Tag Archives: critique

Obituary


This is a checking in post, so I’ll try to keep things brief. I have a lot going on over the next few weeks. You may have seen the promos for Quantum Wanderlust, and that’s just part of it. I also have some things to post for friends who are releasing their own books. There are still a couple of things I need to write, but I may not get to all this writing and scheduling until the weekend.

Tonight was my grandson’s birthday, so we all went to supper immediately after work. This leaves us about enough time to clean up and go to bed so we can work tomorrow. He was excited and got some cool nerf gun stuff. His mom got a cute video of him face diving into a plate of whipped cream and looking for a cherry. This is something the restaurant did for us, and it was pretty funny.

Earlier this week another member bailed out of our critique group. Two of us have been there since the beginning, but the other long term members left about a year ago. It wasn’t all at once, and they trickled out over a few months.

New members joined and failed to last three months. We’ve been haunting the local membership base, Facebook, and other likely haunts. Most of the inquiries are looking for wine and cheese, but very little actual writing. Some want to play at being writers, and we come across a bit hardcore for them.

I’ve had my butt kicked at critique group, and I’ve been the one kicking butt a few times too. Honestly, I learned so much from this process I’m going to really miss it. Critique involves hearing the tough things, then adjusting to improve the result. Too many people were looking for the Mutual Admiration Society. Many have been to groups with a lot of members, but only a couple made submissions every month. That just doesn’t work for the other fellow and I.

I recently wrote 25,500 words over a period of about a month and a half. We submit 3000 words per month. The rule was you have to critique all the other submissions, usually about four, but you get four critiques of your own 3000 words. With the novella I just finished, I have eight months of material. If I only got to submit say, twice per year in a big group, that isn’t very helpful.

We had our date set for three members when the newest guy bailed out on the group. The remaining fellow asked me if we ought to fold the whole thing, and I agreed. We had a good run, but it looks like I’ll have to find something else.

I know there are some online options, but those deserve a bit of scrutiny before diving in. The other trick is to find at least a couple of people who are better writers than I am. This isn’t to say that I’m awesome, it’s just a growth and improvement thing. A mix of people with some veterans along with some newer folks seems to work well.

The benefit of the newer folks involves doing the critique work. I’ve learned as much from trying to help others along as from being helped. Sometimes it’s like looking in the mirror, and you cement the lessons you learned, and understand why you got your butt kicked six months before.

I’ll keep my eyes open. Something else may come along. I’m not going to get in a hurry either. I still have access to some darned good beta readers, but that’s a different process.

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Not my favorite kind of day

I was productive. I freely admit that, but I never worked on things I preferred. This is a slice of real-life for an author. There are things we must do besides writing new fiction. In a fantasy world, other people would do some of this work so we could be creative, but this isn’t a fantasy world.

In the last twenty-four hours, I’ve written my next Story Empire post, worked on more interviews for Lisa’s radio show, worked up critiques for my group. We meet on Wednesday night, so I’m prepared.

I also took a stab at two guest posts I’ve been invited to submit. I have more to do on this front. One of them required me to make a cover collage or two, and I’m not good at those. What I have will serve. I also made a meme type image for the other one.

It may sound like I’m griping, but it would be worse if I didn’t have this stuff to do. This kind of activity tells me the world is actually paying attention.

I intend to watch Game of Thrones tonight, and I might stay up late playing games with my son. Haven’t decided yet.

We’re both off tomorrow. I thought only I was off, and was looking forward to new words of fiction. I still want it to happen. If it doesn’t, I have more work like this I can address. We may decide to do something together, and I’m okay with that too.

I hope all of you had good weekends, and I’m worried about all my Texas friends. Stay safe down there.

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Release the pressure, be calm

It's fairly well documented that I put pressure on myself, then I stress when things don't go according to plan. Today I did something about it.

I asked for vacation time all next week, and it got approved. I feel like the clouds have parted, and the pressures all disappeared. Of course, I set the stage for a good week by finishing my beta edits over the weekend. After a couple of read throughs, I can send The Enhanced League to the formatter. I'm toying with the idea of including all the Lisa Burton posters at the end. Maybe someone will like them as cool freebies.

Once I get Enhanced League to the formatter, I need to start on edits for The Yak Guy Project. I also need to write tour posts for Enhanced League. Once I have everything, I'll put out a call for hosts, and try to figure out if they want me or Lisa to visit their sites.

If I can do all that, and get Yak Guy ready for beta readers, it will have been a good vacation. I don't feel like it's a huge, unreasonable goal. I don't have to go back until July third, and then I get the fourth off.

I have my critique group in there somewhere, so I'll have to work up their pages. I sent my own submission off this evening… while enjoying a glass of Talisker.

For those who are waiting, we took Otto back to the vet this afternoon. This whole pain thing has nothing to do with pecans. It's a neurological thing, involving his spine somewhere around his tail. He is in incredible pain, and we now have even more medication to try.

