Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I like Amazon KDP Select. But I also like Leanpub.

I still like Amazon's KDP Select program.

You know what I'm referring to. If you don't, then you've enjoyed living with your head in the sand much too long.

Yes, I'm serious! I really do still like what Amazon offers for indie authors.

But as one old proverbial prophet once said/wrote/preached/shouted from the rooftops: "Don't put all your eggs in one basket." This then is why I took Betrovia, the first book of trilogy, out of Select. Right now, Betrovia can be purchased as a paperback or an ebook via Amazon. It can also be found as an ebook via Smashwords, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and even the Apple ITunes store.

And as of a few days ago, there's one more place where the book can be purchased in PDF, EPUB or MOBI formats:!

I like Leanpub. The more I work with Leanpub's "social publishing" system, the more I like it. But who utilizes Leanpub to "get their stuff" into the hands of the knowledge-hungry, entertainment-driven populace?

For the most part, Leanpub has been around since 2009 to help computer programmers to disseminate their work.

Nothing wrong with that, right? If it wasn't for the free-software revolution that gave birth to Linux, etc. I might not be writing and publishing much of anything right now. (I've been using Ubuntu Linux here in the basement man-cave exclusively for over 2 years now!) As far as I can tell, the fine folks of are able to offer their services because of the money they make from the computer programmers who sell lots of their ebooks.

More power to them!

I've been tinkering with the Leanpub system for about a month now. I plan to take the rest of my published works out of KDP Select as soon as possible and add them to Leanpub as well.

Now, if you look at my Leanpub author page, you'll see a few other things that I am working on. This is the strength of Leanpub's social publishing system! Presently, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and not even Smashwords offers this program!

Yes, I do like Leanpub.

Note: Below are the stories/novellas/novels that I've already published or plan to publish. I plan to have all of these listed on soon.

The Land of Betrovia
  1. Into The Desert
  2. Pieter's Adventure
  3. Harrig and Bet-Rove
  4. The Building of Ahnak
  5. Tamara and the Paintings
  6. Viktor the young Netherene
  7. A Noran Kidnapping
Series (Of at least 5 stories)

  1. Betrovia
  2. Lycentia: Harrak's Scrolls
  3. Ahnak: Edelin's Revelation

Other Works

The Colony of Xyklan (my first attempt at a YA sci-fi novel)

Short Stories
The Bridge: A Parable

Life in Beatty Short Story Collection (4 currently available with maybe 6 or more to come at a later date) 
  1. That Hoosiers Cap
  2. A Game of HORSE
  3. Pizza Surprise
  4. A Rusty Hook (The main character in this story is a 30-something adult who was a precocious teen in the three stories listed above)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Planners and Pantsters: The Battle for Control Continues!

"Those who fail to plan, plan to fail." 

I don't know who came up with this little saying (could probably google it and find out) but there's a bit of truth to it. I suppose one could consider an architect or structural engineer starting a new building project, firing up their trusty copy of AutoCAD as they begin the process of turning a dream into a reality. From their computer-generated drawings a new house, office building or even sports car will be built. And exactly how could any of those things be constructed if there were no "blueprints" for constructing them?

I somewhat remember one of the first times I was required to submit an outline as part of a research paper project in high school. Having no experience or formal training in such a thing, I simply wrote the paper first and then jotted down the outline afterwards. Of course, the teacher wanted us to submit the outline first and so I did. Did I tell her that the outline was written after the final draft?

Now why would she need to know that?

A few years later, after graduating from the local university with a degree in English literature (once I realized it was time to "grow up" and get a "real job") I went back to the university to get a teaching certificate. The plan was to convince myself that being a full-time English/language arts instructor was going to solve two problems: putting food on the table as well as improving my own writing skills. Not long after that, during the winter of my first teaching contract, I got the notion of writing a novel.

But how to start? Of course! Create an outline! And how productive was that?

It didn't take long to realize that in order for me to know where I wanted to go with those characters and their conflicts, I needed a plan of attack. And so, once the rough, but fairly complete, outline was typed up, I felt I knew where I wanted to go. And that was the winter of 1984-85.

And where is the novel that was supposed to be the end result of that process?

About one-tenth of it has been turned into a handful of short stories that are currently available online while the remaining nine-tenths is tucked neatly away into 5 brown envelopes (that's right--no personal computer available in 1984!)

