Guest Post: Terrance Foxxe ~ The Budding Writer (Part 4)

You’ve reached the final part of Terrance Foxxe‘s series, the Budding Writer. If you missed the first two posts, have a look see (Part I , Part II, and Part IIII).

Lessons from a Twenty Year, Almost Career (Part IV)

by

Terrance Foxxe

“It’s not what you say, but how you say it.”

Bullshit!

It is what you say, and how you say it!

Writing well is the key. Creating an exciting story that’s exciting to read is the key. The lock that key goes into is writing well. Keys are shaped to fit locks. Locks are mechanisms. You can learn to understand the mechanism, but if you study the lock, can you tell what shape the key must take? Try saying all that three times real fast.

Technique. Form. Dedication. All of this can be learned by those wishing to learn it. Don’t sweat it. Not yet. Don’t ignore it, either.

As I said, my first novel had some great ideas in it. The plot was simple. Good vs. evil. What my characters did and said moved my plot along. How they acted, reacted, how they reacted to other’s actions and reactions, all brought me, and them, to the end of the book.

I added to it where I thought it lacked, thinking all the time how I could get more excitement into the story. I took away all I thought didn’t belong, hoping what I was removing was the boredom. It still lacked something. It was tenderly tucked into my file drawer with one or two regrets I quickly swallowed. There was a moment of depression I immediately gulped down, too. I’m a writer, and there is no time for mental masochism.

I dumped whatever I felt about it out of my mind and wrote my second novel. Again, horror. Good against evil. This time something was different. This time I ignored the much touted writing advice from all of my books, and let everything I was vomit out my fingertips, and had a lot of fun doing it. I wrote what I wanted to read, how I wanted to read it. This time I did something right. I wrote a good book.

My novel was full of gritty real-life drama. It didn’t pull punches. I hit below the belt when it came to my character’s reality. I had made my horror, real. Some passages bordered just this side of being pornographic, but reality, the reality I built for my characters, was art. Any fellow writer who I could convince to read the story gushed over its brilliance. They weren’t yanking my chain. They would have told me, diplomatically, if it had sucked.

Writers dedicated to the craft are like that, by the way. They love good reads just as much as you do. They love pointing out your mistakes, even when they misunderstand your intentions, and you must forgive them, because they are trying to help you. Most want to tell you things without hurting your feelings, because they don’t like getting their feelings hurt when they, in turn, show you something of theirs that bites.

Nope, my second novel did what I set out for it to do. In 1995 Leisure Books looked at it for eight months, then turned it down. A very agreeable, handwritten rejection letter. Everybody else sent the form rejection letter within the specified time limit. But, that letter from Leisure Books told me something, even if I had to read between the lines to figure out what it was.

I had a book with potential, it caught someone’s attention, but they eventually turned it down. I set it to the side for a while because I had to. I figured I was too close to the problem. When I did pick up the manuscript again, six months later, the answer hit me upside the head, hard.

I screwed myself to the wall by not producing a highly polished manuscript, and I mean that high-gloss foot-deep shine. I was an unpublished nobody from Iowa, of all places, with a less than perfect manuscript. I cut my own throat.

The manuscript was as rough as sandpaper, and needed a lot of top-coat polishing. It was up to me to have a mistake-free manuscript, and I failed. I failed myself. The problems I ran into were many. I was relying too much on my word processing program. Bare, bear. I can’t bear a bear with a bare butt. Get it? I now bracket words I’m not sure of as I edit, and run my manuscripts through three independent word programs. I double-check everything again with a freakishly big dictionary, that human factor, relying on me to catch what the machinery or software didn’t.

Indie Authors, take note. I had a great story, but I had a badly written book. An author with a badly written but great story isn’t going anywhere. Your readers will judge you, and your sales are their verdict.

