Sunday, August 9, 2015

Lancing the Boil

I don't get writer's block. That's what I tell myself. I can always knuckle down and put words to paper in a workmanlike fasshion. I don't get blocked. But I do get distracted by shiny objects. And very occasionally, get distracted by things that seem very big and dark.

Meditations on Violence, my first published book was essentially a big psychic vomit. Some things that had been in my head, swelling. Things that didn't settle and go away no matter how much I poked at them. Maybe psychic vomit is the wrong word. More like an infected wound.

There's been another one building for the last six months or so. I've barely written on my (other) blog. Barely been able to write on even the projects I'm excited about. Everything seemed so trivial next to these thoughts and, honestly, I was hating the world a bit. Wondering how such a thing could happen and how it could be accepted or invisible to everyone. How it had been invisible to me for a lifetime until I got the verbal slap.

It's been on my mind, and interfering with a lot of things for six months or more. K and MS both have called me on it, repeatedly. Usually, I have a good perspective and regain equilibrium quickly with dark things. But this wasn't settling. It occurred to me, finally, that this isn't my first rodeo. What happened last time poking at things in my own head wasn't working? Meditations on Violence is what happened.

So I wrote it out. It felt like lancing an infected wound. The brain freed up. And, like many things, on paper it doesn't look so big. It still is big, but not as monolithic and unassailable as it had been in my head.

Probably won't share it beyond a very small circle of friends, but that's not the point. The pressure is released. Time to get some work done.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Possession, Demonic

A long time I was told that if I ever made it as an author, my position would be very weak vis-a-vis the publisher in some of the decisions that are made. For instance, it's very unlikely that the cover artist has actually read the book.

Evidently, that's not just a big publisher thing. The niche press doing my next book (my fifth with them) had a really cool idea today-- that absolutely contradicted the entire theme of the book. It's almost like some kind of ancient demon with really dated ideas about marketing has possessed the company.

ConCom would be a hard book not to sell, but it looks like someone is actively trying.

Saturday, February 28, 2015


So I'm in this weird head space right now that I've never been in before, because this is a first in my life. My books are selling.

Not someone else's books. Not books I've worked on. Not magazines that I've contributed to.

I'm not selling a lot, but I'm selling books I've written.

And every damn time a book sells, that day, I'm excited. I've sold something! Someone will read my book, maybe even all the way through! They might even like it!

And then a day goes by with no sales, and another.

This feeling begins to creep in, that I'd sold my last book, and that's it. It was a fun ride, and I had a great time, but it's over. It's not sadness really. Resignation? Not really that either. Maybe gratitude, like the day after my birthday when I've spent time with family and friends and I got a few gifts and ate cake (we don't make a big deal of my birthday). I'm grateful and happy. Although we're together because of the event, it's not entirely about me. It's about sharing a landmark together.

The next day, I'm not let down, or sad. I just feel like the party is over and now it's time to get back to work. I'm happy because I got to see everyone and have some fun, but life moves on and it's not as bright as that day before.

That's the closest I can get, I think, to describing how it feels to have a day or two or ten go by with no sales. I figure, I might not sell another book. That's okay. It has to be. Nothing lasts forever.

Then I sell another book and it starts all over again. It's exciting, and yet the future feels very uncertain because of it. Almost all of my life, I could predict pretty well what the next day, the next week, even the next month would be like. Now I don't know.

I don't know.

That's really nifty. I think I can get used to this.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


Kami talks about the muddle in the middle, the point in a novel where you get tangled in plot complexity and it's easy to just let the project die and move on to something new and shiny. As a non-fiction author, I don't usually get that. Usually, the trajectory of what i want to say is pretty clean. If there's a muddle in the middle (or beginning or end) it's almost always a sign that my message isn't clear enough.

I'm hitting some kind of meta-muddle. things going on outside and between projects. I have lots to do and very little is getting done.

Projects. Writing aside, I have some lesson plans that feel like they need work.  They don't. I've looked them over obsessively. But there are two classes that we haven't taught before and I keep wanting to fix things that aren't broken. To script the lectures in unrealistic and ineffective detail.

Writing. I have six good projects in various stages right now. "Principles" is actually my first book, something I have been working on for years, almost two decades at this point. The big book of things that make other things work. "Concepts" is a companion to "Principles". "Concepts" covers how force professionals think. It will be easier to finish than anything else at this point. "InFighting" is on the back burner. We shot the DVD, that should be good enough for now, but I know it won't be. Both because my publisher likes tie-ins and because there are important things I can explain in writing that won't show in a video, "InFighting" needs to happen. And it's something I love.

