To Tweet or Not to Tweet…

Twitter is the question.

I just don’t know Twitter.  I’ve spoken with a bunch of folks (writers and bloggers) and they all say the same thing.  Open a Twitter account, it’s easy, fun and a great way to get connected with your fans and followers.  Not to mention a good way to get out there.  All of that sounds good, but I believe in connect. I’m not saying I have great connect, or that it will change the world, but I do have things to share with my Blog.  It’s only once a week to not bombard people, and to date the feedback has been positive.

The idea of a Twitter feed.  Do I have enough to say?  Am I that interesting (I don’t think I am)? Would people really fallow me?

I don’t know.  It all sounds so “me, me, me” and there is so much noise out there already.  Do I really need to add my voice to the masses? Granted I all have, with the Blog, but somehow that feels different to me.

There are pros and cons to everything, including tweeting.  It does seem like the next logical step in connecting with people, building a brand and creating a following.  The purpose of the Blog, the Facebook page, the website, and a potential Twitter account is so that I can show publishers that people are interested in my writing.  So, that eventually, one lucky publishers will pick up my manuscripts and help me get my novels out there.

Another purpose of the Blog, the Facebook page, the website, and a potential Twitter account is that it will make things much easier if I self-publish, because I will be published one way or the other.

Look how happy you all are that I get to interact with you.

Look how happy you all are that I get to interact with you.

The big bonus for me is reaching out to my followers and fans.  I would get to interact more with you, but is that something you really want?  You poor things.  You must have more interesting things to do then listen to me, don’t you?  Isn’t Dancing with the Stars starting up soon?  

All teasing aside, I’m interested in hearing what you have to say.  So, Twitter or no Twitter? Let me know in the comments below.

Our Experiment with a Meal Kit Delivery Service (Part 1)

My hubby and I have been experimenting with a Meal Kit Delivery Service. I know, I know, we’re late to the game and I’m sure this has been talked–blogged–about to death.  Still, several people have been asking me about our experience (and even asking for pictures of the cooked meals. Yes, I’m including photos.) Considering the interest I decided I would do a multi-part blog series on the subject.

This is the first installment.

I realize this has nothing to do with writing, but I figured it’d be fun.

My hubby and I started our meal kit delivery service because of a gift card we got for Christmas. The gift card covered about 90% of the cost.  I wasn’t so sure about the idea, but I didn’t want the gift card to go to waste.  So, we signed up.

We got to pick three meals (each meal was two servings) for a single week.  They give you a total of six different meal options to pick from, which is nice.  When I saw the dinners, and I wasn’t sold.  A lot, of the food seemed to be stuff I wasn’t keen on eating.  But, then I remembered gift card and away I went.

Waiting almost four days for the delivery was a bit annoying, but I get it.  They deliver all over the country, so waiting for the delivery to our area was fine.  Finally, our meals showed up. It was on a Wednesday (that is now our delivery day).  The meals arrived in a medium size box.

I was yet to be impressed.  I can’t say what I expected for the deliver but seeing the box arrive as is was a disappointment.

So, I brought the box home, and we unpacked it.

This is where my opinion started to change.  They included everything, and the food was still cool because of how they packed it (they had it wrapped in an insulated blanket-type-thing with the meats on the bottom packed between two chemical ice packs).  To my surprise, the meats were still frozen, and the veggies felt like they had been in the refrigerator.

We couldn’t cook anything that night because nothing was thawed, so we had to wait till the next night to cook our hamburger and our red cabbage slaw.

We waited.

The next night once we got home we started to cook.  The vendor included easy full-page directions with color photos of each step (nice touch on their part).  They couldn’t have made it any easier for us unless they came over and prepared it.

We cooked our way through the directions (the hardest part was cutting the cabbage for the slaw).  The service provided everything we would need to cook with the exception of pans, pots, salt, pepper, and olive oil.

That impressed me.