Where was I? Yes. I applied this same simple principle of writing heart and soul to all of my short stories. I wrote what I wanted to read. I had fun. I cleaned up my punctuation, my grammar, the gaps in my logic, and I did that for every short story and novel I wrote. I added to them where I thought they lacked, and took away all I thought didn’t belong. I fixed all I could fix, and made sure my stories were as perfect and exciting as possible. More rejection slips arrived, but I also received a few acceptance slips. I made some money, too.

Talent.

Some people have natural talent. Most can learn.

I love to read, but made the mistake of not reading anything when I was writing. I didn’t want what I was reading to influence my writing. Well, the flaw in that logic is published words from talented writers will influence your own words. You want that to happen. You need to learn from those who came before. It’s a good thing. That’s how you can build up your own talent.

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Terrance Foxxe is crazy enough to share everything he knows about catering to readers, because readers matter most to the Indie Author of today, and tomorrow. He had two books published under his real name, only to discover publishers really suck. After being drawn and quartered, royally ripped off and then some, plus more, he is the Indie author of A Post-apocalyptic Story of Love, $2.99 USD for the Kindle. Link provided. He’s now a happy man. Buy his book. Read it. Write a review.

A Post-apocalyptic Story of Love is available at Amazon.

He blogs at http://terrancefoxxe.blogspot.com/

Novella Review: Forsaken by Shadow by Kait Nolan

I’ve wanted to read Forsaken by Shadow by Kait Nolan for some time now. My interest perked after reading Hush Money by Susan Bischoff (review here), which I LOVED. I figured with the two of them as critique partners, I was in for something worthy. 🙂 Last month I won a copy from Stacey Wallace Benefiel, giving no excuse to put it off. I finally got around to it. So the blurb from Ms. Nolan’s website:

Cade Shepherd is on top of the world as this year’s Ultimate Fighting Champion. He doesn’t even remember his life as Gage Dempsey, a Shadow Walker with the ability to magically transport himself from shadow to shadow. In fact, he can’t remember anything before waking up in a cheap motel room ten years ago with mysterious burns on his hands–not even the woman he almost died for.

Embry Hollister has picked up the pieces of her life, learned to control her ability to generate flame, and now works an enforcer for the Council of Races. But when her father is captured by the human military and the Council refuses mount a rescue mission, Embry has no choice but to go rogue. All she has to is find the man with the new name and new life who was completely wronged by her people, give him back the memories they stole, convince him to join her on what’s probably a suicide mission, and hope that after ten years of living as a regular guy he still remembers what her father taught him.

And after that, she just has to leave him. Again.

This was one of those novellas I didn’t read the blurb about. haha Honestly, I still haven’t, let me do that now. 🙂 Okay. Done.

First off, I have to say Forsaken by Shadow had an awesome set up. Chapter 1 begins with Cade Shepard (age 23) waking up, not knowing who he was, and trying to piece a life together–quite a bold plot. I had no idea what to expect, and neither did Cade. 🙂 I was thrilled to have my first young male protagonist. I quickly learned chapter 1 was more of a prologue, occurring 10 years earlier from the rest of the novella and not giving any pertinent info which wasn’t revealed later. I have to admit, I was rather bummed since that put my young male protagonist at a ripe ole age of 33. I think time clues at the beginning of the first two chapters would have curbed a bit of disappointment. I didn’t realize the story had a 10 year gap until deeper into chapter 2. Guess that’s what I get for skipping the blurb, right?

So I got over my sadness of little Cade growing into a man and got full swing into the story. Cade reminded me a lot of Downey in the Sherlock Holmes movie. He seemed to anticipate future moves. Not sure if it was an supernatural ability or just his natural ability to guess how things would go. The novella never really went into that. I did like Cade. He was a friendly sort of chap and made friends wherever he went. The guy knew his limits and was quite practical at times even when pushed by Embry.