The other three are things I'm very passionate about, one on how to teach for emergency skills; one on police and ethics; and one on power dynamics. That's a problem, because I'll be working on "Concepts" and get an idea that needs to be in "Power" and I'm like an ADHD dog in a room full of squirrels. It doesn't help that all three are pretty (fluid? vague? ill-defined? unpioneered?) so it's easy to get frustrated, to feel that if it's never been done right before, who am I to try?

Boo fuckin' hoo.

And, one more writing thing. The exciting projects, particularly "Power" are kicking up a cognitive hornet's nest. Just a little research and a little insight I'm seeing some very uncomfortable things about the way the world works. Things I almost wish that I could unsee, things that make me a little mad and sad and indignant.

A friend of ours says that when you are on the verge of a break through, the world will start throwing you distractions. Evidently. Freelancing is chaotic at the best of times, but in the space of a week we've gone from wondering if we would have to sell something to make the mortgage to looking at the most lucrative month of my life. I've been getting coached by businessmen on how to make the seminars big business. Limited partnership proposals from big organizations. And a 23-page document to fix my website because I have time for that and need more business.

Somewhere in there I caught myself, for a moment, thinking about maximizing revenues. I had to take a step back. That's not me. Saving lives, making people stronger is what I do. I'm not opposed to money, it's easy to show that capitalism is the greatest driver of peace and prosperity in human history, but it's not my core. Not how I keep score. Looks like I need to get down to fundamentals. And write a business plan in tune with my values. And finish some damn books.

Monday, March 3, 2014

My Flow

I have a process to publishing a book. I find when I get stuck, it's usually because I'm thinking about the wrong step. For instance, trying to edit while trying to write. Or anticipating the readers.
So, in case anyone is interested:

  • Outline. I don't think I'd do this for fiction, but for nonfiction it is very easy to go off on useless tangents* or get repetitious or create a circular mess that no one can follow.
  • Intro. I write the introduction first, mostly for myself. This becomes the mission statement-- what I intend to write, why I need to be the one writing it and what the reader will get. This becomes the promise I have to live up to for the rest of the book. And I really like under-selling and over-delivering. I want an awesome intro but an even better book.
  • Write the book. Write the damn thing. Finish it. When I give this list to other people I skip the above two steps because this is the important one. Nothing happens with a manuscript unless it is finished. Mental trick-- I don't think of writing as a creative process. It is vomiting onto paper. I get stuff out of my system that would be toxic inside. I can make the vomit pretty later. But I have to get it out.
  • Run through. This is not a rewrite. This is a quick read to see if you left out big ideas or have big grammatical errors or missing words or pages. Frequently in a manuscript I'll type XXX and a note on something I need to add, change or research XXX. Triple X is easy to search the document for. I can't emphasize enough that you do not rewrite the manuscript at this stage. You are too close to see it.
  • First Readers. I have a small group of mean friends or honorable enemies who I trust to read the manuscript and tell me honestly where I screwed up. Things that are unclear, where I went off in my own private language. Connections that don't make sense. In fiction, at this stage, you are too close to the story to see plot holes. Your mean friends and honorable enemies will point them out. DO NOT have nice people or people who really like you in your reader pool. That's great for stroking your ego, but useless for improving the manuscript. And don't have too many people who "desperately want to be writers someday" because they will be critiquing the manuscript in their heads, not the one on the page. Best are smart people with a mean streak who love to read in the field.
  • Rewrite as necessary. Once you have your first reader's input. Remember you don't have to take all of their suggestions, but if all of them say Chapter Six and Chapter Nine contradict each other, that's good to know.  You may have had some other ideas during this wait and the wait time is usually long enough to get over being too close. So if you want to add some stuff and can make it blend, go for it. But there's no problem with saving the new stuff for the next book either.
  • Send to a proofreader. You can't proofread your own stuff. If you knew the right spelling and grammar rules, you would have got it right the first time. Send it to a pro or a friend who is really good. Friends are cheaper, so you can send it to two, but proofreading is tedious as hell so don't go through all your friends too quickly. Make sure 'track changes' is on.
  • Accept or reject changes. There are grammar nazis and comma queens out there-- people with advanced degrees in english who couldn't write to save their lives. A lot of those become editors or proofreaders. That doesn't mean they are right. Evaluate all changes. Syntax (meaning) trumps grammar (form). There has never been a great work of literature that was grammatically perfect.
  • About this point you want to create or commission someone to do the cover. I use fellow Inker Kami
  • Front and back matter. Add legal notices, disclaimers, acknowledgements, bibliography, about the author, back cover copy if you're doing a paper book. **
At this point, prep for publishing. You will do things slightly differently for different formats.