The cooking experience was a blast. We enjoy cooking, so that was an easy sell for us.  The whole process, from prep, to eat, to clean up, took us about an hour and a half (when we cook this is about how much time it normally takes us), so that wasn’t bad.

When we sat down to eat, the meal was excellent. It was different from how we normally eat a burger, but it was still good, really good (sorry no picture of the burger and the slaw).

The rest of the meals, to date, have gone much the same way, with little variation in prep to clean up time.

Here are the pictures of our first seven meals.

I’ll stop here.  In the next part I’ll talk about portions, and the value for the dollar.  Stay tuned

Edit Down or Break the Book into Two?

That is the question.

As I’ve mentioned in past blogs, I’m to the editing point on both my stories (well more editing and trimming down) and I’m running into an authorly dilemma with one of my novels. Do I edit down my novel, or do I break the story into two books?

I’m really not a fan of breaking the book into two.  The story was written as a single novel and I want to keep it that way. Call it pride or being stubborn. I’ll admit to both. That said, if all I do is edit the story down, the book will be between 150k and165k words which is a long novel. I know this, I’ve always pictured it as an epic story. Still, it’s a size agents and publishers tend to bock at (for a variety of reason and I’m not devaluing their valuable advice). If I cut the book into two, I would need to write an ending for the first book and write a new beginning for the second book. I could do it as painful as may be for my ego, it could be done and I’m pretty sure I have a place that I can make it work. 

But, this, to me, seems like a cheat.  I’ve read books that do this, and I can tell.  It’s like the author saw 80k words as the stopping point and rushed to give the reader a half assed ending.  Then they pick up the story at a false beginning and continue on for another 80k–100k words and end the story.  When what they should’ve done, in my mind, is offer one book at 160k–180k words and given the reader something wonderful.

Now, I’m not saying cutting the book in two is wrong.  I’m saying I don’t personally like the idea.  Does this mean it hasn’t been done well? Of course it has.  I’m sure you can find a great editor, or story doctor, to help you accomplish a perfect cut that no one will ever notice. Expect for the author. Which is fine. After all a book is a product, you need to be able to market and sell.

I’m intentionally taking out the ‘art’ and ‘creative’ nature of the book/story so as not to involve emotion.

Some of you may be saying, “You’re too close to the work.  You’re not seeing all the fat to be trimmed. There is plenty to cut.”

You would be 100% correct. I am too close to the work.  But I’m still editing the beast down now.  I’m also going to put the book through another round of beta reads for feedback. Find out what people think and ask them to mark up where they believe the story can either be trimmed or cut.  With luck this will help me remove enough bits from the book to make it palatable for an agent and publisher.

If that still doesn’t work there is the idea of self-publishing. And it has appeal, because I can keep all the emotional connection to the book and treat it the way I want it treated.  Like a fine glass of wine enjoyed slowly on a quiet night in front of a warm fire.

Too much?

Interview with Writer Randall Krzak

This is very exciting news that I can’t wait to share with you.  Starting with this post and going for the next several months I’m hosting various authors here on my blog.  These authors are from all over the world and are a cross culture of the wide world of genres.  It should be a lot of fun and I’m hoping you will enjoy it.

I plan on featuring one author per month.  So, lets get started.

Randall, let’s start with the typical question all writers get, what’s your ambition for your writing career?

I suppose like many authors, to try and be successful. Whether that will happen or not is outside of my control, so the best thing I can do is create realistic stories to share with others.

Creating realistic stories takes a lot of work. So, which writers inspire your story telling?

Tom Clancy, Dan Brown, Clive Cussler, Brad Thor, David L. Golemon, Robert Crais, Jack Du Brul, and Mark Greany, to name the major ones. I still read them, but now I’m paying attention to how they craft their stories and build their stories.

Those are some great writers, and I can see why you’ve picked them. Let’s focus on your writing.  Tell us about your debut novel, ‘The Kurdish Connection’.

