WWIV Book 1

FOUR WWIV Books are now available on Amazon.
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Monday, March 31, 2014

I am a real live Author!

Believe it or not, I have actually managed to publish my first novel. As of last Friday (3/28/14) WWIV - In The Beginning is now available in Kindle format at Amazon. Let me tell you, the road has been a long one and wrought with potholes.

I began the journey by writing Chapter One on July 14, 2013. That makes it a eight and a half month process from first words to publishing. However, I had been running through the characters and story line since mid-April of 2013. That stretches it out to eleven months.

Writing seems to be the easy part of the process. Typically, I pump out the first (rough) draft of a manuscript in five or six weeks. This goes quickly, in part, because I let the characters and story ideas play in my mind for months before I begin the actual writing process. With most of the major scenes complete in my head, I am able to start writing and it flows out like warm syrup onto the pages.

Next, I let the manuscript sit for two to four weeks. I try not to think about it at all and I refuse to open it up on my computer and revise anything. After that, I read through it quickly. In the second stage I simply clean up incorrect words and sentences that don't make any sense. This second read through gives me a general idea of the flow of the story. Does the manuscript get across everything I hope it would.

After that it goes to several close family members to see how they like it. I have a lot of readers in my family circle; and the dystopic tales I give them aren't their typical choice of genres. But if the story passes their eyes and gets a "yeah, that was good" rating from them, I move on.

Rewrites and cleaning up follows. Getting rid of every adverb and passive voice I can find, really helps the story take on a better level of literature. From there it goes to the editor for another read. Then more rewrites and a few more beta-readers (this time, outside the family). I especially like to use people who don't typically read in the dystopian genre. If these people like my book, I know I'm getting somewhere.

Finally, my family and I read each and every sentence searching for any remaining misspellings, out of context words, and sentences that make absolutely no sense (typically because of an incorrect word). Here's a trick. Read your novel backwards. Start at the top of the last page and read it out loud. You'll find more errors this way because you are NOT reading the story. You're reading the words and sentences that make up your story.

Near the end I began to format my manuscript, on my own, to post on Amazon's Kindle site. This process was much easier than I had expected and turned out to be a good exercise. There's a few tricks and tips I can tell you, but I'll save that for another post.

So now – it's ready for consumption.

This week I'll begin implementing the marketing for my novel. This activity has been in the planning stage for a number of months, some it's time to take off my writing hat, and put on the promoter's cap.

In the near future I will post a video of myself reading chapter one. Still not sure how much that will help, but I've been told by people who know a lot more than me that it's a good idea.

Until next time, keep reading.

If you'd like to purchase of a copy of my debut novel please click here, or go to Amazon.com and search for WWIV.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Preppers Will be the First To Go

Are you a fan of The Walking Dead? Either the TV show or the graphic comics? Well, I have to tell you, I am.

I'm not a big zombie guy – that role is taken by my youngest son (and his wife, to a certain extent). I like the show for its raw and natural portrayal of the reaction of human beings after an almost apocalyptic event.

 I'm not on Team Rick, or Team Glenn, or Team Carol. My wife and I stand firmly in the camp of Team Daryl.

Norman Reedus portrays Daryl Dixon on the show. A lot of people make the mistake of believing that the cross-bow carrying redneck is the epitome of what a prepper is all about. But Daryl's not a prepper. No, he's a survivor.

Here's the rub for me. A lot of folks believe that preppers are the ones who are going to survive in some type of 'world gone bad' situation. After all, these people will have the food, the fuel, the fresh water, the guns, the ammo ... all the necessary supplies needed to survive. But therein lies the issue. Most of the modern day preppers, probably 80% of them, will be the first to die.

Now before you inundate me with mounds of angry messages, allow me to explain my thoughts.

First, a lot of prepared people these days are really only partially prepared. Sure, they've stock piled several years worth the food and the have guns and ammo to last for decades. But, and this is big, their locations stink. Maybe they're in downtown Atlanta, or somewhere near DC, or even on the south side of Chicago.

Next we have a certain group that have a remote hideaway where their supplies are stored. Far away from any of the trouble that will ensue in the days, weeks and months following some type of catastrophic event. But, and again this is large, they're counting on working vehicles, empty roads, and no resistance to their routes.

