Thursday, February 24, 2011

Progress Report #3 - SF Writer's Conference

SF Writer’s Conference
Last weekend, and through Monday, I attended the SF Writer’s Conference in San Francisco at the Mark Hopkins. For three days we wandered about the rabbit-warren of conference rooms and stairs, attending a strange but incredibly interesting collection of seminars and how-to’s. Go to their site for more info and to get a taste for next year. It was really a two part conference – one part dealing with the art of writing and publishing and the other about the need for authors to be an integral part about marketing their books and products (poems, short stories, thrillers, etc.). I could write three blogs about Facebook (I am currently Friendless), Twitter, blogs, websites, going viral, and all the other social media necessities. The bottom line is – you have to be there in social media, all over it, rolling in it, up to your neck in the stuff of it. But then again, you would never have time to write - there are choices to me made. I’ll see how it works out. Thank you Michael Larsen and Elizabeth Pomada and your team, it was excellent. And a prize for the first person who knows what steam-punk is.

One of the best parts of the conference is to touch base with annual friends, (who should be more than once a year acquaintances). One gentleman who lives down the road in Danville, Kent Killmer, last year was flogging his book Red House, this year he had books, hard and soft, in hand and was self-published. The first paragraph sucks you in, check out his movie trailer here. Good book, buy it!

I also had the pleasant opportunity to sit through three lectures on the thriller/suspense style with Bob Dugoni and Sheldon Siegel. The intense, almost one-on-one, lectures gave a select few of us time to focus on what’s next for our books. Thanks to both.

The Next Sharon O’Mara Chronicle (Book 3)

Well, it’s started. Goosed in the butt by Sheldon and a comment he made, I found my opening line: “The village was dead.” Now Bob and others said the open will change, but I don’t think so, it captures the tone I was looking for, and since the story begins in eastern France and Germany in 1944, there were many villages that were destroyed and dead.

Like a racehorse in the gate, I was pawing and snorting to get started, just waiting for the bell, the lecture on Monday was the bell. It’s now Thursday and I’m 3000 words into it. A good start and only 21 days ahead of schedule, we’ll see how the race goes; the first turn is ahead.

Marketing is critical and my other books are in need of help, we are reorganizing and getting our schedules and to-do lists written and done. I will keep you posted, for those interested, on how we revive our publishing company and make it more dynamic in this every-writer-for-himself world.

More Later . . .

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Progress Report #2

This weekend is the San Francisco Writer’s Conference in, wait for it, San Francisco. There will be lots of seminars on writing, publishing, editing, bragging, and begging for an opportunity to flog your book or at least an idea for a book. Many will come, few will leave completely happy. Such is the nature of these events, but if you don’t try you don’t know what you will have missed. I remember an old marketing adage that went something like this, “You can’t sell to a customer who doesn’t know your product.” These conferences are places to find customers and show your product.

Other projects:
I’m finishing the last edits on the movie book trailer for Containers 4 Death. I like it and hope you will too; I will post it on next week’s blog and on YouTube. Dennis De Rose and I have finished the editing of the manuscript, Dennis is a champ and hardworking; he was done in two weeks and even gave it a second read with follow-up corrections. Again I recommend Dennis to every writer, remember it’s your content but he can help make it right. Thanks Dennis.

I have rolled the manuscript into InDesign for the first pass at formatting the book, 275 pages. The cover is below right at the bottom of the column. I’m still aiming for a mid-March roll-out with April 1 as the publishing date; ebook and pbook both.

The Next Chronicle
WWIII 4 Death (still the working title) has slowed a bit from the initial surge, but only because paying work has inconveniently gotten in the way, but a writer has to eat. The book is constantly with me in my head. I am continuing to read a number of books on World War II focusing on the stolen art treasures by the Nazi’s and Hitler. Through his partners in this unbelievable period in history, Hitler stole millions of art objects, books, and paintings. Even as Paris was being attacked by the Allies, he gave priority to trains to haul his loot out of town, even over the need for his own troops to escape. I am also reading about the foot soldiers and the deadly obstacles and conditions they faced.
Books I recommend:
            The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel and Bret Witter (incredible)
            Visions from a Foxhole by William A. Foley Jr.
            Foot Soldier for Patton by Michael Bilder (amazing story of luck and survival)

The reason for this research is a better understanding for the first chapter which kicks off in Germany at the end of the war. This will provide the back-story for the rest of the book.

Still working on the story and overall structure, I am comfortable with where I am at the moment - should meet the March 15 date for the outline. Developing the character profiles (as I said last week if you are interested in my Character Profile Excel spreadsheet let me know in comments), helps to put a history to the face of the players in the story.