  • Formatting. Formatting for e-books is weird and I have slightly different flowcharts for Draft2Digital, SmashWords and Kindle. One of the biggest issues is that if you have already created a Table of Contents, especially a linked one, it will screw up Draft2Digital's automatic ToC generator.*** Make sure to change the notices in the front matter to reflect the publisher. Embarrassing to have 'This Kindle version..." in your Smashwords stuff.
  • Upload
  • Review (Smashwords has an automatic review as well)
  • Change as necessary. Repeat these steps as necessary
  • Authorize
  • Add to your author profile (automatic at SmashWords, not necessary for D2D)
  • Announce/Market
Print Books (I use CreateSpace)
  • I have Kami do the interior design for print books
  • Submit
  • Order proofs
  • Proofread
  • Change as necessary (you always find errors in the paper version you missed on your laptop.)
  • Repeat as necessary
  • Authorize
  • Add to Author Central on Amazon
  • Announce/Market
* A lot of my useless tangents I just cut and paste to the bottom of the manuscript because I might use them later. Or if I get an idea. Usually, at the end of my first draft, the bottom of the manuscript has pages and pages of concepts, ideas and things to work in. That way I can concentrate on getting it done without worrying about forgetting an idea or detail that belongs somewhere else.

** Somewhere about here is where you start asking people for blurbs for the back cover, if that is something you want to do.

***Strange that in one area of my life, ToC means Table of Contents and in another it means Totality of Circumstances that justify a use of force.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Book They Read

Lawrence Kane, my co-author for "Scaling Force" cautions me (frequently) that "I'm too pithy." He says that I trust my readers too much, assume that they'll make connections that some will miss. I don't explain the things that I think are obvious.

I'm largely okay with that. When I'm in a grumpy mood I don't want stupid people reading my stuff anyway. In a normal mood, I hate talking down to people and my baseline assumption is that people are smart.  They can and will keep up and if they have to stretch a bit to do that, that's good exercise. I was a knuckle dragging jail guard. I'm pretty confidant the average person can hold their own with anything I write.

But... (you knew that was coming, right?)
Here's a caution for newbie writers, especially neo-pros: No one actually reads the book that you wrote. They read a different book, the one that exists in their heads. It's not (much) a matter of clarity or education or reading level. It's just how people are.

Decades ago, when I wrote fiction, I got a rejection letter from MZB saying that she didn't publish stories with unicorns or elves. I have never once in my life written a story with a unicorn and gave up on writing about elves about the time I finished puberty. If I recall the story, it was a pretty dark thing about urban shamanism. Or maybe a pretty dark thing about what a familiar spirit would actually be...

Anyway, she read and rejected a story that had absolutely no relationship to the one I wrote.

That's pretty extreme and I transitioned to non-fiction a long time ago... but it crops up even more. Occasionally I read reviews or articles and two reviewers will get completely opposite information from the same chapter. Not ever about the material, but about the author. Evidently I hate training methods that I've used since before the reviewer was born; hate traditional arts and love them; never do X but always do X. Some even go deeper and I've been labeled a fundamentalist christian, an anti-christian, an atheist and a buddhist. Based on a self-defense book? Really?

Not that any of that matters it's just...puzzling.
A couple of things, though. If you hit a nerve with your writing, especially non-fiction, the human animal is driven to find a reason not to change, not to learn and the fastest way to do that is to put a label on the author.
Hit nerves anyway. That's what good writing is supposed to do.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Orycon 35

Okay INKers, it's Orycon time again. Orycon has a really nifty online program. Hopefully this link will take you straight to my schedule, forever. Maybe. As long as it lasts, anyway. I'm not sure if the individual program schedules stay on their respective websites forever, or if they get overwritten by the current year. I suppose I could go test it out, but ... meh. Anyway, I have a reading. A fifteen minute reading. I'm more than a little nervous about that. Put me in front of lots of people to blather about pretty much any ol' subject, I'm good. Put me in a room with 1-12 people where I read my stuff aloud? I get all shaky and shy. What's with that? It's not like my words on the page are all that different from the words I say out loud during a panel. Are they? What's the difference?

Maybe in conversation and on panels my words have no soul, no emotion, no life. Zombie words. But on the page they come alive! They have fears and courage, pleasure and pain ....

It seems kind of backwards. I mean, I've had time to revise and polish words on the page (though I'm not supposed to, ahem, do too much of that.) In theory I'm prepared, right? All I have to do is read those words. I'm much more likely to make a fool of myself saying something wrong while yammering on. And yet, I'm more nervous about the works that I picked carefully. Very weird.

Maybe it's because I wrote them without any feedback. I mean, you can get feedback after the fact, but that's not the same as talking. When you're talking, you have the opportunity, even if you can't or won't take advantage of it, to read your audience's expression and reactions and adjust accordingly. When you're writing a book or short story, you just keep marching on and hope that you aren't marching right off a cliff.