Since then, thanks to over twenty years of English/language arts teaching experience as well as sitting through nearly seventeen years of Sunday morning sermons given by a preacher who fortuitously passed out outlines for each of his sermons, I have to say that I am a dedicated "planner."

Now don't get me wrong; I feel no animosity towards the "pantsters" who call themselves authors (even if some of those may be former students of mine!). Planning to write something, be it some kind of academic dissertation or even a novel, has meant for me hammering out an outline beforehand.

Yes! Must have an outline! Must have a plan, a roadmap, a blueprint! Must conform! Must be right-brained! Must have control! Cannont allow those feisty characters to run around and do whatever their childish minds want to do! Yes, Mein Furher! Jawohl!

But what about the hard-working authors who populate the Writers Cafe? How many are planners compared to pantsters? Let's find out!

The Pantsters

"I'm one of them (a pantster). Does it kill the story for me? To some extent. It also bores me silly. I want to tell the story, not outline it. I did try it once and wrote the WORST novel I have ever done, one that is not for sale for good reason, so the big point is that outlining just doesn't work for me in producing good, publishable novels. And for the people who say you can only write tight plots if you outline, I often receive comments on how tight and focused my plots are so take that for whatever it happens to be worth."

"For me if feels like if I outline the plot then I've told the story. It kills the magic, the muse, everything. Sometimes I actually wish I could outline because it's pretty scary being halfway into a novel and suddenly realizing you have no clue what is going to happen next. But of course there is no right or wrong way. The right way is whatever works for you!"

"I'm a pantster, and I feel that an outline would limit or constrain me in my storytelling.  I know logically that's not the case, but there it is.  On the other hand, outliners may feel every bit as uncomfortable in not having an outline as I do at the thought of having one.  So I do think it's a matter of comfort in the process of writing.  Personally I'd like to move a little farther along the spectrum not to 'full outline' level, but at least to a more organized note-taking stage."

"The story unravels itself as I write it. I can't explain it, but I find it more exciting to discover the story in the writing process than to plan it out. I outlined one book and got bored 2/4 in and quit. It felt like I was bumper bowling."

"I failed the first 5 times I tried to write a novel, because the outline made me think I had told the story, and I lost interest. Now I use a basic outline: maybe 30 jot points, in order. You could fit my novel outline on a single piece of paper. I think knowing the ending tells you how to write the beginning. BUT: as I go along, I start to discover things. I plant things that I know will pay off later. I end up adding to the outline as I go, knowing that I am setting up dominoes in the first half that will fall in the second half. Before I do a rewrite, I go through every scene on index cards to make sure nothing is pointless and that I am paying off everything I planted. That second outline is HUGE and very helpful."

"I hate the term 'pantser' but I think it's because I always picture someone running around pantsing people at random, rather than flying by the the seat of their pants. I'm weird. But yeah, outlining first doesn't work for me. I've really tried to do it first to help meet deadlines but all it does is make me feel the story is dull and predictable because, Look! It's right there! I outline after I write my zero draft/exploratory draft, and then write to that (mostly.. when the characters do what I expect and don't run wild)."

"See, this is an interesting conversation for me, because I honestly don't know where on this pantser/plotter spectrum I sit. I have one novel series in the works that I basically have to outline first because the story is easily the most complicated one I've come up with so far. Yet on the other hand, the novella I'm finishing up? I wrote it completely by the seat of my pants and it was awesome! The story however, is pretty straightforward. I guess in the end, my being a pantser or plotter depends on how complex my story/world is."

"The one time I attempted an outline, the book quickly became a homework assignment. For me, the thrill of writing is giving my characters free rein to take me wherever they choose. I rely on their good judgement and their sense of adventure."

The Planners 

"I don't outline because I'm not interested in controlling where my story will go. But I'm not a pantster, either. I usually make a ton of notes before I start writing, and arrange them in a rough order. But even that's always changing. It's no wonder you're bored if you try to get every detail in place before you even start writing."

"I write a brief synopsis for each chapter than I write it out from there. Is that considered outlining? I always wondered when I read about in-depth plotting and outlining. Anyway, if what I do is outlining, it doesn't kill it for me. And the final manuscript doesn't end up resembling the outline anyway. Just helps to get me started."