Are you starting to see the problem? It's hard, very hard, to be an actual full scale all-in prepper. Most folks haven't thought every last possible scenario all the way through. And that my friends, will lead to their demise. If not immediate, certainly eventual.

That's why Daryl Dixon, the survivor, is better suited for dark dystopian settings. He's been barely getting by all of his life; he's been left to his own accord since he was a child. Fending for himself, feeding himself, taking care of himself in every possible way.

Near the end of season two, Daryl's grasp of the reality he's been living in comes out loud and clear. As a swarm of zombies descends upon the farm they've been staying at, Hershel Greene tells him they have to make a stand to fight off the invasion. Now Daryl can plainly see that the situation is bad at best, and getting worse by the minute. He understands this may be the end.

Yet, what is his reaction? Gazing across the improbable odds, he simply shrugs and states, "I guess this is just as good a day as any to die."

Now that, my friends, is a survivor.

Thanks, as always for following. And consider a new genre when you reach for your next book. Choose something that you might not realize could be a great tale.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Dreams: Some exciting, some ... not so much

3:33. That’s the exact moment I heard the snap and my eyes popped open. It was still dark everywhere. What else should I expect? It’s too early to get up so I thought further on the dream that had just awoken me so early, at 3:33 a.m.

It’s not unusual for me to wake up early. It’s happens a lot. Especially after these full-length movie type dreams. It beats the 1:05 wake up call I had several weeks ago, three mornings in a row. Every morning, 1:05.

It’s also not unusual for me to wake up at very odd precise times. 12:34, 1:23, 4:44. All early morning rise and shine moments in the past month for my tired soul. I don’t know what’s causing this to happen. Really, I have no idea. But it keeps happening.

5:55 a.m. That’s when I finally couldn’t stand laying in bed any more and I finally crept out carefully. My bedmate doesn’t like it when I get up before 5:00. So I always try and lay there extra quiet seeing how long I can stay still so I don’t wake her for the first time. She claims she has trouble falling back to sleep. Given she’s rarely up before 7:00 that seems highly improbable to me.

At least the dogs get up and keep me company, sort of. They need to hit the yard first and then fed their morning rations. After that they lay in my favorite chair and the top of the steps waiting for Momma to come. Sorry kids, you’re going to have to wait again for her this morning.

The real problem arises when I get up too early. Say before 4:00. It’s really too early for them to eat but they don’t know that. Use the backyard and then eat breakfast; that’s the way they do it every morning. But when it’s still dark out they believe they need to go back downstairs by Momma to sleep with her. Yeah right. Not happening you two. You’ve burned me on the “sleeping” trick one too many times.

The dream that woke me this morning was unusual as it starred me. Typically I am not involved in any of my longer dreams. Just the short ones. The ones that last a nano-second or so. At least in your own brain. This one was different; I played a key role this time. Not the starring role, mind you, but at least a key role.

It’s 6:54 on July 5th. I’ve been awake for more than three hours now. And I’m still trying to come up with a way to explain this dream where I don’t come off like the king-sized dork I am every day. I guess the best way is to lay it out there for my audience, so they can judge my supreme geekiness for themselves (and yes, I realize there’s no such word, but it fits so well).

A group of five people and myself were brought into a large manufacturing business to investigate a crime; the crime of theft. Someone had stolen a large sum of money from the massive manufacturing monolith and we had to find the thief and the amount. See, we were forensic experts – here it comes – forensic accountants. I already regret typing those words.

We were tasked with first coming up with an accurate expense total. We came in at $106,000. The business rep told us there was no way it could have been more than $65,000. Thus, $31,000 of erroneous expenses had been paid. That was what the thief got; we had to find the irregular invoices.

It bothered me this morning, after I was awake, that they would have brought in a team of six experts to find $31,000. That seemed improbable to me. But thinking deeper on the dream I realized we were using numbers typically found in external reporting. That made more sense. $31,000 is a lot of money when it’s stated in thousands. Meaning we weren’t looking for $31,000, but rather Thirty-one Million Dollars.

