is interesting on multiple levels.  It affects how I see things on a daily basis, helps evaluate what is a “real” fear versus an unrealistic fear.  As a writer, it interests me because we live in the world of unrealistic fears.  A book about the flu killing .05% of the world’s population, or dying in a car crash, wouldn’t make for a very interesting read.  Our imagination is what fuels our stories, as well as our daily fears, so it’s a fascinating subject.

You should check out the talk if you get a chance:

https://www.ted.com/talks/karen_thompson_walker_what_fear_can_teach_us?language=en

WFCF voting is still open!

All of the stories have been submitted and are posted on the Write Club Fight Club website.  I know we’re all busy but if you’re interested in writers or want to support writers you should definitely check it out and vote for your favorites.

If you’re interested in my submission and haven’t checked it out already, visit J.M. Payer vs. N. J. Layouni.

I’m not going to tell you which one to vote for, just read the two and vote for your favorite.  Feedback is also appreciated, I know I’m always trying to improve my writing.  My story is Mr. Jingles, you can leave feedback there or here on my blog.

I hope you guys enjoyed the process as much as I have, it’s been a blast and I can’t wait for round two!  If you’re a writer you should definitely think about participating, it’s a whole lot of fun.

 

A Few Thoughts on “Marketing”

One of the reasons that I started this blog was to interact with other authors and learn a bit about writing, publishing, and marketing a self published book.  I’ve only been on this site for a few weeks now, but I’ve been reading and researching everything I can find.  And now, I have a couple thoughts on some of the things I’ve seen and read.  Of course, take it all with a grain of salt since I haven’t published anything yet.

One of the reasons I decided to write this post is that I realized today that I have never, not once, bought a book because of something I’d seen on social media.  Maybe that’s just me, maybe I’m in the minority, but none of the “techniques” I’ve seen so far made me click the link to check out someone’s book.  Sure, I’ve only been on here a short while, but as soon as I signed up I was following every site I could find that might have anything to do with indie authors and self publishing.  I’ve seen countless interviews, reviews, blog tours, etc.  There have only been a few times I was tempted and that was because the author caught my interest, not the book, and I was curious to see what they had written. Continue reading “A Few Thoughts on “Marketing””

Happy Fourth of July!

I’m not a big holiday guy, I usually keep things pretty mellow, but the fourth of July is a fun one.  It’s not that I go out of the way or anything, or immerse myself in the history of the date, it’s just that the town I live in always throws a big bash.  There’s bands playing music, tons of food and festivities, and of course fireworks.  It’s a blast.

Unfortunately, my dog is not a fan of fireworks.  The smallest firework going off will cause her to jump up bristling, full of adrenaline, and start barking.  I’m pretty sure she thinks fireworks are somehow a direct attack on her.  Which means the fourth of July and New Years are equal parts entertaining and annoying.

Today’s festivities probably won’t involve much writing, mostly drinking beer and eating unhealthy food.  And tonight I’ll probably be baby sitting a loud, panicky dog.  It’s a three day weekend though, so I don’t feel too bad about skipping my word count for a day.  I’ll make up for it tomorrow.

Here’s wishing you all good writing, a nice weekend, and a happy holiday!

fourth-of-julyImage from ETV10