"The most I can endure is a very undetailed outline. For example, for my last NaNo, I knew that I was going to serialize my books, so I knew I needed 6 episodes, each satisfying as a standalone (well, not really standalone standalone since you still need to read the previous ones to get the whole story, but it needed to have some sort of specific problem to deal with, and advance the plot at the same time--like tv show episodes). I've drawn 6 frames on a white board and made sure each episode would be satisfying to read, and not just filler. That's the extent of the plotting I can do: three or for concepts per episode."

"I need to outline because of the level of detail I put into world-building.  I can't say my creations are spectacular but they're deeply invested alternate worlds.  I've written 200 pages of material to get the dates in a 40-page sci fi story correct.  It's probably a result of a role-playing game background, I suppose. The way I keep it fresh is to make the outline tantalizing in it's own way, a discovery of the material.  It's Carnavon's diary while excavating the tomb of King Tut, Indiana Jones' notebook, H.P. Lovecraft's commonplace book, Poe's dream journal.  It has a few of the facts, a lot of speculation and some off-color asides which need to be tossed out for a general audience. Then, when I write the story, it's the archaeologist's vision of 'what really happened,' speculative dialogue and all. Probably a strange approach but it keeps the entire writing process very interesting. I'm good at tricking myself.  I have to be."

"This is what I do, and for fantasy or sci-fi I might do a little world building before I start and draw a map as well.  I outline mostly because I have so many ideas going through my head, that I forget some good things and can go off the rails. Also the outline helps me fight the I don't know where to go next kind of writers block. In the end of course everything is subject to change, and the outline is just me working though the story's broadest strokes in my head."

"Exact opposite for me. If I don't outline, then I feel like I'm floundering and THAT kills it for me. I get panic-stricken when I don't know where my story is going, which leads me to freezing up. Instant writer's block. Which just goes to show that we're all different and no one strategy is best."

"I will sometimes start a character-driven story without an outline, because outlines are not as crucial to character-driven stories as they are to plot-driven stories. Even then, I will get past the opening and feel overwhelmed, so I'll do a grocery list of Things that Need to Happen Yet. And a loose outline. No, outlines don't kill my excitement. Sitting down to write when my back is sore and I'd rather be in the tub reading kill my excitement. Sunshine and birds chirping. How few words I wrote yesterday. How many words and revisions I have left to do. Those things kill me, but not the outline."

"I'm a committed plotter, but I do give myself permission to deviate from the outline when an interesting plot twist comes up."

"Outlining is one of those things where the analytical side of my mind always wins. I can't write without an outline. My current WIP is a 150,000 word epic fantasy with 5 different viewpoint characters. I can't imagine keeping the storylines straight without having done some sort of planning. That doesn't mean my characters don't take me in new directions, and I will actively make adjustments in the outline as needed. But (most of the time) it ensures I have some sort of direction each day and definitely keeps me from going too far astray. For me, the outline is writing the story, just in an abbreviated form. It doesn't take away from the fun because it's usually at such a high level and I find pleasure in the details. There's no right or wrong here. It comes down to whatever works for you."

"I'm a mega-plotter; spreadsheets, plotting boards, index cards, notebooks. I'm also an anal-retentive control freak.  I stress that if I pantser'ed a story I would paint the floor, with me in the corner, with nowhere to go. That is scary enough to make me plot."

"I'm an outliner, but it doesn't kill the inspiration for me.  It gives me enough structure to be creative at a more detailed level.  For example if I know that in the next scene the main character is supposed to get into big trouble with the group leader, I can be creative about how she delivers the news, and how he reacts etc.  There is still lots of stuff to make up as you go along.  I guess it depends how detailed the outline is.  I don't like the word outline.  Story map might be better, since that implies that it's function is to keep one from getting lost."

"I usually have some rough goal for the character at the end, but I don't really plot as much as I used to. How they get there is up to them and what is happening around them. Shorter stories can be gotten away with easier without plotting, however I believe big epics need at least some plotting to tie all the plot threads together. Not plotting worked great for my orcs book (60k), not so great for the epic I am rewriting for the forth time now (190/250k)."