At least I was trying to help solve a large crime, something you could really sink your teeth into and take a big bite. Yes, I was still an accountant. Just, now an accountant with a purpose. That cuts back slightly on the dork factor, right? I know, I know; we can’t all have glamorous high profile professions. Some of us have to do the actual behind the scenes grunt work. I just didn’t realize when I was younger that would mean I’d be surrounded by nerds, fellow nerds, the rest of my life. Oh well, yet I digress.

The part of the dream that really bothered me was the fact I couldn’t get any cell phone reception in this place; this dark, dank, dingy unknown factory. You see, this was extremely problematic when you have a new girlfriend. Oh no! A girlfriend, what will my wife think?

In my defense I was much, much younger in the dream. Much younger. And I don’t believe I was married in my dream. So at least I have my ducks in a row on that count. Let’s be honest; I’ve been married 33 years later this month, all to the same woman. So we’re both secure enough in our relationship to separate dreams from real life. Plus, I can’t even tell you what this “girlfriend” looked like. She never materialized in the dream.

We, our team of six all equally dull accountants, finally identified the missing funds and fingered the crook. It was a sly woman. A woman who was in a highly trusted position at the giant company. A person beyond reproach, far above initial suspicion. And she was pissed; I mean really pissed. She threatened revenge to each of us – even death.

To go further would be to assume that anyone but an accountant would find this tale enthralling. If nothing I am a realist. I fully understand the profession I chose, oh so many years ago, is less than glamorous. But perhaps if I was on a forensic accounting team, jetting all over the world solving money crimes. Hmm; gives food for thought, perhaps.

This was a real dream I had last summer. It was long and complex. I still think about it every so often, even months later. This is how books come about. A small spark, fanned into a legitimate flame, that turns into a bright light to guide an author. At least that's how it seems to work for me.

Keep Reading (and dreaming)...


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Saving Mr. Banks: Movies About Writers

A few months back, my wife and I used date night to see the movie Saving Mr. Banks on the big screen. It was a decent flick, full of twists and turns – some I saw coming, some I didn't – and we've certainly wasted out hard earned morning on lesser productions.

For those of you who don't know, the film is based on meetings between Walt Disney and P.L. Travers (the author of Mary Poppins). It seems that Old Walt spent twenty years of his life attempting to convince Travers to allow her beloved book to be made into a movie. Finally, only during a period of extreme financial distress does Travers entertains Walt's plan.

I don't believe in spoilers, thus I won't say much more about the plot or the film. But I will tell you this much, Travers drives a hard bargain with Mr. 1960s Entertainment himself. She doesn't want to see her hard work, and special tale, trivialized by Mr. Disney. Now that's a story that's been repeated often.

I've read many a story about authors and their willingness, and extreme unwillingness, when it comes to releasing the screen rights to movie folks. These authors think of their books as their babies. Their beloved, their precious. In no way do they wish to see their hard work destroyed by some Hollywood producer, making it "bigger, better."

Personally, at the stage I'm at in my writing career, I have no opinion on the process. Pay me thousands of dollars, take my masterpiece and do with it what you please. I'm afraid if I ever get the the point where I find myself even mildly successful, I may change my tune. Until then, I remain open minded.

Here's the thing, a lot of movies now are based on novels. Hunger Games, True Grit, The Host, World War Z, Ender's Game, to list just a few. And so many times we find ourselves comparing the books to the movies. Rightly so I suppose. More often than not, the book is better than the movie. But sometimes it's the other way around.

To this point, on our most recent date night I came up with a plan to attend a recent release that looked to be the epitome of romance. It was a no lose deal. Dinner first at a place she had just mentioned. And then a short drive to a theatre in the country. Dinner was great. The movie, well, let's just say it was okay.

I can only hope the book was better than the big screen production. Don't get me wrong, I'd probably waver between two and three stars for the flick. But the first half was slow; dreadfully slow. I saw the twist coming, my wife ... not so much. Both her and I agreed the book had to be better. Though neither of us have put it on our reading list just yet.

Here's a quick list of movies based on authors for you. I'm sure you can add to it with a little thought. Give it a try:

The Player
The Hours
Sunset Boulevard

Read a good book lately? Post it below.  Thanks and keep reading.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Making Time

Let's be honest with each other. We all have busy lives. Very busy lives. So just how are we, as independent writers, supposed to make time for our hobby/trade?