More later . . .

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Progress Report #1

Couple of updates on other projects:
100 copies of Land Swap 4 Death are arriving this morning from my printer, then a few will be sent to Amazon to fulfill orders. This new printing order allowed me to correct a few typos in the manuscript and adjust the cover a bit. Try that with your big publishing house. Also changed the ebooks at Smashwords and Amazon – very simple process and I now feel much better about the product.

I am connected to other writer’s groups through LinkedIn. These are the Fiction Writers Guild and the Mystery Writers of America (MWA) Group. There are always interesting and exciting conversations going on, join LinkedIn and give them a try – there are hundreds of groups. One individual commented on editing and the process of cleaning up your project. I connected with him, we discussed my new project Containers 4 Death and I hired Dennis De Rose to edit the book, I couldn’t be happier. Dennis is thorough, detailed, helpful, and affordable. What more could you want? He can be reached at His small shop is called Moneysaver Editing – he is more than that.

Next weekend is the San Francisco Writers Conference at the Mark Hopkins Hotel. Last year was my first; this year should be even more helpful. Everything from self-publishing, editing, book structure, poetry, and other lectures spread over four days. Looking forward to it - I'll report on it later.

Now onto the current project (WWIII 4 Death – working title):
I have been collecting research materials and forming a rough outline of the story. The current idea revolves around stolen art and their return to the rightful owners – at least this is where it’s starting. I am trying to structure the outline into three parts, like most plays. This will not be apparent by calling out Acts in the chapter headings, but will use sets of chapters to define the main parts. This should allow a better transition within periods of time and place. I’ll see how it works.

The difficulty with posting this blog will be how much to reveal and how much to hide. Should I lay it all out as I go along, or keep some in reserve? I mentioned this to some friends and they were mixed. Too much and you give the story away – too little, then what’s the purpose of the blog. Still working on this.Please comment if you like.

As a historian dealing with issues of the past and how it affects the future (city planning and development) I am keenly aware of the need to create a supportive history to the story and the characters. I have always just jumped in and started the story without defining the characters all that well. This is changing, these people (characters) are tough enough to deal with (they WILL take over the story if you don’t control them), so I'm now backtracking and setting up detailed character profiles for my main characters as well as speculative characters for the next project. There may be good programs out there, but I set up my own working EXCEL spreadsheet that will help define and bring these characters to life. If you’re interested in a copy drop me a line at – it’s free.

Now back to the three foot by five foot outline on butcher paper spread across my desk – still old school (paper and pencil) at this point.

More later . . .

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Schedule

I have decided to structure the next book with defined benchmarks that will drive its writing. While this is not for everyone, I have found that in my alter-life and professional career every project has a beginning, middle and end. These schedules revolve around meeting the due dates of other professionals working as a team on the project. If you falter the whole team suffers and your client usually is unforgiving. I try very hard not to miss due dates and to keep the client happy.

For now the working title of the book is WWIII 4 Death, don’t read anything into the title, I just want a strong title to mold the research. (and it’s easy to type)

Here is what I’m looking at for the Project Schedule:

Final Manuscript Completion: November 1, 2011 (10 months)

Schedule of Benchmark Due Dates: 
  •     Research and Final Outline: March 15, 2011 
  •     First 20,000 words: May 15, 2011
  •     Second 20,000 words: July 15, 2011
  •     Final Draft: September 15, 2011
            (231 days – 300 words per day / piece of cake!)

  •      First Rewrite: October 7, 2011
  •      Final Draft (prior to editing): November 1, 2011

Caveat: I can speed up or slow down individual benchmarks, but the goal is still November 1, 2011, if I beat it I will reward myself something special.

Book Structure:
            The first two Sharon O’Mara Chronicles (Land Swap 4 Death and Containers 4 Death) are 60 to 70 thousand words. I will try to keep it to this number. I have liked the 15 to 16 chapter internal structure, with each chapter broken into 3 or 4 sub-chapters (2a, 2b, etc.) that all follow the same thread, each about 4,500 words.
            I realize that for some this may be too constrictive so early into the project, but you have to start somewhere. I do like to have some structure with definable goals.

Some very random thoughts on the subject of the book:
World War II, Silicon Valley, old age, reparations, art, gold, San Francisco, Europe, Italy, London, 2011, cooking classes, war criminals, remorse, new car/old Jaguar, Argentina, death, olives, and tiramisu.

Parallel to this work I will be finalizing the edits on Containers 4 Death, getting it published and printed and hopefully start the editing of my novel Elk River to try and get it out later in the year.

More later . . .