Or maybe I'm just being silly. That wouldn't surprise me in the least.

I'm also Nanowrimo-ing. I've got a personal goal of 80,000 words this time. It's kinda touch-n-go as far as whether I'll make it or not. I'm on track for 50,000 so far (can't get cocky, especially this early on. Remember the time my office flooded? Yeah, me too) but behind if I want to make the eighty. And so I'll spend part of my time at Orycon adding words.

This year I'm doing something YA-ish. I'm not convinced it *is* YA. I'm not familiar enough with YA to make that call. But that's not my job. Right now my job is to write. Lots. Lots and lots.

Which I should go back to, but I think instead I'll make some tea because my butt is going numb.

See some or all of you at the con!

Friday, July 12, 2013

If I had a choice

If I had a choice, I would quit my day job right now.

Not because I want more time to write, though I do.
Not because I believe I can make a living at this, though I do.

Actually, I think I *do* have a choice, but common sense requires me to wait, though I think we could stay afloat if I quit my day job.

Two words.

Health insurance.

Crunching the numbers, I think I could compensate for the loss of health insurance, but I would give up more than just those benefits. Right now I could probably quit and break even. I'd like to do better than that. I don't want to leave the benefits and security behind just because I think I could get by without them on my own.

I'd like to be ahead of the game, with a big financial cushion in case things go wrong. I want, instead of leaping off the cliff and having faith in myself, to do what I did when I learned how to paraglide.

I want to inflate my paragliding wing, look up into that glory of color and engineering, and run, and leap, knowing I will fly, and that I've done everything in my power to save myself in case that beautiful creation starts to collapse and the winds of fate spin me around and drop me toward the unforgiving earth. It's not just a matter of being responsible, or playing it safe. It's a matter of exercising patience, and trusting that however sweet quitting my day job today might be, that leaving my safety net behind when I'm truly ready will be not just be a step closer to freedom, but will be the first step into actual and real freedom. Going out without the financial support of a steady paycheck right now is do-able. Moving forward without the financial support of a steady paycheck in the future will be the right thing to do.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Being Good

Just got off the phone with a friend who thinks she is not a good writer, even though she has completed two excellent articles in the last two days.

Here's the deal.  Assuming you have basic writing skill, if you feel passionate about something you will write something raw and powerful.  It will be good.

If you feel nothing about a subject but have basic writing skill (and intelligence), you will write something very clear.  It will be good.

Both are good.  Both are different types of good.

If you try to edit the passionate to make it more clear, you will ruin it.

If you try to edit the clarity to make it more passionate, you will ruin it.

Run with the type of good that you have.

Message ends.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Needed to rant.
Remember that contract I refused to sign?  I got an alternate contract, similar to the one from the previous editor.  All good.  They still had the right to publish it in the magazine, on the web, e-mail it to subscribers... only real difference is that I owned it.  Which is what writing is.  Publishers don't buy your writing, they pay for a license to publish your writing.

Sorry, you probably don't need a Business of Writing 101 recap.

Anyway, noticed the article was on their website the yesterday with a handful of very positive comments from readers.  Except the byline said it was written by 'staff.'  I sent this e-mail:

(Name Redacted)-

Just noticed that my last article is up on the website without my byline.

(Website Redacted)

The contract I refused to sign would have allowed that.  That's one of the reasons I didn't sign it.  Can you have this fixed please?

Thank you,


Checked this morning and the article has been taken down.  The editor would rather lose the article than put my name on it.  Not happy.  But if this is the way the magazine has changed I do expect it to lose all of the professional writers.

Maybe not.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Publishing Books Galore

Wyrd Goat Press, LLC has been busy busy busy.

First the books.

Right now I have quite a few ebooks out, but I'm most excited about the print versions.
*Tammy Owen's "House of Goats" is in print and available.  It was my first in-print book and I learned a huge amount, almost as much as I've learned from making covers over the past couple of years.
*Violence: A Writer's Guide by Rory Miller just has to be proof-read and approved.  I have a feeling that I'll be able to approve it minutes after I get that hard copy in my hands.  Lots of eyes on this one, so hopefully there will be no typos or other issues.  I love the cover on this one, even though it made me a little crazy to make it.
*Horrible Stories I Told My Children by R.A. Ellis has been proofed.  I found issues with the cover.  I'm all eager about this book, both the full color and b&w version, so it's a little frustrating to have to resubmit it, especially since it was just a tiny tweak and it'll still take up to 24 hours to get the okay.  Wah.  The color book turned out to be really expensive, as in I have to charge $19.99 on it.  The b&w is much less expensive, but the illustrations aren't as much fun with dark gray blood.  Oh well!
*I started work on Masks by E. M. Prazeman and hope to have that puppy ready to go before the end of the month.  It'll be tight, because:

I started working with InDesign.  It's super, extra frustrating because I'm so much faster at working in Word.  And I can almost do everything I want in Word.  That almost is what convinced me to learn InDesign.  And the most aggravating part is that I don't know how to do stuff in InDesign that I can do in Word.  Like headers.  Should be easy, right?  Well, I imagine that eventually it will be easy.  Right now it's like pulling teeth.  I may have to get a book on InDesign.