"I typically write out a 2-3 page summary beforehand to set up the general story arc. But by the fourth chapter, the story has more or less taken over. Plot and character developments appear that I never could have outlined, and then it becomes a fun challenge to integrate them into the larger story. When I get stuck, I make a list of possible future scenes, highlighting the ones that *need* to happen in one form or another. Endings often change. Is it messy? Surprisingly, no. The plot, pacing, and character development end up feeling much more organic than in earlier projects where I outlined meticulously. Personal preference? For sure. Some can see their story clearly before sitting down to write, and in many ways I envy them.  Me, I have to be inside the story before that happens. The upshot is that it becomes added motivation to write for the simple reason that I want to find out what's going to happen next."

"I bought Scrivener because of its awesome plotting capabilities. But like a cat with a cardboard box, never mind the toys, I only use a spiral notebook, after all. I like to brainstorm with a pen on paper, in the form of a list of random inspired ideas for scenes or conflicts, in no particular order. I then go through that list in no particular order, marking off each item after I incorporate it into the story. I am a hybrid plotter/pantser. I let the characters and story develop naturally, while also referring to my brainstormed ideas. Scrivener is great for formatting."

"Yes, I outline all the time or I can just stare at the blank screen. I don't have character sketches and background stuff but usually I must have a one page basic outline, and when I finish a chapter, I write a simple scene list for the next one. I always have something unexpected happen during the actual writing, but I rarely stray far from the outline. If I do, it'll be easier to throw away the story and start afresh. My third story is going to be a hybrid genre thing with a murder mystery--I can't imagine writing it without knowing whodunit! For me, I don't think outlining kills the momentum, because I get excited when imagining some awesome scenes in the middle and end, and this fuels me to keep writing so I can reach that particular scene. Of course, it's likely as well that what sounded awesome in my head turns out to be flat and flavorless on paper."

Friday, April 5, 2013

Some Quality Time with a Shepherd of the Flock

Who are these selfless ministers 
of the Gospel?
These shepherds of the flocks?
 The men (and even women!) who toil 24-7, 365 to somehow prepare
 their congregations to become what the Creator wants them to become? 

(Of course, not everyone reading this blogpost is presently under the care and supervision of a/some pastor(s) even though it is hoped that someday very soon you will be!).

A little over a year ago, I was blessed to learn about Pastor George McVey, this subject (or second victim, so to speak) of the Betrovia Blog author interview series. And from that day, I have been very impressed with the man's enthusiasm for ministering the Gospel as well as for encouraging others to pursue their dreams of becoming published authors. Not long after that day, I learned that PG (Pastor George for short) was himself an accomplished, published author. At the time, however, the only works that bore his name were pieces of Christian non-fiction.

But that is no longer the case.

PG is now a published author of both fiction and non-fiction. And this is a very, very good thing!

So just how did a minister of the Gospel, a shepherd of the flock, become such an accomplished writer? 

(Guess you already figured out what was coming next, huh?)

What do you think is the genesis of The Rise of the Champion series?

This is an easy question to answer. The truth is that Rise started as a month-long series of dreams I had. I had been working on a series of lessons on spiritual warfare. When I went to bed that night, I found myself living Tal's life. Sounds crazy, I know, but while I wasn't Tal, I was present for everything he was going through. Ultimately, I think the dream was God's way of showing me another way to teach on the principles of spiritual warfare that every Christian needs to know in these troubling times ... a way that slips past our inability to focus for long on a lesson. Through Tal, we aren't told about spiritual warfare; we see it lived out where the "sandals meet the dirt", so to speak.

Why are you releasing this as a series instead of as a novel?

To be honest, I decided to release Rise as a serial because of my mother-in-law. She has been proofreading for me since my first attempt at a book. When I would give her a completed chapter of Rise, she would be asking for the next chapter before I was finished with it. After eleven chapters, she was like "Make this a book now!" However, it didn't have enough words to make it a novel, but several people that asked me about it have been pushing me to get it out there. After reading about serials, I thought "Why not?" This way I can get it out before the story is finished, plus it helps push me to finish this story.

In reference to Tal, the main character of the series, who should he remind me of? In fiction or in history?

I'm not sure he should remind you of anyone. I guess there are some similarities to a younger David, or several of the prophets in Scripture. I personally hope he will remind most people of the part of themselves that wants to get closer to God and know what His plan for their life is.

Is our present-day world a place where someone can be like Tal, fervently desiring to find "truth" midst the relativism that surrounds us?