What really bothers me about this is that on Friday he was the happiest dog in the world. Today he can barely walk. We can't think of anything that happened to him, beyond the pecan debacle, and the vet says it has nothing to do with that. He didn't fall, nobody was physically abusive to him, the puppies certainly didn't hurt him. We're supposed to give him his medication and stand by. We were told to keep him calm for about ten days even after he starts feeling better. I guess in baseball terms, he's on the ten day DL list.

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Ready for the work week

My last day at the office was Wednesday. I have to go back tomorrow. Admittedly, I took this time off to pay my debt as an author. This might come as a surprise to many of you readers, but it will make sense to the authors out there. I'll try to give the rest of you a glimpse into the secret club today.

I need proofreaders, critique groups, beta readers, blog hosts, and reviews to make my books a success. There isn't a kind of shop where you can go get all of that. Being self published is often a matter of supporting your hobby without going too far into the hole. The big dream is to turn a profit someday.

The truth is you can pay for many of those services, but it gets kind of expensive after a while. This is why we all tend to help each other. At a bare minimum, we are a fresh set of eyes who can spot the difference between hear and here in a manuscript. It's hard to spot these kind of things in your own work. There are also times when we know exactly what we're describing, but readers aren't getting that vision. Different eyes will raise a red flag at these points.

I take advantage of this kind of help, so it's important to provide it in turn. We don't typically share project for project. It's more like a pool of authors who will do what they can – when they can. I rarely get the same people from project to project, but in the long run – they are the same group.

Most of my time off was spent paying my authorly debts. The rest was spent on other duties, just like at the workplace. I'm proud to say I finished my last authorly project at about 1:30 today. Then I hauled off all the fruit tree branches, and declared myself done.

I feel a bit like that guy at the top of the post, but I also feel pretty darned good about it. I got to read some awesome stories, some for a review, some as a beta reader.

The good news is that my metaphorical office is clear. On my next day off I can return to my own novel. I'm kind of excited about it to tell you the truth.

I'll spend the rest of the evening catching up with most of the blogs I neglected to read. After that, it's off to bed early enough to go to my workplace all fresh and ready for work.

One of these days I'll have to take some time off for the sake of time off. It could happen, someday.

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Rambling and babbling today

My wife insisted on the Hallmark Channel all day today. Remember what I said about my wonderful writing weekend? Yeah, I sure wish that storm hadn't changed her plans. By the way, is there a rule that every elderly person in a Hallmark movie must smile like an idiot at all times? These movies could use a serious dose of Billy Bob Thornton or Anne Ramsey.

I have another story idea that I'm tempted to write as a vignette. I want to start a storyboard instead. I have a thought about trying to release a novella or two, and it might make a fun one.

This idea was inspired by an image I saw on Facebook. It posted in two different timelines a week or so ago. Do you think I can find it again? I searched FB, DeviantArt, Bing images, and Google images using every description I can think of. If you're inspired by images, save them the very second you see them. If you don't, you'll find yourselves in my position.

While I'm serving time in Hallmark jail, I haven't been able to accomplish much. I tried to relocate to another room, but there aren't any comfortable places to sit. I want to finish reading a book too, and it's all about the same problem. I suppose I can deal with the critiques I received last week. Maybe I should pay the bills too.

I managed to assemble and schedule the next Lisa Burton Radio, and it's a fun one. I also managed to write one guest post out of four I committed to. I only need three more in a week, so not impossible.

I need to stop blogging about my failures and post something about some successes. I just need to create a success or two.

Okay, I'll deal with critiques and bills so they aren't distractions when my time finally comes. I'm off on Monday, and the only distraction will be Otto.

He's no small obstacle. I took two fifteen minute breaks to play pumpkin ball while typing out this post. He throws it right on my keyboard if I don't pay attention. So this post is +/- 400 words. It took about 30 minutes of pumpkin ball playing to finish. If I write 1000 words (which is nothing) on Monday, I anticipate the pumpkin ball will eat up 75 minutes.

Maybe Otto doesn't need a reindeer outfit, maybe he needs a straight jacket.

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Trying to get back in the routine

Today is my flex day off this week. I got kind of a late start, and it felt good to sleep in for once. I spent an hour feeding Otto, and playing with him and his squeaky fox toy. After he settled down, I headed for the writing cabin.

I landed my gyrocopter and parked on the runway. When I took the elevator down into the basement, I noticed the formerly haunted biplane was missing. The yak was standing in his stall, waiting for me to get back to his story. “Where’s Lisa?”

“She has not returned,” the yak said. “I need to graze, if you don’t mind.”

I opened the stall and led him out the back door. “Stay near the cabin. Lisa isn’t here to guard you, and there are all kinds of fantasy creatures in the woods.”

I left him to his breakfast, and went in through the front door. Bunny needed food and fresh water, so I took care of him before settling into my office.

The window was open, and Doubt the raven soared high above the grazing yak. I grabbed the critiques I received weeks ago and went to work on them. The guys are enjoying The Yak Guy Project, and I didn’t have a lot of tweaking to do. We’re about to get a new member this coming month and I’m excited to meet her and get some different input.