Last but not least, I have a new version of GIMP to play with.  I'm at the stage with the program where I feel limited only by my talent and rendering capabilities.  The program is powerful, easy, and fun.  I hope I get to this point with InDesign.  It can't seem to happen fast enough.

It's all amazing.  I wish I was doing and learning all this when I didn't have a day job.  But that was a different time, different circumstances, and it's a whole new world of publishing now.  I had the time, but not the options.  Now I have the options, but I don't have the time.

Will it ever come together?  Stay tuned for the next episode!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

No Thanks

For the third time in my writing career, I've cut ties with a publisher.  New editor, new policies, and a new contract.  This contract granted all rights to the publisher and 'generously' returned to me a limited license to my own work.

No thanks.

"Writer transfers to XXRedactedXX right, title, and interest, to publish the Work, in all languages, throughout the world, in any form or medium now known or hereafter developed. The rights transferred and assigned include but are not limited to the rights to edit, publish, reproduce, distribute, license, prepare derivative works, sell and convey the work without further payment to Writer. Writer shall make no claim to have any right, title, or interest of any kind in the Work, ...  Writer shall have no right to sell, distribute, display, exhibit, or otherwise make available the Work to anyone other than XXRedactedXX, by any means, other than those set forth in Section 5, below.

I'm curious to see what happens to the magazine, since I don't see any professional writer signing this and the previous editor had groomed a crop of pretty good writers.  Time will tell.

So, what's wrong with it? Well, for one thing it allows them, should they wish, to remove the author's name and say simply, 'staff'...and protesting or even saying that I wrote it would violate the 'make no claim' clause.  Though the license granted (the 'section 5') would allow me to collect the stories I wrote and create a book... they could do so as well.  And put my name on it or someone else's.  And I wouldn't be able to upload it to, say, kindle or smashwords because both require, in their contracts, that I have the copyright.

It's not the worst contract I've seen.  The worst (and they are the other two markets I don't write for) were even more restrictive.  Had I signed the contract, not only would I have sold rights to the story, but the rights to teach my own classes. The contract was written so that the knowledge that qualified me to write the articles in the first place now belonged to the magazine.  Sigh.  Needless to say, like with this contract I refused to sign.  And unlike the publishers I've worked with who were professional (pros negotiate-- thanks David and Kathy) they refused to negotiate.  Sign or else.

I'll take the 'or else.'

And that has opened an interesting can of worms in that two of these magazines had already gone to print without a contract.  Interesting.

So, if any magazine publisher with integrity and a good contract wants some articles, let me know...

Monday, December 10, 2012

Eight in One...

I think it's been a big year.

Just found out that "Leading the Way: Maximizing Your Potential as a Martial Arts Instructor" by the late Tim Bown is out.  Along with "Campfire Tales From Hell."  That makes two books I edited this year.  "Force Decisions" came out as well, and "Scaling Force," the collaboration with Lawrence Kane.  The "Facing Violence" DVD came out in May.

On the e-book front, the fifth volume of the blog compilation; "Talking Them Through: Crisis Communication with the Mentally Ill and Emotionally Disturbed;" and "Horrible Stories I told My Children" under the pseudonym of R.A. Ellis came out.

One book written
One Collaboration
Two books  edited
Three e-books

All in one year.
2013 should have two DVDs ("Logic of Violence" and "Joint Locks" are already filmed and in the editing process)
The print version of "Drills" from YMAA
Second edition of "Violence: a Writer's Guide" (currently out to the first readers)
The Conflict Communications Manual
And Kami is considering releasing some of my fiction through her Wyrd Goat Press.

Don't now if I can keep this up but... damn.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Promo stuff

I've been putting together promotional stuff lately.  It can be crazy-making.  All those little details, balancing elements, learning how the pros do it so that I can look more professional, or at least break the rules with full knowledge.  It's a whole new skill set and the learning goes on and on and on and on ....


Tuesday, October 16, 2012


So, I had a meeting with my Hungarian publisher in Budapest Friday...

