Do your research! (part 1)

I have been reading quite a few e-books lately. Mainly because I find it rather convenient to take my Kindle to work with me, but also because I am thinking about self-publishing one of my own novels. It seems that no one else wants to publish it, so why not?

But I’ve found that the reason why some of these novels have never been picked up by a publisher is because they have been shoddily written. Bad punctuation, grammatical errors and typos abound in the self-publishing world. Many of these authors could really use a good editor.

(Blatant self-promotion time – consider Garnet Services for your editing needs!)

But sometimes the problem lies in the research the author has done – or in some cases, failed to do. I ran across one instance in particular in a trilogy called “The Institute Series” by Kayla Howarth. This is a rather interesting spin on both the post-apocalyptic and superhero genres, and is certainly worth a read. But one instance really bugged me, and it’s something that is such elementary knowledge that the author really should have picked up on it.

In one scene, a character is holding a shotgun. A few pages later, the character swings the shotgun around and fires… a bullet.

Sigh….

OK, for those that don’t see the problem here, a shotgun is not a rifle. Or a handgun. They don’t fire bullets, or anything of the sort. You see, a shotgun fires shot (hence the name), which are tiny spheres or particles of metal which are packed into a shell with the gunpowder and other explosive material. Sometimes shotguns can fire other material – such as rock salt or beanbags – but they don’t fire bullets.

Admittedly, the series – and possibly the author – takes place in Australia. Given the draconian gun laws in that country, the author may not be aware of the way shotguns work. She may have never even held a shotgun in her hands.

But overlooking something so simple can lower the credibility of yourself as an author. For example, let’s say you have your police detectives come across a murder scene. Judging from the look of the body, the coroner determines the victim was killed with a shotgun blast. If the police detectives then begin searching the body for exit wounds, or looking for a bullet embedded in the walls… well, these detectives probably shouldn’t even be on the force. And if you have your detectives find a “large-calibre slug” fired from said shotgun deep in the doorframe, don’t be surprised if your readers decide to read something else instead.

If you, as an author, aren’t sure about something, be sure to take a moment to look it up. With the Internet, there is a wide variety of resources to choose from. Admittedly, some are better than others (especially with the raging debate about “fake news” going on right now), but it’s worth your time to do the research and make sure all your facts are correct.

After all, the only time you want your readers laughing at you is when you’re writing comedy.

 

Not your Momma’s Chicken Pizza… I hope.

We just received some new and exciting products in the meat department. Including a new line of items that could be the inspiration for dinner! We no longer have to steer people to the deli department for pulled pork – we have it for you!

But there’s one product that made me a bit hesitant. As I was taking the items off the pallet, my eyes caught a Lunchable variety that I didn’t recognize. The name on it read “Chicken Pizza.”

Chichen Pizza? As a Lunchable? It could be good, I thought. It depended on what they used as a sauce. Some sort of creamy alfredo or barbecue sauce, and it might work. Or it could be bad.

I opened the box to put the product on the shelves. They decided to go the “bad” way. To the point where it was hilariously bad.

Lunchables already offers a cheese pizza. It basically consists of a small flatbread crust which you (or, more than likely, your kids) put a smear of tomato sauce on top, then sprinkle shredded cheese over the creation. Presumably, it is eaten cold.

Well, Lunchable Chicken Pizza follows the same formula. Only on top of the cheese you can add some tiny chicken nuggets. Ta da! Chicken pizza… thing.

I think my exact words upon seeing the product were “Oh my goodness, this is horrible! Kids will love it!” And yes, some have sold since we’ve received it.

But that was pretty much the only bad addition to the Walmart deli wall. Great Value now offers their own variety of Lunchable-like products as well. As well as chipotle chicken breast lunch meat, uncured hot dogs, and Jimmy Dean Sausage Scrambles.  We even have foot-long Ball Park hot dogs for a limited time.

So stop on by the Moscow Walmart! If you happen to catch me there, I’d love to help you find what you’re looking for. And if you’re daring enough to try the Chicken Pizza yourself, I’ll point it out to you.

This post brought to you by Coolidge Ice! When you need to keep it cool, think Coolidge!

The other day the store received several packages of pull-up diapers. What struck me as amusing was that the packages prominently featured Iron Man. Not a baby version, but as he would appear in the comic books. It made me wonder what Tony Stark would think if his super hero identity appeared on a package of diapers! Would this be a common occurrence in the Marvel universe? Could people expect to pick up coffee with Ant Man’s face on the cup? Or paper towels emblazoned with the Fantastic Four logo? Would companies need to pay a licensing fee to the heroes in order to use their likenesses?

But then this made me wonder about if the same thing could happen in the real world. What kinds of products could we expect to find our own real-world “heroes” on? General Patton-brand napkins? Alan Greenspan floor cleaner? Bill Gates’ gum? Condoleeza Rice-brand bottled water?

Yes, there are products that are named after the founding fathers, especially George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. And there are other products – such as perfumes and sausages – with celebrity endorsements (most of which I probably wouldn’t consider a hero in the first place…). But what about others who aren’t exactly seeking the spotlight?

This could apply to the fictional characters in the worlds we create. Suppose you have a police detective who has achieved some fame. Will he have to hire a press agent because companies want to use his likeness for their fedoras or trench coats? Could contract negotiations be a way to expand a story – possibly in a humorous fashion? Maybe the protagonist vampire hunter needs to take a break from hunting nosferati (is that a word? I think that’s a word…) in order to get a lawyer to file a cease-and-desist order against a company using the hunter’s likeness on crackers.

The price of being famous could be a burden – especially when it comes to legal aspects. It could add a dimension to your works to make them more realistic, too. Sure, you may have fireball-throwing wizards or aliens with eyeballs on the ends of their tentacles… but no matter what setting you’ve got, you’ll have a bureaucracy seeking to make things more complicated than they need to be!

