Category Archives: Writing Life
I don’t like edits. There, I said it.
I’m the kind of person who does things once and wants to leave it at that. I don’t like having to go back and do things over, take a second or third pass at a project. I want to only put one coat of paint on a wall, file my taxes once, try on a single pair of pants.
Writing a novel is no different. I spend considerable time on the first draft for a reason. I want to get it right the first time. But as any writer knows, once isn’t enough. Twice isn’t enough. Three times? Nope. Not enough. Edits are part of writing. Changes need to be made, mistakes corrected, inconsistencies made right.
I’m delving into the edits for my next novel, Centralia, now. And how’s it going? Let’s just say . . . it’s going. And I’m kicking and screaming.
But no matter how much pain the edits cause, or how much discomfort they produce, I know the changes will be for the best and the book will be better because of them.
I’ll respect your intelligence and assume you see the parallels to life here. It’s a lesson I need to learn over and over again.
I’ve published eight novels now and every one of them is the same story. I dislike the editing. I kick and scream. The book is better in the end.
And sadly, it’s not much different with life.
For those of you who don’t know or need to be reminded, I do offer coaching services for writers at any stage of the game. From not-even-started-yet-because-you-have-no-idea-where-to-begin to already-published-and-looking-to-get-more-published. The services include everything from editing to critiquing to mentoring to brainstorming to accountability. Whatever you need, whatever you want. We can cater anything to your schedule, goals, and abilities.
A sample list of services and prices can be found on my coaching page (members of my Darlington Society get 20% off) but below are some examples of coaching plans and prices (per month). I think you’ll find the pricing competitive with the rest of the market at worst, a bargain at best. And if you join my Darlington Society the prices drop even more.
Example #1: For the casual writer who needs some guidance
1 critique/edit (up to 15 pages) and 1 half-hour phone chat to discuss it (once a month) . . . $60 or $48 for TDS members
Example #2: For the novice who needs a little more guidance/instruction/editing
2 critique/edits and 2 hour-long phone chats to discuss it and for instruction . . . $140 or $116 for TDS members
Example #3: For the established writer who struggles with motivation/scheduling and needs accountability
1 half-hour phone call every other week . . . $40 or $32 for TDS members
Example #4: For the established writer who needs someone to look over material and critique it, comment on it, catch errors, etc.
2 critiques (up to 15 pages each) per month . . . $80 or $64 for TDS members
So you can see there are services and combinations of services that won’t break the bank. And there are a plethora of other scenarios available. Again, the services will be totally based on your need, desires, and finances.
If you’re interested, contact me either by leaving a comment below or emailing me privately and we can discuss your needs and wants. The first half-hour consultation call is FREE.
Hope to hear from you soon!
A few months ago I added a page to my website introducing a new coaching service I was offering for writers. I didn’t really push the service, didn’t do much in the way of announcing anything. I just kind of put it out there and let it be.
To be honest, I wasn’t ready to start accepting clients on a regular basis.
But now I’m ready.
If you’re a writer, especially a fiction writer, or if you aspire to be a writer and are looking for some personal coaching/tutoring to hone your craft . . . I can help.
If you have questions about writing or publishing that you need answers for . . . I can help.
If you’d like someone who is experienced and impartial to look at your material and give an honest opinion . . . I can help.
If you’re trying to determine whether to go the traditional route or self-published route but can’t decide which is best for you . . . I can help (I’ve done both).
If you’re discouraged and in need of some encouragement and help in determining what your next move should be . . . I can definitely help!
Please, if any of the above scenarios describes you, check out my coaching page, review the pricing, and contact me. I’m flexible. If what’s offered on that page doesn’t fit your needs or budget, contact me anyway and we can work something out. I want to see writers succeed.
I hope to hear from you soon!
Back in early 2010 I was getting ready to release my third novel, Darlington Woods. I’d released The Hunted in 2008 and it enjoyed some moderate success, enough to land me another contract. Then in 2009 I released Scream and that did even better, almost doubling the sales of The Hunted.
So in preparation for Darlington Woods I planned for a big release that would net big results. I truly felt it was my best writing to date, both in style and storytelling. The plot was engaging and fast-paced, the characters were interesting and unique, the theme was right from the heart and I knew it would touch many lives. It was the first full-length novel I wrote after battling colon cancer and so much of myself, my journey, my emotional roller coaster was poured into every page of the story.
