Networking, or Meeting New Friends

I was involved in a chat session last night through my publisher, The Wild Rose Press, discussing networking with other writers. This is an invaluable concept, especially in this digital world. If you are not fortunate enough to be involved in a local critique group or writer’s support group, there are many online venues to stay in touch with other writers, share knowledge, get feedback and suggestions. We don’t compete against each other; we are thrilled for each other’s success and strive to attain our own.

What I find equally enjoyable is networking with readers. I am fortunate to have a small following at work, people who are thrilled to know I had a new book published, Ark City Confidential, and want to own it, perhaps because of the potential of future fame. You know: “Hey, I worked with that guy.”

Beyond the scope of the “real world” I have come across readers and bloggers who enjoy getting their hands on a new book and reviewing it, sharing it within the circle of those who follow THEIR insights. The virtual bookshelves are filled with volumes from countless writers, all reaching out and hoping to find a special audience. So it is these readers and bloggers who light the path ahead and make it easier to find a worthwhile story to download on their Kindle or Nook or tablet. Obviously they are not going to sign off on anything and impugn their integrity. So it is incumbent upon all writers to put forth quality work and reach out to ALL potential readers.

Networking is a way of making new friends with like interests. On one hand it is easier now with all the internet related options. On the other hand, an author has to work harder to present themselves in as true and honest a fashion as possible without the benefit of shaking someone’s hand or looking at them in the eye. My hope is that I have been able to do that.

For your viewing pleasure, please enjoy the book trailer. And if you have purchased the book and read it, please leave a review as this is the ultimate key to an author’s success.

“Ark City Confidential” – The Challenges of Historical Fiction

You currently know how to make a call and text and surf the internet on your smart phone; where to get a quick bite to eat; how to get cash expediently. You have myriad options for entertainment whether it is television through any source, the movies, or even a video arcade. Your grocery stores are Super stores which means you can buy whatever you need just about twenty-four hours a day.

If you are writing contemporary fiction, you already know what you need to know. However, if you try to write any kind of historical fiction, you may fall into some traps.

Now, by “historical fiction” I am basically referencing anything before this time, now. The Reagan administration from 1980-1988 could be considered as historical as the French Revolution or the Crusades. We truly have no idea how life was lived in those times, the basics of everyday life. The question arises: What do we need to know and what do we need to include in our stories?

I have always felt that the more detail you provide, the more of a trap you might fall into. There is the danger of becoming so enamored of your description that you take away from the story. You might also be providing the reader with the opportunity for the classic response “That’s not how it was!”

More importantly is the manner of writing given the fact you have a 20th century mindset. A couple of flappers from the 20’s are not “besties” and the court jester to the English king during the War of the Roses was not “ROFL”. While those may be obvious examples, there are the subtle nuances that make you who you are in today’s world that have to be eliminated when writing historical fiction.

While it was a challenge, “Ark City Confidential” takes place in a time period (1930’s Depression-era America) that had always been a source of fascination for me, even while growing up. The opportunity to learn more about the state that has been my home for over 20 years was a further reward. It is my hope that I have captured the era and the essence in service to an exciting crime story.

“Ark City Confidential” has its worldwide release one week from today, January 11, 2017. It will be available in paperback and on Kindle through The Wild Rose Press and Amazon.

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“What do we do now?”

In the 1972 movie The Candidate, an idealistic lawyer played by Robert Redford is persuaded to run for the Senate against a popular incumbent. He’s given free rein to run his campaign as he sees fit, until he starts to become a viable candidate. At the end of the movie, after winning the election he sits glumly in his hotel room rather than confident and proud. He speaks to his campaign manager who is surrounded by a throng of people and asks “What do we do now?”

Well, I’m feeling that same way. I’ve realized the needs and requirements of being a writer in this contemporary digital age and have followed through accordingly. I have dipped my toes in the waters of Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter and Kindle. I have set up my own website and added links to, well, me out in the world of cyberspace.

What do I do now?

The interesting thing is that I know what to do and it involves regular management, as though I were diabetic and needed to test my blood sugar. There is no longer the casual get-together with writers in coffee shops smoking clove cigarettes and contemplating the modern version of ancient Roman classics. (Yes, I did all that.)

There is a new world of tweets and posts and entries and connections and networking. I KNOW what to do. It’s time to get around to doing it.

My Digital Progress — A Follow-Up

Per Dictionary.com, the definition of PLATFORM (item #7) was

a body of principles on which a person or group takes a stand in appealing to the public

So, we as writers and artists are intent upon building our platform for the sole purpose of appealing to the public, identifying ourselves, our character and personality as well as our work. We hope you will purchase said work because, if we weren’t interested in selling it, we wouldn’t be building our platform.