My average week begins with forty hours at my regular day job. That leaves mornings, evenings and weekends for writing. I do have some chores that need to be done on a weekly basis, so that eats up another seven to ten hours per week. Family obligations take up some time. My grandkids can't drive yet (okay, the first one is more than ten years from driving still). So Grammy and I run to see them, along with their parents, or the kids bring them to us.

I try and keep my television viewings to a minimum, but that doesn't always work out as planned. During the fall, when not hunting or working, I love to watch football. College or pro is fine with me. I'm just plain old addicted to it. Add to that my Walking Dead addiction, plus I need to keep up with Kevin Bacon on The Following, and I'm still using up another four hours plus a week relaxing.

Let's say I like to sleep. Or, better stated, I need at least six hours a night. Saturday and Sunday afternoons are perfect to catch a nap for an hour or two. That eats up another 50 hours a week with my eyes closed.

I drive to work each day. Maybe an hour total if I'm lucky. That's 5 hours. Of course this winter that trip one-way sometimes took almost two hours. But let's stuck with 5 hours for that, and an hour or so each day to eat and chat with my wife. Let's combine those two categories and call it 15 hours total.

If we do some simple math, we will quickly see that at most I have 40 extra hours a week to devote to writing. And that's if nothing else comes up. Subtract from that number to allow for unaccounted for lost time. So let's just say I have 25 to 30 hours a week to devote to this trade.

The trick, I have found, is to make the most of each one of those free hours. Whether it's actual writing, or editing, or marketing, or even reading other authors work. I have to maximize each of those free hours, sometimes minute by minute, to be even minutely constructive.

I'm fortunate because my wife and I are empty-nesters. Further, we typically don't have a lot of projects or other engagements demanding our free time. As I stated recently, I have composed five manuscripts in the past 13 months. Of those five, one is almost ready for publishing.

If I've learned anything during this creative process, it's been a lesson of patience. Don't rush your writing, don't skimp on editing, be as perfect as possible when it comes to formatting. Forcing or rushing any one of those elements will result in a less than perfect book. And I really want to produce decent, well thought out and constructed books for the public to enjoy.

So take the time you need, and be patient. Good things will come.

Until next time, keep your nose buried in a book (or start writing one of your own, remember – no experience required ... Just Do It!).


Thursday, March 13, 2014

The One Month Manuscript

I used the cold and snow of February to create my fifth manuscript. The working title is WWIV - Finders Keepers. This is Book Four in the series. In trying to keep this series sequential, I skipped Book Three to write Book Four. More on that in another post.

I now have five manuscripts in various completed forms on my computer. One is almost ready for publishing, another two are in rewrites, and the last two are in first draft mode only. There's plenty to work on at my place.

The plan for February was to pour out all the ideas for Book Four as fast as I could. Only spelling and obvious missing words were edited as I went. Nothing else. I have promised myself that I will let it sit until April 1st, at least, before I open it again and begin my self edits. If I'm honest with you, I need to get WWIV - Kids at War and Golden Five ready for publication in July and October first.

So, I began early in the morning on February 4th and wrote until it was time to leave for work. I leave at 8:30; I'd gotten up shortly after 4:00 full of ideas. I wrote a little more at lunch that day, not as much as I had hoped, and finished up with a four hour all out sprint that night. By the end of day 1 there were 8,300 words in the manuscript. A new personal record I'm happy to report.

Below I've attached my writing log for the project. There were poor days – three of less than 1,000 words. There were off days – three days. You have to be able to balance work, home, grandkids and writing. There were six days where I logged more than 4,000 words.

On February 27th I wrote the last sentence of this (sometime to be) book. Twenty-one actual writing days went into its creation, 24 calendar days.

I'm pleased with what I created in that short amount of time. The trick was I had played most of the scenes over and over in my head for months. I actually began creating characters while at the cottage last summer. July 9th to be exact. While my wife slept in, I watched the sunrise over the lake and the morning fog burn away slowly. I think I even needed a sweatshirt that morning. Northern Wisconsin can be chilly any time of year.

For the next six months I let the characters and story line run through my brain. I thought about the tale many times in those six months. In the shower in the morning, during my half-hour commutes, sometimes even sitting in church. The story, the tale, percolated in my head time and time again. That way, when I sat down to write it in February of the following year, it flowed out like warm maple syrup.