Embry wasn’t so bad either. She was the wild card in this story. Headstrong, reckless–I never knew when she’d screw things up. She’s the type of gal who needs a handler so she doesn’t get into too much trouble. A lot of times I didn’t understand Embry. She really frustrated me with her secretiveness. I couldn’t figure out why she wasn’t more forthcoming with her information. She had everything Cade wanted–his past… his affection. The girl was a mystery to me. But I guess some folks are like that. As the reader, I would have liked to be a bit deeper in her head. Most of the time I knew as much as Cade when I was in her POV. It made it difficult to connect with her as a character, at least early in the story.

Plot wise! Their plan was so mission impossible. All I could think about is, how are they going to pull this off. Even Cade AKA Gage knew the plan sucked, which totally rocked cause it kept me wondering what’s next.

Overall, I thought this was an okay read. I liked the idea of different supernatural creatures, though I never got a clear definition of what the Mirus species was. I’m thinking it’s all supernatural creatures, but the term species makes me think they’re related in a scientific classification kind of way. There were a few plot holes in my mind and a bit of missing information. I think this work could have benefited from a bit more fleshing in some areas, but all in all, it was a fun read.

Forsaken by Shadow by Kait Nolan is Available at Barnes & Nobles || Amazon || Kobo || iTunes || Smashwords

Guest Post: Terrance Foxxe ~ The Budding Writer (Part 3)

Welcome to part 3 of Terrance Foxxe‘s series, the Budding Writer. If you missed the first two posts, have a look see (Part I and Part II). And don’t forget to return tomorrow for the wrap-up post.

Lessons from a Twenty Year, Almost Career (Part III)

by

Terrance Foxxe

Anyway, I jammed through my first novel, and was so happy to get it done, I sent it off to all the big publishing houses all at the same time. It cost me a small fortune in postage. Never again.

I did it! I wrote my first novel . . . and the overall story wasn’t that bad. It had a lot of promise, but what did I know about polished words? I just knew I did it, used almost a ream of paper to do it with, and it all made sense in the end. I even waited until the last two pages to reveal the true face of my monster. I thought it kicked shit all the way to Shinola. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Between my first novel and a dozen short stories that year, I had fifty or more rejection slips. That’s when I took everything I had to date and put it in a drawer. I knew I was doing something wrong, but I didn’t know what it was. Like most of you out there today, there was nobody around I could ask for help.

My collection of How To books grew. Literary dandelions. My How To medley now stands at 35 books. It took all that for me to figure out what I was doing wrong, and what I was doing right. I read good How To books, and bad How To books. I’ll list the good How To books in a coming post, if you want to know them or buy them. I have no deals with any of their publishers. I’m giving you this information freely, as an opinion. My learned-da-hard-way opinion.

Every single one of my “How To” books can tell you what is, in their words, the right thing to do. Some dry reading, to be sure. Many include writing exercises you can use to improve your skills. They all give examples of what not to do, but they don’t go in-depth. Everybody learns from their mistakes. It’s human nature. God knows I certainly learned from mine.

I’m going to expose myself like an unashamed flasher. You get to read about and learn from my mistakes. Chances are, these are the same mistakes you’re bashing your head into the wall about, and drywall is a pain to replace.

Writing is a craft. It’s an art form. It’s not what you say, but how you say it. Writing well is the key. Technique. Form. Talent. Dedication. Blah, blah, blah.

I believed this nonsense. And it is nonsense. Others will argue this statement to the death, but for me this declaration rings true. It’s nonsense, up to a point. Where does it stop being nonsense, you ask? Read on and figure it out on your own. You see, the answers are different for us all. My conclusions will not necessarily be yours.

“Getting published is easy. Writing well is hard.” – Gary Provost.

My ass. Getting published by the big boys is hell-on-wheels in this day and age, and writing well is much easier than you think.

There is a Catch 22 when it comes to getting published by the big boys. I bumped heads with it for years. It is: You have to be published, in order to get published. Or, to put it another way; you don’t have any credits until you get published, and publishers want to see your credits before they risk publishing you. And on and on and on.