To launch the book, I’d scheduled a handful of book signings in Pennsylvania and Maryland and a fairly comprehensive online book tour I called the “Light the Darkness Tour”. Emotionally I knew, just knew, that this one was going to be big, this was going to be my break-out novel, the one to “put me on the map.” I spent a lot of time in prayer, dedicating the book to the Lord for him to do whatever he wished with it. Then, just a month before the big release Publisher’s Weekly reviewed the book. Here’s an excerpt:
No shortage of vampire books stock bookstore shelves today, but few combine Christian themes with ghoulish vampire villains like this headlong rush of psycho-spiritual suspense . . . Never indulging in long boring tangents or fussy character descriptions, Dellosso’s pacing is perfect and passionate. Even though the choice of setting and parts of the plot mirror the popular novel The Shack, readers familiar with that book will find this new combo of Christian vampire fare a quick and breathless read and will scream for more.
Now, remember, this was when the Twilight saga was at its prime. Vampires were the in thing. And the fact that Publisher’s Weekly not only called it a vampire novel but also compared it to The Shack . . . well, I was sure that would seal the deal. And why wouldn’t it?
The big day came and to make a very long story very short . . . the book flopped. Sales were mediocre but worse than both Scream and The Hunted. I couldn’t understand it. I’d prepared more for this release than either of the other two. The book had gotten more exposure than I even planned for. Publisher’s Weekly had given it a glowing review. And both vampires and The Shack were still very hot. What went wrong?
You know, three years later I’m still asking myself that question. I still think Darlington Woods is my best book. It’s my favorite of all my titles. I look back on that release and the subsequent trip and can’t understand it. I think part of it is the environment of the Christian fiction industry. One, supernatural suspense as a genre was on the downslide in the Christian market (and still hasn’t recovered) and horror was never a hit. And two, maybe vampires were hot in the secular market (and still are) but in the Christian market there was (and is) little interest.
Funny thing is, never once in the book are the creatures referred to as vampires. They’re called darklings and though they act like vampires I didn’t even think of that while writing it. But it seems that Publisher’s Weekly comparison turned out to be at least one stake in the book’s heart.
The other truth I need to face is that it just wasn’t God’s time. I don’t know why and may never know but I have to accept it. So much of this business of writing is skill and talent and marketing ability, but so much more is reliance on God and faith in him to do what he knows is best. It’s a walk of trust every day.
And isn’t that so much like the rest of life?
So I had this contest to rename my blog. And well, I hate to say this and feel really bad about it but . . . there isn’t a winner.
This makes me feel like such a blockhead because when I hold a contest I like there to be a winner. That’s kind of the point of a contest.
I guess I was looking for an entry that would give me that instant “That’s it!” moment and I just didn’t find it. And I can’t just put something up there that I’m not thrilled about.
THANK YOU to all who entered and gave suggestions. Really, it’s me, not you. I’m the blockhead. There were some great titles offered, some very creative, some just plain funny . . . I just didn’t find the right one.
Please feel free to continue to submit suggestions if you like and if I use yours you’ll still get the free books. This might help . . . I’m taking my fiction in a new direction, more focus on psychological thrillers so if we can incorporate something about the mind and life and fiction . . . I don’t know. I’ll keep thinking on it too.
Man, I hate it when a contest fails. Sorry.
I want to change the name of this blog. It’s time. Currently it’s “What Mike Says” and I’m tired of that. It’s trite, boring, vanilla.
So here’s what we’re doing: I’m going to give you a chance to rename this blog. Not the entire website, just the blog, what you’re reading now. If you want to, take some time to peruse some of the posts and get a feel for the type of stuff I write for this blog. It’s not really focused on any one topic. A little about writing, a little about parenting, a little about life and faith and how the two intersect. There’s also some about my writing in particular, my books, my activities.
I know there are some very creative people out there. I’m looking for something outside the box. Something that isn’t cliche for a fiction author or suspense writer. Something that begs people to click on it and see what it’s all about.
Just comment to enter. You may enter as many suggestions as you want. Winner will be announced Thursday morning.
And the prize for the title I choose? One of my books and a PDF copy of a never-published book I wrote several years ago called Fear Mountain. Only a handful of people have ever read this book. I recently edited it and am now making it available in PDF form for limited giveaways such as this as.
So are you in? Get that creative engine humming and give it your best shot!
Last week I posted about how a story idea came to me while sitting in church, how the extraordinary stood out from the ordinary. There’s plenty more where that came from too.
You see, I have what’s called an overactive imagination. I see stories in everything.