I've now logged over 500,000 words in just over 13 months. According to the experts, I'm halfway to getting the hang of this trade. They say you need to write a million words before you know what you're doing. With any luck, I'll reach that level sometime next summer (2015). Trust me, I've got three more novels already scratched in notebooks. And plans for two others to round out the WWIV series, as well as The Smith Chronicles.

So keep reading and watch for the release of my first novel soon (WWIV - In The Beginning).


Monday, March 10, 2014

Real vs Dystopian Worlds

As I sit enjoying a cup of blackberry yogurt, and working hard, I ponder today just how close we are sometimes to a dystopian world. Or maybe a dystopian society.

Just so you know, I write this from the safety of my workplace, while taking a short break, without many cares. I am free to come and go at will, I can move about the city, the state and even the country without any cause for concern. St. Paul Minnesota is as far away from a dystopian setting as one can be.

But what about other places in our world? Even our hemisphere?

Russia and the Ukraine seem to be on the news a lot lately. How do you think the people of Ukraine feel about their world right now? With Russian troops on their border and firmly entrenched in the south, perhaps they don't feel the same freedom and safety I feel.

In my WWIV novels (World War 4, just so we are all clear) we will deal with our country in a much different setting. There'll be no power, no phones, no running vehicles (well, not many). Our protection and our government will be mysteriously missing. Absent will be fresh food deliveries, fuel deliveries, any sort of daily news. And the worst part? We'll have no idea what has happened.

Do any of you recall the blackout of the North-east back in 2003? I happened to be on vacation in eastern Michigan when that occurred. We lived through a number of tense hours at first, not really knowing or understanding what had happened.

Last summer (2013) I was sitting downstairs with my grandchildren, ages 2 and 5, when all power went out one night. And it was a very, very dark night according to one five-year-old young man. I was in the middle of writing Book One at the time. While the darkness only lasted a few minutes, it was a sobering reminder to me that something could happen. And if something major, something serious, did happen, how would we go forward being so unprepared for such an event?

In my second series (The Smith Chronicles), we will see what happens when our economy and society begin to crumble. Here, the catalyst will be something much more on the forefront of people's mind. Our national debt and the descent of the US Dollar will be our undoing. And just like in the WWIV series, we will examine the events in a microcosm. We will watch the effects on a group of ten people. See just how it changes their lives – perhaps forever.

I am not a prophet of gloom and doom. I do not predict this is where the world, or our country, is headed. Nor do I believe some great cataclysmic event will occur wiping out everything we cherish so dearly. What I write about is how our lives will change, if something like this were to ever occur. It's great food for fiction in my mind!

Until next time, read whenever you can.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Being Bill Carlson

In my upcoming book, WWIV - In the Beginning, you will see life through the eyes of my protagonist Bill Carlson.

First things first, I am NOT Bill Carlson. And Bill Carlson is NOT based on me or my life. Bill does happen to live in the same city as me, Woodbury (MN), but that's really where any similarities end.

Bill is a happy optimistic fellow. He's 38, the same age as his wife Sharon. Bill and Sharon have been married for ten years. Their marriage is at a so-so point, something people run into after this amount of time together.

They have two children, a girl aged 8 and a boy, 6. Bill loves his family very much. He truly loves his wife and children with all of his heart, all of his soul and all of his mind. They are his everything. And as you will discover in the first pages of my novel, they are not with him when beginning occurs.

Bill is about 6-0 tall and weighs around 185 pounds. He's not in great shape, but he keeps in good shape. He has shorter brown hair, with regular brown eyes. Somewhat of the typical Scandinavian features found in the upper-midwest. His birth date is September 29th.

Now that's a lot of boring descriptive detail about Bill. How about some meats and potatoes about him?

You'll like Bill. He's everyones best friend. He's the neighbor that mows your lawn when you're gone on vacation (without ever asking him, you just know he will), he'll help you shovel your driveway when the plow leaves 6 feet of road snot at the end. If you need $20 until payday, Bill's your man. And he'll never ask for repayment if you forget to hit him back.