A nasty, endless circle of twisted logic that really doesn’t make any sense. You see, me and several of my writing friends have great credits. Published many times at the semi-pro and pro level, and we got nowhere. When it became truly possible to bypass the clearinghouse, fee-charging self-publishers, I decided to take the Indie Author path. I’m much happier these days, despite doubling my workload.

The fact is, within monolithic publishing, crap sells. I don’t know why, but it does. Agents and publishers know this. Think Snookie, Paris’s dog, and so many others.

Great books, wonderful stories, they get turned down every freaking day. The gatekeepers think only in dollars. If they think they can make money off of you, lots of money, you’re in. But, they don’t know what will sell oodles of books. They simply follow trends, and then they beat those same trends to death.

With us, thinking publishing as a business, and you’re one of those people who think your finished first novel is gold, good to go; do yourself a favor and put it in a drawer for six months. Don’t touch it, don’t even think about it. Six months. Write another novel. At the end of that six months pull it out and read it again. If you still think you have gold, and be truthful, without having to rework almost every page for some reason or another, do whatever it takes. But, like I said, be truthful to yourself, first and foremost.

Twenty years of reading everything I could get my grubby hands on about writing and publishing has taught me a lot. It taught me even the best storytellers out there today may never, ever, get a contract. Future Pulitzer Prize winners may never see print by monolithic publishing, until after they win a Pulitzer. Indie Authors, some of us are magnificent storytellers. We care about our readers. We care enough to try to be the best there is out there today, in content and quality. Not getting published by monolithic publishing means nothing in terms of the quality of our stories. Nothing!

Return tomorrow for Part 4.

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Terrance Foxxe is crazy enough to share everything he knows about catering to readers, because readers matter most to the Indie Author of today, and tomorrow. He had two books published under his real name, only to discover publishers really suck. After being drawn and quartered, royally ripped off and then some, plus more, he is the Indie author of A Post-apocalyptic Story of Love, $2.99 USD for the Kindle. Link provided. He’s now a happy man. Buy his book. Read it. Write a review.

A Post-apocalyptic Story of Love is available at Amazon.

He blogs at http://terrancefoxxe.blogspot.com/

Guest Post: Terrance Foxxe ~ The Budding Writer (Part 2)

If you missed Part I of Terrance Foxxe‘s series for the Budding Writer, definitely head over for a look see (post here). Tomorrow he’ll have more on his life lessons, so be sure to return.:)

Lessons from a Twenty Year, Almost Career (Part 2)

by

Terrance Foxxe

So . . .

Jump right in and write what sells. Do it cold. Don’t bother learning the rules, they don’t mean a thing. You just sit yourself down and start churning out novels or short stories.

I did that.

You hear all the time about writers cashing freakishly enormous checks, just for sitting around in their undies, drinking the beverage of their choice while they create worlds with words. I want in on that. I’m not ashamed to say so. I want to sit in my boxers, drink coffee, inventing literary wonders. Twenty years back I believed I was a natural, and could be the instant winner in big name publishing’s lotto. My very first novel, and millions of dollars would be mine. Just send it in and wait for instant recognition, and all those who inhabit the literary landscape to kneel at my feet, praising my talent.

Didn’t I say I was stupid?

God knows I’ve spent years reading books and magazines of all kinds. Non-fiction, genre fiction, you name it. I like to read. I understood the written word as it existed in the past, and as it exists today. I considered myself to be an intelligent sophisticated man. I spent years tweaking advertising copy for small businesses and large corporations. I was an Art Director, and a Marketing Coordinator. I was an “in” man. The corporate (nerd) life was mine for the taking, but I wanted more. I needed more. Deep down inside I needed more. I had a dream I wanted to follow. I thought I could jump right into the writing world with my shoes on. Roll up a lot of self-confidence and determination into a hard tight ball, and start choking it down without the wine of reason to guzzle.