‘The Kurdish Connection’, is the first in a four-book series. I took the first chapter of another book I was working on, cut it to 399 words, and submitted it to a monthly competition held by Wildsound Writing and Film Festival Review. My entry, called A Dangerous Occupation, was one of the winning entries in August 2016. It’s read by a professional actor at the following link.

Excellent.  Any other writings you have out there?

Another short story, Postal Man, was recently chosen for the January members’ writing and art section of The Fictional Café. Here’s the link.

You’ve been busy.  Are you working on anything else?  

I have three other novels underway. The first is ‘Dangerous Alliance’, the sequel to ‘The Kurdish Connection’. This one involves the North Koreans and Al-Shahbab, a Somali terrorist group. To counter the alliance is Bedlam Bravo who will try to stop the transfer of oil and weapons, as well as rescue a well-known hostage. The second ongoing book is called ‘A Cartel’s Revenge’, and involves a cartel headed by a woman. She makes an unusual alliance with FARC, not realizing ISIS will soon be involved. Working against her are a CIA agent and an Army colonel. The third book, which will take some time to finish, is historical fiction. It begins in 1770 with a tenant farmer and his family. After crop failures, they receive a lifeline and head to America, arriving in time to be caught up with the Boston Tea Party and the beginnings of the Revolutionary War.

That is some amazing stuff you have planned.  Where do your ideas come from?

They come from a variety of places, paying attention to the news and even other writers. ‘A Cartel’s Revenge’, mentioned above, is based on three sentences someone sent me to see what I could do with them. I have two other novels planned that are based on suggestions given to me but I need to complete the others before working on these.

With all these projects you have going, how do you keep them straight? Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just seeing where an idea takes you?

I prefer to use an outline. I begin with a draft synopsis so I have an idea where I’m starting and where I want to go. The initial chapters are identified but things change as the stories unfold, which can change the number and order of my chapters.

Randall this has been a lot of fun. I look forward to hearing more about your upcoming novels. Thank you for taking the time to answers my questions and be my first author interview.

Writer Randall Krzak relaxing at home.

Writer Randall Krzak relaxing at home.

More about Randall Krzak:

Not wanting to spend his retirement at a golf club Randall, with the suggestion of a long time friend, decided the best way to stay out from under his wife, Sylvia’s feet was to put his writing skills to use.  Randall’s past careers had him working overseas in various countries giving him a rich world of experiences and places to pull from.  His debut thriller ‘The Kurdish Connection’ is now available on Amazon click here . To learn more about Randall check out his website here.

Writing Villains

Bad Boys and Bad Girls, every story has them, but writing them can be tough.  Some people love the villain and I can understand why.  Right now we see a lot of ambiguous characters.  Is the good guy really a good guy?  Is the villain really a villain? Or is it all perspective?  Sure that can be interesting, but I don’t count them as villains, they are dark characters for sure, but are they really villains?

I don’t think so.

Maybe, they are just misunderstood and are in need of a hug.

For me the villain is someone who you should never have anything in common with.  You should never understand their point of view.  These characters should be flat-out-evil and we should hate everything about them.

Michael Myers (the original), Jason (the original), even Freddy Kruger (the original) they are true villains. I would even go so far as to call them monsters. Although, monsters to me are something a little different.

Anyway, I write my villains in the same vain (not the murdering campers or teenagers having sex or kids in their dreams sort of way) but still, you should be afraid of these villains.  You should fear them and never want to meet them. That is how I write my villains.  Is that a stereotype?  Probably, but it’s my story and I’ll write the characters I want.

So, if wearing a black top hat and twirling a black handle bar mustache is in order than expect to run into that.

To actually write the villain, for me, is hard.  It puts me in a dark place.  I get moody and grumpy.  I don’t like writing them, because for a short period of time I have to become them, to act like them, and to believe that what they’re doing is absolutely right. Which means there’s a part of me, no matter how small, that could actually become the monster I’ve created. And who wants to admit to that?  Who wants to ever consider that kind of villainess inside them?