Bill works hard five days a week as a school physiologist. He loves his job and the people he works with. He loves the kids he serves and wouldn't want to be doing anything else with his career. When not working, he likes to take long rides on his mountain bike to keep in shape. Well, when he's not running his kids here and there; soccer practice, t-ball games, choir concerts, church. You know the guy. He has no apparent flaws.

Or does he?

Yeah, one big one. Especially when humanity decides to take a holiday.

Bill is an eternal optimist. A non-ending, never wavering, blind to the real world optimist. And he has no intention of giving that optimism up. EVER!

Now, where is this all leading. Well, let me tell you.

Bill, while sounding like everyones friend, everyones next door neighbor, just like that perfect guy at work, is completely fictional. He's completely made up – by me. He's a figment of my imagination.

Before I ever wrote a word in this novel, I painstakingly thought through every detail of Bill's life. All of his physical characteristics, all of his mental attributes, even his dog's name, his parent's names, his wife's parents' names...everything.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not bragging. I'm just following a pattern that writers have employed for years, decades, centuries. If you know your characters, both inside and out, you'll have everything you need at your fingertips for whatever scene may arise. I guess that's how it's done. Seems to work okay for me.

Last week, I completed my fifth manuscript. And before I ever began that manuscript I spent a week going through the five or six individuals that would be featured in the book. Now the other night I started the process anew with my sixth manuscript. And just like the five before, I started with the characters.

You see, I've learned something in this process. It's your characters that drive the story. They take you places you never expected to go, even the author. Some authors will tell you the plot drives their story; not me. I'm sometimes shocked at the twists and turns in my tales; all because a certain character takes me there.

Until next time, keep reading. Pick up a classic and give it a try!


Monday, March 3, 2014

This is Disturbing...

No, this post isn't disturbing. The statement summarizes some of the comments I've received from people on the content of Book One of the WWIV series. Perhaps I should elaborate.

As I mentioned last week, the first outside opinion I ever received on my writing is when I dared to send the fore-mentioned book out for editing. I chose Rob Bignell as my book editor. Rob is local, only 10 miles away from my home. And I read some reviews on his editing, so he came highly recommended.

Admittedly, from Rob, this was not his typical genre. I got the feeling that he could do dystopian, but he preferred other genres to it. Still, I sent him my manuscript. After 4 weeks here's his reply:

Please find attached the edited manuscript. Your book deeply disturbed me, and I mean that as a compliment. It's not often that I find a manuscript sticks in my thoughts for a long time after I've read it. While part of that might be familiarity with all of the communities you described, what really struck me was the examination of humanity in terms of the lows and the highs that it fall and rise to in a crisis. I found the portrayal of the days after such a disaster reasonable and believable.

Well, that was certainly interesting, I thought. Again, Your book deeply disturbed me, and I mean that as a compliment. I took this as a compliment, a huge compliment. My goal with the book is to move the reader. I believe everyone who has ever written a word has this as their ultimate goal.

A month or so later I braved further into my family for readers, and gave the book to my Mother for her honest thoughts. Again, I will take her words directly from her email reply:

I like the cover for your book.  I finished reading the last book that you sent me, couldn't stop when I got toward the end.  Was a late night for me.  It made me anxious and concerned.  I couldn't go to sleep, I had to get up and have some cocoa and a graham cracker!

I suppose I should be ashamed for causing my mother such anxiety, but I'm not. Her reaction is exactly what I've intended with the book; the series for that matter.

My intent is to create a realistic, believable body of work portraying what happens to humanity, our own humanity, when suddenly everything we depend on is gone. Rob's honest input gave me goosebumps. My mother's words made me smile. I know, how much stock should a person put in their mother's opinion of his work? For me, her honest words say it all. I value her opinion, greatly.

These books are dark in many ways, yet not overtly and only dark. There are still moments of levity and joy. Most will have what we can call "happy endings." Perhaps not as happy as we'd find in a romance novel. But still happy given all the humanity that has disappeared.

Book One (In The Beginning) and Book Two (Kids at War) are created with that in mind. These two books are at the beginning of the struggle. Book Three (The Secret) and Book Four (Finders Keepers) come along later in the struggle. Book Four is set almost 16 years after our technology is gone.

Next time, we'll dive into our protagonist for Book One: Bill Carlson. Just who is this man and how did I create such a flawed person.

Until then, read a good book!