I could do it. I knew I could do it. Live writing, breathe writing, eat, sleep, drink writing. And the genre I loved the most was horror.

Science fiction was cool, fantasy rocked, but I loved to be scared. Horror it was. I was going to be the next Stephen King, Dean Koontz, the next Peter Straub. I wanted to pass Clive Barker on the fame and fortune expressway like he was standing still. And then horror as a paying genre went phuuttt! Most writers of horror turned to the small presses, while the biggest names, and only the biggest names, continued on as if nothing happened. Some horror authors started their own companies to produce their own work (and friend’s work) as limited editions. I didn’t know it then, but that was the very first indicator that big name publishing had basically slit its own throat. The midlist was dying to dead in a few short years. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Computers were well out of my price range way back then. Bills pile up in my house too, you know. I did find a Personal Word Processor within my budget and bought it. An over-glorified typewriter. It could format the page, save everything onto a floppy disc, and I loved it’s most important feature . . . Spellcheck™! What more could a man of my unlimited potential ask for? I could add to or delete from any file on a whim, save the changes to disc, and get past my personal Kryptonite, my inability to spell big words. I understood them, but couldn’t spell them.
I bought the machine, picked up some discs, set it up in my own little nesting spot in the basement, and read just enough of the directions to get started. I kept the “Quick Look” reference guide handy at all times. “Control” plus the scroll button for down would always take me to where I wanted to be.

Like a gleeful deity I created all that pleased me. The power was absolutely amazing. My dreams and thoughts, my soul, all were appearing before my eyes like magic. I jammed keys throughout the week and on into weekend, and saved a hundred pages of my very first novel. I could hardly sleep. There were times I woke up in the wee hours with an idea, and had to get it down on paper for the next day. Then I’d lay there, trying desperately to get back to sleep. Day jobs are annoyingly unforgiving.

I fashioned characters, breathed into them life, and killed them one by one as I applauded their demise in ways I thought unique, laughing manically between cups of stout joe. It was when I wanted to review what I had at the end of that first week, thinking I may be able to add more blood and chills to the pages, when I found out my wonderful new tool couldn’t save more than five full pages of text to a file!

I had pages 1, 2, 3 . . . . . . . . . . . 99, 100.

Oh yeah, it hurt.

I sat down to start over a week later. It took me that long to figure out if I wanted to continue on this corrupting path.

Two weeks after that I understood half the quirks my PWP was capable of, but my PWP never failed to surprise me. I think it lived Murphy’s Law to the letter, and did so just to piss me off. What can go wrong, will go wrong, usually at the most inopportune time. The worst problem was, I would add to a paragraph on page two, and a line of text would vanish from page four. I took it back to have it repaired twice, and the third time they gave me a new machine. Nothing had changed. I blame the programmers.

My computer and me, we have an understanding. I treat it nice, it treats me nice. I also burn backup copies of every file I make or edit onto three separate flash drives. One sits in the house, one goes wherever I go, and one sits outside the house in a bank, just in case. Make a change, back it up. Start a story, back it up. Rotate the flash drives once a month. I don’t lose words or time. And if, God forbid, your hard drive gives up the ghost, you won’t have to start all over from square one. I learned that the hard way too. And no, I don’t want to get into it. The memories are too painful.

Never underestimate the many and unique ways things can go wrong. Murphy’s Law is a fact of life.

Return tomorrow for Part 3.

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Terrance Foxxe is crazy enough to share everything he knows about catering to readers, because readers matter most to the Indie Author of today, and tomorrow. He had two books published under his real name, only to discover publishers really suck. After being drawn and quartered, royally ripped off and then some, plus more, he is the Indie author of A Post-apocalyptic Story of Love, $2.99 USD for the Kindle. Link provided. He’s now a happy man. Buy his book. Read it. Write a review.

A Post-apocalyptic Story of Love is available at Amazon.

He blogs at http://terrancefoxxe.blogspot.com/