I would have to say "Yes." There was a time when I myself was like Tal, questioning what I had been taught, looking for a way to grow closer to God, wanting to make a difference for the kingdom of heaven. So, since I have had experiences that have done that for me, I know that others can do the same even in today's world.

What have you categorized the series as? What genre, specifically? For example, how is it categorized via

Officially, it is categorized as Christian fantasy. Personally I've been describing it as a Christian urban fantasy with allegorical tendencies.

How are you balancing your job as a hard-working minister of the Gospel with that as a fantasy fiction writer?

To be honest, I see them as one and the same. One of my favorite historical figures is Saint Francis of Assisi. He had this saying that is kind of my motto in life: "Preach always ... use words if necessary." So, to me, writing whether fiction or a new teaching book is just that: sharing the Gospel in creative ways. So I write at my office in the church when I have nothing else going on. However it does, at times, get hectic. I'll have Tal or another of my characters dancing with my muse and in will walk someone needing to be counseled. I do what God puts in front of me and trust that he will arrange time for me to minister in person and time to minister through writing. So far it's worked for me.

You have also published a novel about The Old West and are working on its sequel. How are you balancing your writing efforts between the two genres?

That I leave up to my muse. I write when the characters decide to speak to me. After eleven chapters, Tal seemed to step back in my mind's ear and give another character a chance to speak to me. That was Nathan from my Redemption Tales series. Nathan shouted his first tale and most of his second before sharing the spotlight with Tal again. Now it's gotten to where I can say "Ok Tal, tell me what's happening in your life," and he will come whisper his tale to me. The same is true of Nathan. To be honest. it isn't that hard because even though the genres are different, the desire of both characters is the same: to follow where God is leading them and fulfill His call in their life. To me switching between the two is easy because they both exist equally in my mind's eye.

In general, tell me about your writing past, i.e. what other things you have written/published.

I've always been a story-teller. It runs in my family. We used to sit around spinning tall tales about the family and everyone was encouraged to get involved. But officially I didn't start writing until 2011 when I was having  an online conversation with a fellow pastor about the advantages of prayer-walking your community to see spiritual breakthrough. The pastor asked me to send him an email with the information we'd discussed in it. As I was doing so, I realized this was more than an email: it had book potential. So over Thanksgiving week of 2011, I sat down and wrote what eventually became "Prayer Walking for Spiritual Breakthrough". After that, I wrote a booklet on the armor of God and then started having the dream that has become "Rise of the Champion". Then a bunch of ideas started cropping up. I now have Rise in the works and my Western series which has about five or six stories to be told. Then there's an end-times political thriller waiting in the wings. Right now I have four books published:

"Redeeming Reputation" (book one of the Redemption Tales)

Episode two of Rise will be available on April 15th and "Redeeming Trail" (book two of the Redemption Tales) will be released on April 30th.

If someone wanted to take either your Redeeming novel(s) or your Rise series and turn it into a movie, which one would you prefer they produce?

What a loaded question! That's like asking a parent: which of your two daughters do you want to be the next Miss America?  How can I choose between them? Honestly I would have to say, as a movie, I would rather see the western. But if someone wanted to offer me a TV series of a mini-series of "Rise of the Champion," I would say "Yes!" in a heart beat.

Tell me about your writing routine, including this thing called "word-warring."

My writing routine is harried. I try to write a minimum of four hours a day, but most days I don't make it. I write when life doesn't intrude. When there is no one else at the church looking to speak to a pastor, I'm sequestered in my office adding words to one manuscript or another. When I get home, I grab Pepsi and some snacks for dinner and settle into my lazy boy, kick up my feet, trap my laptop and write ... most nights, until ten or eleven. Then I try to read an hour or two and hit the sack. Another great tool in my writing arsenal is word wars with my online writing partners. There are several of us on a Facebook group who challenge each other to writing contests. We write for half an hour or for even an hour to see who gets the most words. We call this "word wars". It helps all of us generate a higher word count for the day.

You've been communicating with other writers via Facebook for quite awhile; what do you like about Facebook as a tool for communication?

I like the fact that we can connect to like-minded writers from all over the planet. I have writing partners and friends as close as down the street or as far away as Austria and Japan. But we can share things instantly and encourage one another in realtime using FB messenger or even our writing groups. I love the fact that the Internet and Facebook have made our global community smaller and more accessible.

Thanks, PG, for taking part in this interview! It was a blast! Woot!