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I swore that I had written a post about this subject a while ago, but I combed through my archives and couldn’t find one. Maybe I’m going crazy…

Anyway, I’ve been plugging away at my current writing projects, one of which is Blood of the Father. However, my productivity level seems to be down. And I know it’s for a number of reasons, but I believe one of the big reasons is that I haven’t had a “writing area” for a long time now.

Because of life circumstances, we have been renting space from my father-in-law for a while now. While it has been a huge help to us, it does carry with it some certain inconveniences, such as utilizing his furniture instead of our own and not being able to set up rooms the way we would like. And Katie has taken over the extra bedroom to use for her sewing room (and rightfully so; she does have the job that brings in a steady income). So I’m left with only a few spots in the house to write, and none of them are very conducive to a good writing experience.

To be fair, I’ve never had a “perfect” writing area. The closest was when in a rental house we lived in from 2010 to 2011. There was a bedroom that was big enough for us to use as a half sewing room and half writing office. It was rather pleasant. Otherwise, it’s always been a pain to make a little corner of an apartment an “office”. Occasionally I’ll find a coffee house or something to call home for a little bit, but I haven’t been able to do that much since my son was born.

So I push on, moving from room to room with my laptop whenever I get a chance to write. We’re at the beginning of the long journey of finding a house of our own, and on the wish list is an extra bedroom or spot in the house that I can use for writing. Hopefully that wish will materialize. Until then, the couch will have to suffice.

Like many writers, I have my little routines and habits that I have to adhere to when I write. For example, just as I was about to write this entry, I realized that I didn’t have a hot cup of coffee next to me. I like to drink coffee while I’m writing, not because of the caffeine or anything, but because it’s something that puts me in the writing mood. Occasionally at night I’ll swap the joe with a glass of bourbon or scotch, but that’s neither here nor there.

One of the major things I need to have while writing, though, is music. I like to have something playing in the background while I dig into a story or a blog post or whatever. Music has been a passion of mine for a long, long time. My taste in music changes from time to time, but my acceptance of different genres is extremely broad. I listen to everything from classic rock to 90s alternative to punk to progressive metal to jazz to new age to… well, I could keep going on and on.

I used to listen to just about anything when I’d write. Sometimes I can still get into that zone. More often these days, though, I have to listen to stuff that doesn’t have lyrics. And I prefer something with complex or experimental melodies. For a long time I’d listen to Orbital (and I still do) because their music is mellow and rhythmic with a lot of complexity to it. And after learning about him through the animated series The Venture Brothers, I would rotate in J.G. Thirwell’s experimental music.

Recently, however, I’ve discovered a slew of musicians that do lyric-less metal in a variety of sub-genres – progressive metal, djent*, jazz metal, and stuff that kind of defies labeling. I like stuff like this because it’s heavy enough to keep my juices flowing, but complex enough to keep the wheels in my head turning.

I know the word “metal” makes a lot of people turn away, thinking of things like screaming bearded guys and screeching guitars.  That’s not what this stuff is, I assure you.  If you’re interested in checking any of it out for your own writing needs (or whatever), here’s a list of stuff available on YouTube for you to listen to. Many of these musicians are also on Bandcamp, so if you like their music, please consider actually purchasing their albums (I’ve purchased a handful already and have plans to binge a little bit more).

Sithu Aye: A musician from Scotland whose metal is “happy”. Seriously, it’s amazing – and, at times, heavy – music that doesn’t sound dark or ominous. I suggest starting with Invent the Universe, one of my personal favorites.

Wide Eyes: These guys put out an amazing amount of music in each album. Much more metal than Sithu Aye, but with great complex riffs and solos. Their album Volume is great if you like a little bit of electronic mixed in with your metal, and Samsara is great if you like a slightly softer edge.

Plini: Less metal, more progressive rock, but awesome nonetheless. Superb guitar playing and songs that you’ll be happy to have stuck in your head. Took me a little bit to get into them, but the album Sweet Nothings is one of my staples now.