I’ve been doing this blog for four years, have been on Facebook, have signed up for LinkedIn and Twitter, hand out business cards, talk as much to non-writers (you know, The Public) as much as I discuss writing with those that suffer the same affliction as myself. I’ve uploaded works for sale in both printed and electronic formats on Lulu, Amazon’s Kindle Page, Smashwords, and others. Until now, the only thing I lacked was a website.

Until now.

I am pleased to announce the unveiling of hbberlow.com and hope that there will be visitors as well as purchases of books.

I am indebted to my brother-in-law Greg for getting the thing started. We’ve both been talking for years about each of us needing our own websites for different reasons. Every time I would agree and it would just stop there. Until he just went out and secured my name as a domain (thank goodness) and set up the initial skeleton and instructed me as to how to build up the rest of the body.

Thanks should also go to Gordon Kessler, the founder and current president of the Kansas Writers Association who, for this past year has been strongly advocating the membership to embrace the Digital world and heavily research and explore e-publishing.

Special mention should be made to Samantha Lafantasie, a woman who balances being a wife and mother and writer and adds a great passion to the KWA meetings. She has established a critique group and she is passionate about the craft. It is people like her (who are so utterly different from me) that motivate me in stepping into these new fields.

After all, I’m just an old analog dude living in a digital world.

Please visit my website and come along for the ride.

My Digital Progress

Here’s a scorecard:

WRITING: I’ve started editing two novels, giving them the full revision treatment. I’ve worked out a synopsis for a new novel based in part on the life of a retired Wichita, KS police detective. I’ve thought about a story line for NaNoWriMo.
On the writing front, pretty abysmal.

PLATFORM: I’ve continued to blog, Facebook, recently signed up for Twitter, stayed abreast of e-publishing options, attended KWA meetings, and am this close to getting a web site set up.

Platform vs. writing. Gotta have something to promote. Gotta have someplace to promote it. Sometimes the efforts are side by side and sometimes one takes a lead in the race while the other catches up.

And in between and all around this carnival is regular good old Life. You know, the full-time job and homeowner thing and the husband. It’s all an incredible magic act, not really juggling, because we are creating an illusion with every hat we wear, a performance of wonder.

I wonder what I’ll do next.

Skating on Ice versus Swimming in the Lake

Since 2007, there has been a flurry of writing activity for me.

I have participated in NaNoWriMo, that madcap literary dash to the finish, writing (scribing, transcribing, composing, etc.) 50,000 words on a “novel” within the month of November. And I have successfully completed this event in each of the last four years. I put it aside for the month of December and then begin the new year with a rewrite, editing, polish, etc. But not really.

After a profoundly interesting meeting of the Kansas Writer’s Association in May 2009, I realized many things that I did not know about networking and blogging and self-publishing with POD services, etc. So, I got business cards, started this blog, found two short novels of mine ripe for publication and set to the task of networking. But not really.

With my wife’s help, I reorganized the office, separated personal from writing, and got myself in a position to take care of household needs separate from literary ones. But not really.

Since 2007, I’ve been only touching the surface of these things, skating on a thin layer of ice, polishing the impressions while fearful of falling and losing ground. I should have been diving into the warmth of a lake in summer, splashing around, unafraid of getting wet or staying out too late.

I wrote recently of having lost notes regarding a novel I was still working on in first draft. It occurred to me that perhaps this was a wake up call to go slower, refocus the efforts on work that needs more attention. I need to take some pieces that are good but not great, interesting but not fascinating, entertaining but not must-read and flesh them out and bring them to a truer point of completion.

So, whereas my 2011 Writing Goals shows that I wanted to work on two new pieces, I am revising even that. My focus will be on three works (perhaps a fourth) that will undergo extreme scrutiny and finer revision. I will slow down the train of the agent search before I derail myself. I will place unwavering attention on the skill and the craft and the art.

I will finalize two poetry collection manuscripts for publication on Lulu only because, well, they’re poetry and the whole idea of Lulu for poetry reminds me of when everyone was putting out their work in chapbooks.

It’s winter time. we just had a snowstorm here in the Wichita, KS area and we got about 7-9 inches of snow. That’s the real world. As far as my writing is concerned, I’m going to go swimming in the lake for a while.

Paper vs. The Digital World

No, this is not going to be one of those stories about forgetting to back something up or losing something on the computer or the computer crashing. I’ve been through those stories before. As a matter of fact, it was less than six months ago when I thought I had lost significant personal information and wound up purchasing a 500 gb external hard drive.