Not me.

I hope when you read my books, and you realize what my villains are up to, you understand that it’s not me.  It’s them.  Well, perhaps, it’s a little bit me, but only a small part. One you’ll never meet.  At least I hope you won’t.  However, there is a woman at a fabric store and several cashiers at a computer electronics store that might disagree.

Killing off Characters and Characters Deaths

How I feel when I have to write a character's death.

How I feel when I have to write a character's death.

Ugh!  This is a nightmare.  Having a character in your story die is akin to cutting off a finger or scoping out a favorite memory in your brain, never to have it again.  How do you handle this? What do you do?  Do you George R. R. Martin and kill with abandon and giggle while you do it (I’m not saying he does that, but I kind of am)? Do you kill the character and surprise! They weren’t really dead and it was all dream (ala Dallas – If you don’t know the TV Show Dallas or what I’m talking about, then Google it)? Do you go in writing a story like Stephen King and know you’re gonna kill a lot of people and not worry about it?

Character deaths are difficult and painful.  People will ask, does it serve the plot?  Why would I kill a character if it doesn’t serve the plot?  Of course it serves the plot.  Are you doing it for shock value?  Um… I don’t think so.  Cause, let me tell you it’s painful to write. So, if all I want to do is shock the reader, then I could have my characters run around naked and describe it in full detail… now that would be shocking.

The death of a character sucks!  I hate the idea of killing a character I love, and one that has potential. A character that I could do so much more with later on in the book or series, why do they need to die? – pounds fits on desk.

Perhaps, that is the point.  It’s like real life, when people die before their time.  When they have so much more to do, and poof, for whatever reason they die leaving all those things left undone.

death 1.png

As a writer, I have to think about these things.  Do I quiet a voice?  Do I bring a young life to a bitter end?  Do I leave the character alive and suffer the consequences with the other characters?  There is so much to figure out, and so much to consider.  It’s never an easy choice. When I’ve had to do it, I won’t lie there have been tears.

I wish I could sit down with the character, talk to them and explain why what I’m planning is for the best of the story.  Would it make it easier?  Probably not.  Would I feel better about it? Nope.


Paranormal Fiction vs. Urban Fantasy

I was chatting with some writer friends and we were talking about our various works in progress and the differences between Paranormal Fiction and Urban Fantasy as a genre type.  None of us could really agree on what qualifies fit our stories.  We all have elements of each.  For example, my novel, ‘The Calling’ is set in a modern urban area with elements of the supernatural, which is the definition of Urban Fantasy. However, ‘The Calling’ also revolves around the paranormal, which is the definition of Paranormal Fiction. So, where does that leave ‘The Calling’?

I wasn’t sure.

Digging into both genres, which are a sub-genre of Fiction, the question I posed to my writers group became how picky does the author, publisher, or agent want to be? For me, either genre works fine.  If I had to pull hairs, I’d probably go with Urban Fantasy because novels that are similar to mine are in that category and it sounds cooler. But is this choice mine to make?

As our conversation continued and with the novel still in the editing phase does the genre really matter? Yes, it does.  When you’re trying to query the novel to agents and publishers you have to tell them the genre your book is in.  And from everything I read and learned from other people you should limit your choice to one genre. So, back to my writers group I went.  After speaking with them ad nauseam the group consensus was that my novel should go into Urban Fantasy.

Great, ‘The Calling’ is a modern day Urban Fantasy.

Yay!  Problem solved.

Or is it?

Because in the back of my mind I always pictured ‘The Calling’ as a Paranormal Fiction story with dark elements to it. That was how I wrote the story, at least I thought I did. I suppose as I move the book along the process, people much smarter than me will pat me on top of my head and tell me that ‘The Calling’ is actually a ‘Ghost Story’ and I was foolish for thinking it was anything else.

Oh, didn’t I mention there are bits of a Ghost Story to ‘The Calling’, yep, there are.