Anup Sastry: The drummer from the band Intervals (which is another great band with lyric-less music) has a sound that I’ve never heard anywhere else. It’s heavy, it’s fast, and it’s great if you need an adrenaline rush while you’re writing. The album Titan is amazing (though far too short).

Modern Day Babylon: Heavy, ambient, driving, and melodic all at once. Travelers is one of my favorite albums to put on when I’m not sure which sub-genre to listen to.

God Is An Astronaut: A recent find for me, these guys are not metal at all. They’re labeled as post-rock, but I just consider them ambient rock. It’s… ethereal I guess would be the best way to put it. I love it, and the more I listen to them, the more I love it. Start with the album All is Violent, All is Bright.

Deathmole: Anyone who has read the webcomic Questionable Content should at least have a passing familiarity with this “band”. In reality, it’s just one person – QC artist Jeph Jacques. His death metal/post-rock sound is perfect background music (as well as great music to listen to in the car). I suggest the album Permanence (not available on YouTube, but you can listen to it on Bandcamp).

*I am aware from hearing many metalheads argue the point that “djent” is not an actual genre, but more of a style of playing.  For the sake of my post, though, I am leaving my statement as is.

I really don’t like people telling me what to do. I’m sure I’ve mentioned that here and there before, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Unfortunately, this sometimes extends to people kindly giving me advice, and sometimes that’s detrimental to me.  But not always.

I was thinking about this yesterday as I was blatantly not writing because of the heat. When it gets too hot hot outside, my energy and brain power gets sapped. And all I could think of was all those writers out there who say things to the effect of, “Just sit down and write, and don’t worry if it comes out bad, you can fix it later.” But the problem is that’s not how I’m wired; if I know I’m not going to do a decent job – not a perfect one or even a great one – then I can’t bring myself to do it at all. And you know what? Despite what all those rah-rah writers say, that’s okay.

We’re all wired differently. Some of us can bring a laptop and write in a coffee shop. Some of us need a quite office space. Some of us need a hot cup of coffee at arm’s length. Some of us need glass of scotch. Some of us can write thousands of words without stopping. Some of us can only do a few paragraphs at a time. But the defining thing between us all is the need to keep writing. How we do it isn’t an equation that can be solved by plugging in the same factors each time. We all have our own ways of doing things. Just because one writer is able to sit down and power through even though the temperature is 150 degrees outside, it doesn’t mean that I can do it.

Don’t let your writing routine be defined by another writer. Try things that are suggested, sure, but don’t feel that you need to conform your way of doing things to a specific person’s way, regardless of how successful he or she is. Remember – that success was due to a number of things, not just what software program they used to write their book.

Stop Being So Nice

Being an independent creative is tough in a lot of ways. I think one of the toughest for me is when to stop being nice.

I know, that sounds weird, right? But it’s the truth. As an indie creator with a lot of friends who are also in the game, and as a nice guy, I try to help out where I can. This means I’ll try to buy something when I can (which is not as often as I’d like), spread the word on my social networks, share advice, etc. And if I don’t, I feel guilty about it, like I’ve let my friends down.

The thing that I have to remind myself of, however, is that it’s okay if I can’t help out. I juggle so many projects that I’m constantly pushing my own things, getting word out about my writing and art, and that leaves me with little time to do so for other people. Not to mention that I don’t want to bombard my followers with my own projects and someone else’s. And there is a bit of selfishness in that; I want people following me to see my stuff.  There’s nothing wrong with that because that’s why they’re following me in the first place. In short, I sometimes have to block out everything else and focus on myself.

That’s not a bad thing; that’s the nature of being an entrepreneur. And it’s not to say that there won’t be times that there are lulls in your work where you can promote someone else’s work, especially if you admire it. Paying it forward is a wonderful thing to do.

On the flip side of the coin, it’s important to remember that nobody is obligated to help you out, either. It doesn’t matter if it’s friends, family, readers, or strangers – nobody owes you anything, and you can’t hold that against them. If they do help you out, that’s fantastic and you should thank them up and down, and return the favor if and when you can. But if they don’t, keep in mind that they have their own projects and their own lives. Or maybe they just don’t have a connection to your work. Not everyone is required to like what you do, even if they’re related to you or go out drinking with you once a week.

