Sunday, May 18, 2014

*** My Writing Process ***

I'm really grateful that two of my favorite twitter friends and writers, Robbie Cox and Vanessa Wester tagged me for a blog tour. It's awesome that people I've never met face to face would consider including me in their circle of writing compadres.

I've been lucky enough to contribute to a couple of Vanessa's Short Story Group books. Please check out the link to that site, the proceeds are donated to several charities. Vanessa is a valued critic and supporter of my work, always telling it like it is, which is something you need as a writer. Vanessa is one of many UK twitter/writer friends I've made in the last few years. I enjoy reading her books and talking about striving to become a better indie writer.

Robbie  and I would be fishing pals if we lived close to each other, which unfortunately we don't. Robbie is living the easy life in Florida and I'm still cranking out code in North Texas. We share an appreciation for writing out on the patio and enjoying a fine scotch.

A quick 'Who am I'. We'll skip my usual silly tangents into wackiness and give you the short basics. I was born in the small town of Levelland, smack in the middle of the 'Dust Bowl' area of North Texas for you history buffs. I grew up watching Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, The Howdy Doody Show and reading Heinlein, Asimov and other 'hard' SciFi authors.

Your can scan the links to the right to find my books, blogging friends and other cool stuff. And, yes, I really am a card carrying member of the Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, fan club. ;-)

I joined the US Navy at 17, volunteering for the Nuclear Submarine force. I served on board the USS Bluefish as a Machinist Mate and Engineering Lab Tech.

I write software for the US health care industry during the day and I try to hone my skills as a newbie writer at night and on weekends. So, let's get to it!

What am I working on now? I'm trying to stay focused on book 3 of my 'Arlo and Jake' humorous SciFi series. I want to release it this month or next. This book focuses on Arlo, a panther chameleon, the partner of Jake Jasper. My unlikely heroes were conscripted into a space Navy to help save Earth and the Galaxies from being aquaformed by... well you can read more about that in my blog posts and links to the books.

I'm also working on several other stories, the most interesting is 'Etchings'. This a ghost (I just can't get used to saying 'paranormal', even though that's the latest buzz word for ghost ;-) story about a history professor and his artist wife who stumble upon a forgotten graveyard. It's creepy and cool, two of my favorite things to write about.

I'm always adding to my 'to write' list, sketching outlines and story plots. 'Etchings' came from something my wife did as an art student in Boulder, Colorado. They would go to cemeteries and take 'etchings' of the stones. You place a thin sheet of paper over the headstone writing and rub a charcoal stick across the paper. The result is an etching of the stone. It's really very interesting.

How does my work differ from others in my genre? Tough question. 'Arlo and Jake' is a space adventure series with a funny streak but not slapstick. I try very hard to make them SciFi adventure foremost but quirky and funny too. And I think my stories introduce more new concepts than most other SciFi series. It's still cowboys in space, but there are tons of cool creatures, toys and concepts to keep the adventure fun.

Why do I write what I do? Because I like it. Simple. I honestly laugh out loud sometimes when I write a good passage or add a punny reference. I get nervous when I'm trying to set the tension in a scene. I'm relieved when the hero triumphs (or not, depending on the book), and I boo the bad guys when they win (yup, that happens too!)

I write what fascinates me, what makes me laugh, what makes me angry, what I cannot understand. And sometime by writing it, I get a little closer to understanding what makes me, me.

How does your writing process work? Chaotically and rigidly.

Most of the time I work off a story outline. I create a separate text file that holds a summary of the plot at the top. Then I write a bunch of chapter outlines, some pretty filled out, some with, 'crap happens here'. I modify these as I flesh out the story.

It also has my lists of  'cool things that could happen', all the characters and their specifications, places that are important, other stuff that I would forget if I didn't write it down. I have a terrible memory.

I find pictures online that are similar to my imagined view of my characters and rename them. Likewise with cool art that I can use to spark up a scene. The folder on my computer that has the Arlo and Jake books has dozens of pictures, most are naval battles, men and women in various naval uniforms and art that I used to conjure up new space ship designs.

I use the outline file as a reference as I write the story in Word. I sometimes spend hours on the outline, trying out new ideas, new plot 'arcs', throwing things away to try new things. Other times I go right into the Word document and just start pounding the keys.

The flip side is that I sometimes just write. No outline, no pictures, no clue what's going to happen. 'Etchings' is more like that. I have no idea why this story is different for me. It just seems right to let it flow rather than think it through.


Then I rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. I also read the story out loud often. It helps me find the flaws, typo's and weak sections of my stories. It's amazing how hearing the story is different than reading it.

That's it. I hope you enjoyed this little journey into the mind of a newbie writer.

Once again my thanks to Vanessa Wester and Robbie Cox for their support and friendship. I have a couple of writers I'm polling to continue the blog tour and I'll add them here when I hear from them.

Arlo says, "Bye, y'all!"

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