When did you Know

People ask and are curious about my coming out.  I get asked this a lot by my straight co-workers and friends.  It’s kind of funny because if you flip the questions ‘when did you know you were straight?’ it’s silly.  Anyway, I don’t mind sharing my story, so here it is.

I always understood I was different at least on some level.

I grew up in the 80s, so yep, I’m old.  Anyway, I never gave much thought to sexual feelings or identity in middle school.  Sure I was ‘sensitive’ but I had a good group of ‘nerd’ and ‘stoner’ friends so I never suffered from any personal angst.  I couldn’t figure out what the big deal about girls was.  Sure they were pretty, and some were friends, but I wasn’t interested in kissing them or anything like that.

I suppose there were a few girls who liked me, but honestly I had no clue.

I wasn’t supper popular in school but I wasn’t an outcast either.

I didn’t really deal with my sexual identity until my later teens and early twenties.  I had a few girlfriends and even was engaged to be married, but something didn’t seem right.  Again I didn’t really know, clueless as I was, what the ‘it’ was.  I found guys so much more attractive than girls but I just thought I was normal.

Once, my engagement fell apart (her doing and not mine) that was when everything crashed in around me.  I realized I had all these fake walls and barriers up.  For the first time I had to take an honest look in the mirror and accept that I spent my younger years in deep denial.  I had major crushes on guys and I denied it ¬– hid it.  I had even fooled around with a few friends, but again it was all pushed behind these walls I created, and this life I wanted to live – I needed to live in.  For me it wasn’t so much an outside source, but internal ones.  No one told me to be one way or the other, it all came from me.  Anyway, when all the walls crashed down, I fell to pieces.  It wasn’t until I thought about killing myself that I figured something needed to change. I couldn’t be like this anymore. I had to pull myself together.

Of course no one realized any of this because by then I was amazing at hiding my drama.

I found a therapist and spent about a year going to treatment once a week.  She helped me face who I was and where I needed to be.  After that I was able to come out to everyone.  First, my friends.  Then my sister. And finally my parents.

I was lucky, very lucky, because I was my own worst enemy.  Everyone in my life supported me and was there for me. I was the hurdle. I was the one that created all my problems. I tried to make myself fit into this perfect image that I had in my head.

I guess what it boils down to for me, is that I always realized I was gay. I always understood, but I wasn’t willing to face it.  I never blamed society or anyone (as I said my family and friends were way more accepting than I was) and I don’t judge it as a failing of the time period I grew up in, it was more what I was willing to accept.  Maybe, if there were more positive gay male figures when I grew up things would have been different, I honestly don’t know, but like I said for me, it wasn’t so much the outside influences, but my own internal thoughts that caused me the most trouble.

Part of what I write is to provide positive LGBTQ characters with a voice because I do agree we need more of them.  My goal is to show them without this ‘struggle’ I want them facing other issues, the LBGTQ thing is just a part of them and not the focus.  My opinion is that the more people/society can see us and relate to us on a non-sexual identity level the better.

I share this because people ask about the ‘gay struggle’ and it’s different for everyone. As I say, I was lucky.

New Year Update

First Off.  Happy 2017.  I hope you all have a wonderful new year.

A lot is happening on the writing front.  I have a short story coming out this year.  ‘The Reunion’ is a dark short story about ten friends reuniting in their old home town. Stay tuned.  Also, ‘A New World – Contact’ is fishing up it’s editing cycle and will be moved on to Beta Reads in the next few weeks. I’m excited to share that book two ‘A New World – Conspiracy’, is in process and moving along faster than I thought.  Initial feedback has been positive so more information will be released on ‘Conspiracy’ later this year.  Lastly, ‘The Calling – Book One’ is going through its editing cycle and feedback and comments have been extremely positive.

So, with the end of 2016 I’m jumping right into 2017 with plenty of iron in the fire, as they say.

One final update, as some of you has been asking, I plan to release some new poetry in January.  Keep your eyes open