You have no idea how cool it is to write that.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


I'm not actually blocked.  I don't get writer's block.  Writing, in a lot of ways is like any other unpleasant chore.  You sit down and do it.  If I know what I want to say (and that's the norm) I can easily kick out 2000 words in a morning.  If I know what I want to say and I'm excited about it, I've broken 10k words in a day.

I'm not blocked, I just don't want to.  Brought it up with K today and she, in some subtle way, pointed out that my last couple of writing experiences have been less than pleasant.  Maybe horrible.

Don't want to be too specific.  The involved people will easily recognize themselves but--

My most heavily, professionally edited book came out a few months ago.  The writing process was easy, the editing process was hell.  Months and months of just annoying argument and battle...and I am still cataloging all of the stupid editing, spelling and grammar mistakes in it.  Up to eighty and I am only about halfway through.  Not just little stuff, like comma placement-- and entire chapter is mis-titled; one of the contributors names is misspelled and, for that matter my publishers saw fit to inform the Library of Congress of a middle name I don't have.  The hardest process for the worst product ever with this publisher.  I will walk away and self-publish if anything looks like it is going this way again.

"Scaling Force" the collaboration with Lawrence came out and it looks good.  But the collaboration process was aggravating.  I think I work for myself partially because I hate waiting and partially because I can ignore feelings and small talk.  Ehhh, not in a collaboration project.  This one went well, though and the product is good.

The other collaboration, with the other co-author is cancelled.  We've decided to go our own ways.  After over a year of waiting for the other guys input, the input was...almost like he didn't understand the project at all.  Aggravating.

So, a part of me just doesn't want to put my hands in that same blender again.  But that's the job.  At least no one has shot at me all year.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Education of a Wandering Man

Only halfway through a remarkable book, "Education of a Wandering Man" by Louis L'Amour.  I'm not a big fiction fan or a western fan.  I've read a couple of books by Louis L'Amour and thought he was a good writer, sometimes compelling... but this is amazing.

It isn't really a biography.  And it isn't really about other books or reading or writing.  In "Education" L'Amour talks about his life, wandering and trying to work before and during the Great Depression.  He talks about the people he met and the stories he heard and the books he read.  All true.  But it's not about any of those.  Were it about any of those subjects, he could have gone much deeper.

The book is about the process of learning, of becoming.  Education, in L'Amour's eyes (and mine) is a process of learning to see and to think.
"One thing has always been true: That book or that person who can give me an idea or a new slant on an old idea is my friend." - Louis L'Amour

Reading.  Meeting folks.  Listening to stories.  L'Amour was active at a time when you could still run into Old West gunfighters, when the last of the cowboys were still around and getting eager with age to talk.

It hasn't changed.  He writes about talking to an old lawman about a massacre and I reminded of graveyard shifts, one spent with an old OSS veteran, the other with a Pacific Theater ace.  There are people with stories to share.  There is much of the world to see and taste...

A good kick in the pants to those who want to become story tellers.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

New Book

Received a box of author's copies of "FD" this morning. As is my custom, I went out on the deck with a cigar to read the first one.

Not happy.

More than MoV or FV, "FD" is about some important stuff. And it was hard to write. It is the kind of thing that will draw fire-- every person who has already made up their minds that cops are evil thugs will hate it but not read it... but also every officer who considered writing something like it will feel a need to find something wrong. The debate is so entrenched and tribal that maybe nothing good can come from explaining the basics. There were a lot of reasons not to write it at all. And some reasons not to publish.

But I did, because it was the Right Thing To Do (tm).

Then the editing process was the first really negative experience I've had with my publisher. It actually turned into an adversarial relationship with my own editor.

The author approval copy I received was riddled with mistakes and I sent a comprehensive list to the publisher who assured me they were all fixed. They never sent a final galley for approval. The book came out while I was waiting for the galley proofs.

And it is riddled with errors. Mostly typos, but some of the errors are glaring. The section on "Levels of Resistance" is titled "Levels of Force". The formatting is inconsistent. Mostly stuff that I pointed out in the last revision, but all the errors appear to have been left in and a few new ones added. Oh, and according to the publisher page my middle name is Kane.

Not happy. If this book does well it is because the data is important and timely and despite everything else.

Sigh. And growl.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Recycling and Good Will

Wrote two articles yesterday, and sent in three. One was for my publisher's publicist, the indomitable Barbara; the other two for Concealed Carry Magazine.

Originally, Barbara had suggested something that ties in with the Martin/Zimmerman shooting and the public uproar, since my next book coming out will be about how police make force decisions. My answer was "Hell, no!" and my reasoning was:

1) I can count the actual facts that we have on the fingers of one hand.

2) Even a trained investigator doesn't necessarily know local
policies, procedures and local law. To comment on any investigation
without this is blowing smoke out your ass and that's one thing I
don't want to do.