In short, be good to people and help them out, but be good to yourself, too. We creatives often forget to do the latter.

Recently I purchased and starting reading the novel I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, the 1954 novel that inspired The Last Man on Earth, The Omega Man, and the 2007 Will Smith vehicle I Am Legend. I have seen all three of those movies, and only am I now delving into the book. And I’m glad I am; it’s a great read, full of suspense and introspection into the life of a lonely man.

One the things I’ve realized in reading it is that despite the fact that the book was written in the 50s and depicts a post-apocalyptic world in the 70s, it seems pretty timeless. Sure, there are the occasional clues to the fact that it was written six decades ago, but for the most part you can read it and almost imagine that the events were taking place right now. Perhaps I’m mistaken, but my view is that it was a lack of details that leads to this timelessness.

Perhaps “lack of details” is a bad choice of phrase for this. I might be better of saying “the strategic use of ambiguity”. This is something I often employ in my writing, most specifically in my Mystery, Murder, and Magic series. In that world, I wanted to give the impression that the events were taking place somewhere between 30s and 40s and in a large city that goes unnamed. Why? Because I feel that by locking down specifics, you force the reader into a preconceived set of rules. By leaving things ambiguous, the reader can imagine that it’s New York City in the 1930s, or Chicago in the 1940s, or even their own city in a later decade (heck, it’s an alternate world, so it could be the 80s for all intents and purposes).

It’s certainly not a stylistic choice that is for everyone. Some people get very detailed in their writing, and sometimes that works out great for them. Other times, in my eyes, it becomes very distracting and sometimes tedious. The best example I can think of is Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove, which was a great story, but man, he got very wordy with the descriptions of the guns.

On the other hand, being too ambiguous and leaving out too much can be detrimental, too. You want to leave some things up to your reader, but you don’t want to leave them to do all the work. If that’s the case, you may as well just dungeon master a game of Dungeons & Dragons. You want to find that golden line of just enough detail and try not to step over it.

Whether or not this really is the case with I Am Legend, it was something that I noticed. And it was intentional, then I tip my hat to Matheson and I will definitely enjoy reading more of his writing, because he was obviously a masterful writer. If it was unintentional, well… at least I got a blog post out of it.

General Life Update

Well, sales for Starting Over have been pretty dismal. Of course, I missed a week or two of pushing it because of circumstances, but still. This is one of those tough cases where it’s a book a I really believe in and enjoyed writing, but doesn’t seem to be gathering any steam. I guess I’m just going to have to knuckle down and get in peoples’ faces…

In other news, I’ve started working on my next novel, Blood of the Father. It’s the sequel to Blood of the Mother (obviously), and it’ll be an interesting book to write because it sort of subverts some of the ideas I built up in the first book. I don’t like “black and white” stories; I like… well, I was going to say “shades of gray”, but someone sort of tainted that phrase. So I’ll say I like more three-dimensional stories.

Also, as I mentioned below, if you’re interested in being on a mailing list to receive updates, promotions/discounts, and whatever else I feel like telling you, please contact me about getting your email added.

Now, back to writing.

Want Some Email?

In my research for what marketing techniques would be best for me to get my new book in the hands of willing consumers, I found that I’ve been missing one of the most obvious and, according to some, one of the most important. I’m talking about a mailing list.

I had people tell me years ago to use a mailing list, and at the time I dismissed it. After all, in an era of social media, who still subscribes to a mailing list? But after some research and a chat with another indie writer, it turns out that – GASP – I was wrong. And I need to fix that.

So, I will be putting out a regular email to a mailing list. I will include recent blog posts, additional information about my current projects, promotions and discounts, and anything else you may want me to talk about. To sign up, go to my Contact/Mailing List page and fill out the form.

I’m not sure when the first one will go out (maybe in a few weeks), so sit tight. In the meantime, you can also follow me at a number of social media sites, all of which are listed on the right in the “Follow Me” box.

Time to start getting in peoples’ faces!

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