I have learned how to become functional in this digital world, able to do what I need in order to keep up with the ever-changing technologies. I’ve learned how to adapt to the Digital Age through USB storage drives and blogging and Windows Movie Maker and Microsoft Office, etc.

What I need is a better storage and filing system for paper.

Over a year ago, I started a novel in a more literary vein. It was the story of a widower who takes a cross-country trip along the Lincoln Highway and reflects on his life and learns a few things as well. It was going to be an homage to the American Road trip and undying love. I had done a great deal of research on the Lincoln Highway as well as other scenic byways throughout the United States as a background for this couple who used to visit sections of the country by driving over fascinating roadways. I wrote in a blog entry or two about writing this non-crime piece, taking great care to provide detail and emotion and sensitivity. I was making some headway on it after not being able to proceed and getting feedback from Jennifer Neri, a wonderfully compassionate and sensitive writer from Canada whose blog I follow. I got down over 18,000 words.

I can’t find the paper. I can’t find the notes. And, unlike digital media, there is no IT person around that will be able to scour through my files, office, or even house to help me find them.

The notes, the papers, are either somewhere in the files/office/house in an inappropriate location or they have been accidentally incorporated into a pile that has since been relegated to a compactor or incinerator.

Now, I know enough about the story to proceed but not enough to finish without trying to replicate the sensibility of what I was attempting to achieve. And with other projects piling up, it is difficult to devote much time to sending out a search party.

I just find this all rather ironic. This is not a digital or technological issue. It is one relating to my own mental faculties. How can I back-up my brain?

Reflections on Resolutions

It was about a year ago that I composed a document: 2010 Writing Goals. I had never been much for New Year’s resolutions relating to diet or lifestyle or anything, really. But by the end of last year, I had started blogging and had published a book “Kansas Two-Step” on lulu.com, had gotten rather quaint business cards from VistaPrint, and felt that in some small way I was making progress and wanted to continue to encourage my own growth as a writer.
After printing up this document, I taped it to a shelf above my computer so that I could simply look up and refresh my waning memory. Well, it’s a year later and I am taking account of my efforts.
EDIT
I wanted to work on editing four novels. I did a fifth and sixth draft of “The .9 MM Solution” and a fourth and fifth draft of “Swansong”. Both were NaNoWriMo efforts. I did not get started on “Weekend Getaways, or Adventures in Contract Killing” (my transgressive novel) or “The Stooges” (another NaNoWriMo effort).
COMPLETE
I wanted to complete a first draft on two recent efforts: “The Last Road” (a literary piece about a widower’s cross-country adventure) and “All Day Long I Biddy Biddy Bum” (another even darker transgressive piece). The only NEW writing efforts were “Professor thug” (this year’s NaNoWriMo) and “Unemployed and Dangerous: A Trilogy of Transgressive Novellas”. After being terminated from my job of thirteen years, I had a lot of understandable anger which I filtered into these works. EXTREMELY dark in nature, they are not something I want to present to my 80+ year old parents as an example of my efforts. However, they do stand on their own as strong, well-defined pieces.
ACCOMPLISH
Multiple things on this section. No luck yet with finding an agent although I gave a four-week exclusive to Jessica Regel of the Jean V Naggar Literary Agency. Even though that did not turn out the way I wanted, it was a very good step.
As for networking efforts, I got onto Facebook and actively sought out people with the additional repercussion of contact relatives that I either hadn’t talked to in years or had allowed my efforts to lapse. Bonus points for that.
I did get two more books onto Lulu: “Quick” and the aforementioned “Unemployed and Dangerous”. In doing so I continued learning formatting and cover art (thanking my wife/my editor for the photo on “Quick”).
I started initial research on web sites and my brother-in-law (a talented software engineer who also happened to inspire “The .9 mm Solution”) offered his assistance.
Not on the original list was attending Writer’s conferences but I did go to the KWA Scene Conference here in Wichita as well as a seminar by Gordon Kessler earlier in the year. I also learned how to make small movies on Windows Movie Maker. I’m working on a book trailer, just to develop my skills. In the meantime, I did a project for the family for Christmas that was highly entertaining, especially if you know my family.
And finally, there was blogging. I may not have presented as many articles as I desired but I did what time would allow. And I also avidly followed other writers whose efforts seem somewhat similar to mine: refreshing commentary on their lives as writers.
Jennifer Neri (http://jenniferneri.wordpress.com/), a writer from Canada who shared her experiences with motherhood over the past year and still had time to pass on significant motivational comments.
Lawrence Estrey (http://lawrenceez.wordpress.com/), a writer and photographer and IT kind of guy from north of London who writes psychological thrillers, takes very moving photos, and has impressive feedback regarding storage systems and photo editing software.
Ryan David Jahn (http://gunsandverbs.wordpress.com/), a crime writer from Los Angeles, whose novel “Acts of Violence” won the Crime Writer’s Association Dagger award and yet talks about day-to-day life and his impressions of the minutiae as though they should be considered more strongly than the greater events.
Teresa Frohock (http://frohock.wordpress.com/), a dark fantasy and horror writer who gleefully advised her readers of her representation by Weronika Janczuk of D4EO and then of her sale of her book “Miserere: An Autumn Tale” while those of us who read her blog gleefully cheered alongside her.
I wish I could say that I follow more blogs regularly but Time is a beast with wings hovering over my life as a husband and homeowner and employee.
Overall, I would say that I got through nearly half of my goals, some to differing degrees than others. It is not measured as SUCCESS/FAILURE or PASS/FAIL but rather as another chapter on a long road. At some point within the next couple of days I will create a new document and tape it to the shelf above me. And I will proceed and continue and persevere and think and create.
And write.