It’s too early to post….

We have an alarm clock that automatically adjusts for Daylight Savings Time. That way, we don’t have to set it. Isn’t that wonderful?

Unfortunately, it seems that the date for Daylight Savings Time is hardwired into the system. So instead of changing on a Sunday morning, it changes on a set date. Like… today. As a result, I got up an hour earlier than I was supposed to… and didn’t even notice until about half an hour ago.

Well, I have time to kill before I have to leave for work. Might as well give my sadly neglected blog an update!

I managed to land a job at the local Walmart. I’m in the meat department, stocking shelves, checking product for quality assurance, helping customers, and the like. It’s decent work, and I like the people I work with. I don’t spend a lot of time sitting, so there’s lots of physical activity, at least. I’m thinking that I will have to share interesting stories and observations I encounter while working there.

I still haven’t decided where to post my latest novel. I’m kicking around the idea of setting up another WordPress site and linking it to this one, but the challenge is finding the time. I’ll want to have decent cover art for it, after all.  And no, I haven’t decided to pursue my dream of being a professional writer again. In fact, aside from game reviews, I haven’t wanted to write much of anything these days. If I’m not going to get anything from it, why waste my time? I’d rather do something fun, like play games, or spend time with the family.

“But, Todd!” you might be saying. “Writing is fun!” I may have thought that at one time, but not now. Coming up with ideas to write about is fun. Editing is fun. Helping other people with their works is fun. But actually writing a coherent plot? Well… OK, that can be a little fun. But not as much fun as other things in my life right now.

Actually, sleeping sounds like fun right now. But I have to leave for work soon. Sigh….

In any case, I hope those of you reading this are having a good day, and that your clocks are working correctly!

 

Wake up time.

The other day, my wife and I were having a spiritual discussion, about our roles in God’s plan, and what we’re supposed to do. She asked me a zinger of a question that I have had trouble answering. “Do I want to be known as a good person, or do I want to be known as a published author?”

Personally, I’d prefer to be both. But I’m not sure if that’s possible. If I was a famous author, with a book deal and bringing in enough money to support the lifestyle I’d like to have (which would probably include living in a castle in the middle of a dense forest), would I still be a good person? I know some people have been able to do it, but perhaps I don’t have the moral fortitude to be as good as them.

In a later conversation, my wife told me why November seems to be such a rough month for her / us. It’s because of my dedication to writing, and National Novel Writing Month. I get so caught up in my writing that, apparently, I become extremely scatterbrained and neglectful of my family. Now, what if I had the dedication to my writing that I was like that twelve months of the year? Would I still be a decent husband and father if I did pursue my goal of becoming an author?

The thing is, it’s always been my lifelong dream to be a professional writer. In fact, I gave up a decent paying, full-time job to try and pursue my dream. I figured that if I didn’t do it now, it’s never going to happen. I’m in my 40s, for goodness sake. Many successful authors have had three or four – or more – novels published by this time.

But if it means giving up my family for the sake of my dream? Is that really worth the cost? It was a tough question for me, but I think I finally decided on an answer. It’s a truth that I’ve had trouble accepting, but I’ve come to the realization that I’ve simply been denying it. It’s time to accept the truth, and move on.

Dreams are stupid. They only come true if you’re amazingly lucky, or incredibly blessed. For the rest of us, the best we can do is find a full time job that doesn’t make you want to kill yourself every day.

Or, in the words of Kenny Rogers, “the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep.”

So this year will probably be my last National Novel Writing Month. I’ve got six novels in various states (most completed and in “first draft” mode), including the one I’ve almost finished this year. But what’s the point of writing these if I’m never going to accomplish anything with them?

I’m still hoping to post this latest one online though, a chapter at a time. I’m thinking that it will be through Wattpad, mainly because Jukepop seemed to have a strong, anti-Christian vibe when I perused that site. Given that this year’s novel is firmly planted in the “Christian Fiction” genre, it probably wouldn’t get listed there.

If I get enough of a following, perhaps I’ll release my other books on Wattpad, a chapter at a time, just so people can read them. It might even give me the incentive to finish writing a couple of these novels, too. Just to get them out there, so someone can read them. That way they won’t simply die with me.

I’m still going to write game reviews for Christ Centered Gamer, the occasional short story, and this blog. But I’ve given up on trying to be a successful author. It’s just not my fate, it seems. At this point in my life, I’d be content to settle for mediocrity. I need to focus more on my family, and my relationship with God.

My dreams aren’t important any more. They’ve become pointless. It’s time to wake up to reality.

Another one bites the dust!

I just passed the 50,000 word mark a few minutes ago. Another National Novel Writing Month win under my belt. Hooray! And amusingly enough, Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” was playing on my iTunes as I wrote word 50,001. Hence the Queen-inspired blog title.

But I’m not done with this one yet. I just finished chapter 39, and I wanted to have about 52 chapters done before the end of November. I don’t know if I’ll be able to hit that particular goal, but I should be close. At least to chapter 45.

Then it’ll be time to figure out how to give this novel away.

Yep, I worked hard on writing this piece, and now I’m going to make it free for everyone! What I want to do is find a place where I can post serials. Like Jukepop or a similar site. I’ll have to do more research and see what I can find.

Then I’ll post one chapter a week and see if I can get more people interested in my fiction. (Yes, that was the reason I chose to have the goal of 52 chapters – clever, I know.) I’ll let you know what happens on that front.

And now that I have that 50,000 word goal behind me, I’m hoping to update my sadly neglected blog more, too. More news from Idaho, more tips on writing, and more on what’s to come.

Let’s discover the future together!