The little old lady walking her dog down a quiet street. The window salesman who I turn away on the front porch. The homeless man asking for help by the traffic light. The single guy who walks alone and takes pictures of other people’s homes (okay, that’s weird but true).
They’re all stories to me, or at least potential stories. It’s something I can’t turn off. My mind runs with even the most mundane activities and creates mayhem and mischief, suspense and surreality.
I consider this a blessing. It’s entertaining, it’s thought-provoking, it comes in great handy when conjuring up story lines and plots and characters and twists and turns.
But it can also be a curse.
Case in point. Last night I was sitting in the living room working on some things for the upcoming week and daughter #2 (D2) was on the front porch with daughter #4, our 2-year-old (D4).
I was really minding my own business, doing my thing, when my imagination kicked on. What if D2 came bursting through the front door: “Dad! Some guy grabbed the baby took off!” I jump up and run outside in time to see the car pull away. We live in a residential area so it’s difficult to pick up speed quickly. I tell D2 to call the cops and set off on foot after the car, running down the middle of the street in my slippers, pumping my arms, tears blurring my vision, willing my legs to move faster. The car is putting distance between us. I pray, “God, please just this once give me inhuman speed.” The car’s front windows are down. If I could just catch up I could cause it to run off the road, into someone’s yard. But the car continues to accelerate and my legs eventually fail. It’s gone. She’s gone. I collapse by the side of the road, panting, sweating, crying, cursing, praying.
And then I wonder how I would react to God. He could have given me strength, could have given me speed. What harm would have come of it? My baby girl would have been saved, she’d be all right. Instead, she’s gone and who knows if we’ll ever see her again? Would I trust him? Curse him for allowing it to happen? Would I question my ability to ever trust him again?
See what I mean? With me it’s not just a wondering . . . what would I do if the baby was taken? No, that’s not enough, it has to be a whole scenario, a story, complete with characters and tension and pivotal moments and questions. Complete with stress and anxiety.
I don’t know where this came from, and I don’t know how to fully use it yet. And I’m still trying to figure out how to control it. But it’s not always a blessing.
So how about you? Do you have an overactive imagination? Has it ever gotten you into trouble?
As an author I constantly get asked where I get my ideas from. I usually say something like “from all over the place” or “from lots of different places” or something equally as generic and non-committal. If you’ve ever asked me that question and gotten that or something similar for an answer, I apologize. I know it’s rather a non-answer.
But it’s difficult to say exactly where ideas come from. It’s like saying where dreams come from.
At times, though, I can give specifics and I should. So here goes . . .
I was sitting in church, toward the back, scanning the crowd while the choir sang. Being a people watcher I love doing that. You can catch all kinds of interesting things if you watch folks in church. You learn a lot about them too if you watch closely enough.
Anyway, my eyes fell on this one young couple who had a small boy with them. I don’t know them well but I know who they are. They’ve been attending our church for several years but are a quiet couple and tend to keep to themselves. But then I got to thinking that it seemed their son was the same age years ago. I thought back to the first time I noticed them at our church, probably six years ago, and their son had to be the same age. No way he was six years older than he was six years ago. He didn’t even look six years old now. They have another son that I know of but he hasn’t seemed to age either. And come to think of it, no way they look six years older.
Pop! Story idea: How could a couple keep from aging? How could they remain ageless and no one would notice? This story is about a couple who started attending a church but stayed on the fringes, never really got involved, didn’t make many friends, blended in and became just one of the “Sunday morning crowd.” Only one morning someone notices something not quite right about them. This particular couple never seems to age. Their children never seem to age. For years they’ve remained at the same stage of life.
How could they remain ageless? What if they had a time machine and once a year they travel back in time exactly one year and switch places with themselves. So their doubles (from the past), a year younger, take their place in the present. And every year they do the same thing, always starting over with their age, never moving forward, never aging. How long could they keep this going before more folks started noticing?
(Yes, I was thinking about all this during the church service. I know, shame on me. No need to berate me. I handle that on my own quite fine.)
Now, it’s not the greatest story idea and seems more like something you’d find in a Dr. Who episode but you get the picture for how these things happen. An over-active imagination can pull a story from almost any scenario.
And that’s how I get my ideas. No magic. No “idea books.” No brainstorming sessions. Just looking for extraordinary possibilities in the ordinary life all around me.
I have more of these examples and will share them in future posts.
Question: do every day occurrences get your imagination engine revving? Do you concoct stories in your head about people you meet or see or interact with?