Book Covers

I’ve done a great deal of experimenting when it comes to my three works that are “published”. I have them on Lulu.com and in the Kindle store. I am working on getting them on Pubit from Barnes & Noble. I’m learning how to make book trailers. This was all above and beyond the writing and editing process.

“Kansas Two-Step” was a novella I wrote during my breaks and lunches on one-subject notebooks by hand at an old job. When I first decided to put it on Lulu, I decided to take the picture myself for the cover since I didn’t want to get into any rights issues. Digital cameras can be wonderful tools. I initially thought it might be too dark of a cover but since it deals with pornography and murder it suited the subject. (By the way, those are my ostrich skin boots.)

“Quick” is an older piece, written at a time when I was trying to jump-start my writing. It was written in that fashion, one chapter a night after dinner with a couple of glasses of wine. No outline. What you would call guerrilla writing. I knew I wanted to convey the essence of speed, since the beginning of the story is the main character (Jamie Quick) leaving the scene of a bungled robbery that turned into murder. The thing with digital cameras is that you can’t take a blurry picture. UNLESS your wife leans very far forward in the passenger seat, almost pressing the camera to the windshield and quickly tries to snap passing vehicles. (This was on Highway 11 in Oklahoma on the way to our cabin in Kaw City, OK.)

After being unceremoniously dispatched from my place of employment after thirteen years, I wrote a series of very dark transgressive novellas. Unintentionally, there was one in first person, one in second person, one in third person. They were so dark that my wife had to do a double take to make sure I hadn’t gone off the deep end. I had not. the writing was excellent therapy. I used a different template from Lulu.com than I had used on either of the first two and was able to create a diverse imagery that I hope creates a sense of the stories.

All of this was within the last eighteen months. There is no sense of perfection here whatsoever. I know there are people out there far better adept at the digital technology. My efforts ARE enough to give me a sign of encouragement that I can learn and develop and grow. I will not be (nor can I afford to be) the grumpy old dude who wishes things were the way they used to be.

As long as I continue to read blogs and follow those writer’s adventures in the New Digital World of Writing; as long as I keep my mind open to possibilities that the technology affords; as long as I keep the brain in creative overdrive, I will eventually meet my goals.

What will I do?

My PC is in the shop for maintenance.  There were issues involving files disappearing but thankfully no writing files have been jeopardized.  So my wife, knowing what the computer means to me and my writing and networking efforts, graciously suggested bringing her laptop up to my office for the time being (maybe four days).

Okay, it’s still a computer, but it’s not MY computer.  I don’t use a laptop generally and am not 100% comfortable.  It’s on the desk and not in the cubby where my PC goes.  And there is the matter of the files and having to transfer things from my USB drive to the laptop to work and then loading the saved files back on and…

I remember years ago when it was a matter of 3.5″ floppy discs and just storing those somewhere.  Or the typewriter days when you “printed” everything because that was how you saved things.  I’ve gotten so “digital” that I have to be my own IT guy just to do what I want to do which is WRITE.  (Notice the IT is right smack dab in the middle of the word WRITE.)

I’m feeling like some sort of techno-conspiracy-theorist burdened by the ever-increasing knowledge we knowledge we are required to stuff into our brains merely to allow that smaller creative portion an opportunity to escape and perhaps grow into something entertaining or thought-provoking or evocative.

I hate to say it but maybe I should suggest to my wife that she give me some honey-dos for the next couple of days.