3) Everyone is so emotional over the issue that absolutely nothing
said will in any way help or calm things down. It will just be picked
apart for any wording that can justify not listening to any unwanted
conclusion or fact.

I answered a few more questions in the e-mail, particularly why a book on police decision making has so little relevance to this case (duty to act)...

But I did wind up writing an article on necessary steps to evaluate a force decision as a third party. And it was pretty good. And I knew CCM would like it, but I had written it for YMAA.

So I asked if they could both use it. And both said 'yes'. Not only yes, but 'Absolutely let them print/post it, but make sure it's okay if we do because you shouldn't burn bridges.'

Basically, when everyone is more worried about hurting other people's feelings than what is in it for themselves, you know you are working with great people.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Update and Advice

Nothing posted since August on a blog for a crew of writers. Shameful.

I, for one, have been writing. Five volumes of the blog are up in e-book as well as "Talking Them Through: Crisis Communication with the Mentally Ill and Emotionally Disturbed" and "Drills: Training for Sudden Violence."

"Force Decisions" a citizen's guide to how cops decide to use force is due out from YMAA in a couple of months, and two videos later in the year. Still haven't seen the rough cuts so I have to assume that I'm not photogenic at all and David Silver is trying to salvage something in post-production. Damn, should have done videos when I was younger and prettier...
I'm going to give y'all some advice on writing for a living:

1) Do some non-fiction. I am clearly the least talented writer in INK. But I have the most sales. Look at a magazine rack. How many fiction magazines are still publishing? Compare them to the hundreds of magazines on non-fiction subjects. And each of those mags has a deadline and a page requirement. Every month they need stories. If you can write half-way decently, if you can do basic research and especially if you can supply some pictures, you can get published. And paid.
Corollaries: 1a) Strangely enough, you write a few articles on the same subject and people label you an expert. Kind of sad and scary if you think about it.
1b) It is still a professional writing credit that goes in your cover letter and possibly on your resume. Nonfiction can help you sell your fiction.

2) I'm still working on this, but diversify your income streams. Royalties are cool and I have every intention on living off them some day. E-books may become a big part of that. Add magazine articles. When you are successful or if you have or develop an expertise, you can teach classes on line.

3) e-books for the hard-to-place stuff. "Talking Them Through" and "Drills" were too short to be practical for traditional publishing. Doesn't matter for e-formats. If there is a super-niche market you want to reach, e-books are likely your only hope.

4) Recycling. I did blog compilations and I've been doing a series of articles for Concealed Carry Magazine that might make a stand-alone short book. You can sell stories separately AND gather them into collections. Be careful, though. I despise it when someone just repackages the same information over and over so (except for the blog compilations) I try not to do that. Even in the blog compilations, I added thousands of words of new material to each one. And put a notice right up front that most of it was available for free at:

5) Get the word out. Unless someone happens to be cruising Smashwords in those three minutes where your newly uploaded book is on the first page, no one is going to buy your stuff because no one knows to look for it. Your networks will start things rolling. Some people will buy it because they like you or want to support a friend. If it's good, though, that will turn into word of mouth, and that will keep people looking for other things you have written. No one can buy a product if they are unaware of the existence of said product.

6) Quit dithering. This is for two people whose names shall not be mentioned but have the initials Kami and Carole. Spending hours reworking cover art and years rewriting is time spent not writing, no matter what you tell yourself. You guys are fundamentally, magically dispassionate with my work and as such you give me great advice and produce great covers. You are gifted writers and artists. Start acting like it. Quit agonizing and get the work done.

And I said that last one was for two people, but it applies to all y'all and you damn well know it.
Current works available on Amazon:

And Smashwords:

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Back from Worldcon

I got back from Worldcon (Renovation in Reno, Nevada) a while ago. It's taken this long to sort of catch up with life, if that makes any sense.

I learned a ton from the few panels I attended. I mainly looked for ways to fill in holes rather than to go to panels where I already knew a lot about the subject. Here are some highlights:

Victorian and pre-Victorian war stuff: I had no idea that you could keep a firearm loaded pretty well indefinitely if you prepared for weather. Some antique weapons still sitting in attics could theoretically fire just fine--so be careful whenever you pick up something firearm-like no matter how ancient, dusty, rusted, dysfunctional, etc. it might appear. I know, duh, but it bears repeating. Your great-great-great-grandfather's flintlock might be loaded and go off. Seriously. Plus, cannonballs traveled really, really far. They just bounced on and on and on for thousands of meters.

Seriously cool. I wrote down some good sources for those hard-to-find non-technical details that describe, for example, that black powder firearms emit a gorgeous, pure white smoke (the lecturer told us it's the purest white he's ever seen.)