I scheduled my next post for Story Empire and moved on to some of my short fiction. I wanted to do a read through on some of the stories for The Enhanced League. I made a few edits along the way.

I’ve been called for drifting into present tense a few times now, so I try to watch for it. I discovered one such place in a short story. It seems to be when using internal dialog. To my mind that is happening at the moment and present tense feels more intense. I changed it to past tense anyway. When I use contractions like “it’s and he’s” it feels correct for dialog. There is no reason why they aren’t contractions for “it was” and “he was.” Am I justifying, or am I reasonably correct? (Probably justifying.)

I opened a blank page to start the next short story and my phone rang.

“This is the Orange County Jail calling for Mr. Boyack. You have a collect call from Lisa Burton*. Will you accept the charges?”

“Yes.”

“So, um, hi. I ran into a little trouble here in Florida, and need you to post my bail.”

“You have internal phone capacity, why are you just calling now?”

“Turns out there are no signals at all in the jail. I’m fine, but can’t get a signal out. I even tried routing through their printer, but it’s a pretty stupid machine.”

“What happened?”

“Well, I had a lovely visit with Susan Nicholls, and she told me where I could find a new swimming suit, and some flip flops to go with it. That lead to a cute cover up, and some other cool shops–”

“Not the shopping, why are you in jail?”

“I’m getting to that. I just bought a cute denim outfit and some shoes before heading back to the airport. I always fly my own plane, because I can’t pass through security. Too much copper and titanium. So I wandered through the gate and pulled the chocks away from my tires when I was approached by two TSA agents. I swear, I was just minding my own business and coming home.”

“What did they want?”

“Turns out they have a problem with the machine-guns on my biplane. Some plane affictionado had to check it out, then got worried and reported me.”

“I thought you removed them. I hope they weren’t loaded.”

“Um, yeah, about that. You have some pretty scary stuff in the sky’s above the writing cabin. There are dragons, and aliens, and even witches on broomsticks. I may have a class three battle chassis, but I’m not going to survive a fall from twenty-five thousand feet.”

“How do you think your antique biplane would fare against an alien ship?”

“I need you to stop the writer’s brain for a second and post my bail.”

“No problem. I’m sure they impounded your plane. How will you get home?”

“Well, I’m going to un-impound it. Then I’m hugging the ground to avoid radar and coming straight home.”

“You’ll never be able to go back to Florida.”

“No, my plane will never be able to go back. I can still use the rocket-pack if I’m ever invited.”

“Okay, I’m logging in to their site right now. Oh look, they take PayPal.”

“Did you feed Bunny?”

“He’s fat and happy, and the yak is grazing right outside my window. Watch your tail, they may chase you as you fly off.”

“As soon as I get a signal, I’m going to link into their communications and make a mess of them. They can look for me in the Bermuda Triangle or somewhere.”

“Okay. Bail’s all posted, but I don’t know how long it will take at their end. You owe me too.”

“I know, and thanks. The money will go right back into your account once I can hack their system. I need to scrub my record, and destroy all video of my plane landing in Florida. It will be like it never happened, I promise.”

***

* Lisa Burton is my personal assistant and the spokesmodel for Entertaining Stories. She’s a robot and made her debut in Wild Concept. She also has a short story in The Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack.

 

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Saturday Efforts

I wound up left to my own devices today, for the most part. I went through social media and push feeds while my wife was still here. After she left for a few hours it was time to get with it on my list.

I worked on a short story until I needed to do some minor research. I used my critiques to give my mind a breather. The guys want me to add some more world building to The Yak Guy Project. It isn't a lot, but subtle things seen in passing. I kind of like those things. This isn't our world, and tiny reminders keep the reader curious. There were a few typos and sentences that needed to get reworded. There always are.

My research wound up being pretty quick. There are things you just know, but want to check out anyway. In one instance I knew there was no rule what dugout belonged to the home team in Major League Baseball, but I had to check to be sure. This short story is part of The Enhanced League. Whereas my Experimental Notebooks could have stories set anywhere and at any time, The Enhanced League will be a book of shorts all set during the same season in one environment.

This individual story is going to be a big one. I added 3000 words to a story I'd already started. This is one of the only games in the book, and I have nine innings to cover. I'll skip ahead and cut the long boring parts, but the setting and the first inning help build tension. I haven't written that many words in one day for a long time. It isn't massive, but it felt great.

Other stories will cover trades, deals, careers beginning, or ending. I'm having a great time with it so far.

Otto and I played fetch and a little tug-of-war while I watched a heartbreaking women's soccer match. (Heartbreaking for the USA, if you live elsewhere.)

I didn't get to the reading or publishing part of my list, but there is more weekend left. I got another Lisa Burton Radio sheet today too. Maybe I'll work on it tonight.

The best news of all, the first pumpkin beers are in the stores and I'm about to have one right now.

This is the first gif I've ever used on this blog. I hope it adequately expresses the joy of pumpkin beer. Have a nice evening everyone.

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