Panel about consistency when writing in a series, shared world, etc.: The main good idea I got from this is to write notes and an outline after you finish a chapter in a book or a short story in a world that you may intend to write in again someday. Character details that are revealed (age, that she loves bourbon, etc.) plus a general list of events is all you need. One writer on the panel had to hire someone to read her books and take extensive notes for her to go off of because after several years she needed to start writing in the series again and had forgotten most of those telling details writers keep in their heads with varying degrees of success. Reading those books would have taken too much time out of her writing schedule and would have put her behind on several deadlines.

I'm going to start doing that from now on. Much easier and cheaper than hiring someone ten years from now to read Masks and take notes on it so that I don't mess up someone's mother's age and get hate mail from fans about it. (Wouldn't it be grand to get fan mail and to work with multiple deadlines on projects because I'm such a busy writer? I know, I know, be careful what you wish for ....)

I watched master artists sketching a life model (who was somewhat clothed for propriety's sake as it was in a public area) for quite some time. It made me itch to do art again, which is good because I also studied cover design at the convention, first at the art show and then again at a cover design panel and yet again at a 'what's coming out this year' panel for Orbit. (I missed the one for Tor, darn it!) My brain is now brimming with ideas--the perfect time to start rough design ideas for various book covers before those ideas vanish into mist.

I also talked shop with a Canadian publisher. I hope to send some stuff their way soon.

There's lots more to tell, but I ought to actually, you know, write. Today.

Right now ....

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Another INK Victory!

I've sold a story to a great market--more details when I can officially announce them.  The story is "Neighbors"--the expanded version I wrote when I realized that the end couldn't really be the end.

I also sent a story in to the Writers of the Future contest.  With two stories sold in the whole universe so far, as far as the WotF contest is concerned, I can only sell one more story before I become ineligible for the contest.

Which I'm totally fine with on a lot of levels.  I'd of course love to win the contest, but I won't hold back on sending out stories just so that I keep my eligibility, you know?  That would be weird, and not in a good way.

Gee, I'm so calm posting this.  When I got the email, I had so many exclamation points inside me I couldn't stay sitting down!

Oops.  I guess they're still there.  They're probably just tired.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Editorial Woes

Never get into a relationship where the other person thinks you need to be fixed.

The editorial process for "Citizen's Guide to Police Use of Force" is going painfully slow. How slow? No actual work done since I rejected my editor's last set of changes. There's been minor contact, but the next vital step, where she returns the manuscript with her suggestions is two or three weeks late. I think we're already behind schedule and this shouldn't be hard.

The last one was bad. I should have got a clue when I noticed the "Track Changes" function had been turned off. Maybe hoping I wouldn't notice the changes because they would be so smooth? I sent it back, rejected utterly. It wasn't an editing job, it was an unauthorized re-write, and not a good one.

I'm pretending I'm writing this blog post so that any would-be writers reading this learn some of the pitfalls. I'm still learning them. And up until now, working with my publisher, YMAA has been really wonderful. But really I'm just writing to vent a little.

I want to get this book finished. Done. And then I don't want to even look at it again. Sick and tired of every last word. But I always feel that way toward the end of the process. I'll get over it.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


I won't get hard numbers until royalty statements come in, and the statements covering these few days won't be in until December...

But "Facing Violence" has been hanging out at about the 3000 sales rank (out of eight million) on Amazon for most of the week, and almost all of that based on pre-orders. It doesn't officially ship until tomorrow.

Product Details

It's also has given Meditations a slight bump in sales. Or so it seems.

Life is cool. Signing at the Cedar Hills Powell's in Beaverton the 25th. Hope to see some of the dozen or so fans then.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Two Ways

There are two ways to take really good pictures.  If you get an excellent camera and really learn what it can do, you can take amazing pictures.

Or you can get a pretty good, simple to operate, durable camera and go to amazing places.  Keep your eye open for things that take your breath away... and take the shot.

My first parachute jump, the jumpmaster asked what was in the pouch on my shoulder strap.
"My camera.  I thought I'd take some shots on my way down."
He smirked.  "You're an idiot.  The second you jump out of that plane you'll forget it's even there."
One of my favorite pictures (predigital, I can't post it) is of my own boots at 3000 feet.

Same with a lot of things.  I'm plowing through a book right now that will be coming out in '12, doing the rewrites, making the editor happy and it is really, really apparent (especially on first drafts) that I'm not that good a writer.  But the book is about things that you really can't see at a distance.  About what goes on inside (and what is supposed to) when an officer makes a force decision.

Go to amazing places and keep your eyes open, or polish the skill.  Either creates some good stuff.

Doing both is best.  Working on it.