Decide. Commit. Succeed.

Okay, so I stole the trademarked phrase from BeachBody – so sue me.

Actually no, BeachBody, please DON’T sue me. I make no money here, so there’s not much to gain from that. But jokes aside, I use that line as a phrase of endearment so to speak, because it applies perfectly to my current feelings about my goal of becoming a successful indie author one day. I’ll talk more about all that a little later on in this post. On a side note, I do in fact own BeachBody workout DVDs, they’re fantastic and I lost thirty pounds last year doing P90 at home, so I am actually very fond of that company and their products. But I digress…

My last blog post (months ago) was to announce my entry into a short story writing contest over at Short Fiction Break, and talked about some of the tools and conventions that I’d used to craft my story. If you choose to check out my entry, please ignore the glaring typo at the end (cringe). I did not win, nor place, nor receive honorable mention or short-list recognition. But it’s all good, because at the very least, it was a learning opportunity and a challenge that allowed me to grow as a writer. Not to mention, there was more than 400 entries, and many of them were excellent stories.

After the contest, I took a little break from writing, not really for any particular reason. In truth, instead of spending my evenings writing, I’ve spent them reading my genres of choice (which I consider equally important in finding your writer voice). In addition to that, I’ve been devouring tons of YouTube content on writing and the business of being an indie author. Sometimes, I will admit, I get too mired up in learning the business side of things, when I really should be focused on the actual writing. But it’s all useful, relevant information that I’m consuming so I’m not too critical on myself for doing that instead of writing. I mean, it could be worse, I could have spent months playing Fortnite or some shit like that. So, it’s time well spent in my opinion.

Anyway, amidst all of that YouTube content, I discovered two indie author channels that are having a HUGE impact on me:

Chris Fox. I heard about Chris while listening to the Sell More Books Show podcast (with Jim Kukral and Bryan Cohen), which has become a staple for me. If it’s not clear already from earlier posts that indie author podcasts are an obsession of mine, it will certainly be clear by the time you’re done reading this. Not only a great science-fiction writer, Chris is well known in the indie author community, most notably for his Write To Market principles that he talks about across his non-fiction books, podcast interviews, speaking events, YouTube channel, etc. The guy is truly a champion of our community, and is super nice to boot. I had emailed him a question a couple months back, one that he had likely answered already elsewhere on the interwebs, but he was courteous enough to promptly respond to my email and share his thoughts. Oddly enough, that very next week, he released a video that addressed my very specific question, but more broadly. I like to think that this was not coincidence, and that he in fact chose to expand on our brief email interaction with a full-fledged video on the subject (which was on reader magnets, by the way). I won’t lie, I did fanboy out a little bit when I saw the video title! Anyway, moving on.

Garrett Robinson. I first came across a short video series Garrett had done for the guys over at Sterling and Stone (Johnny, Sean and Dave from the wildly popular Self-Publishing Podcast, of which I am a huge fan), called Authorpreneur Self-Publishing Nuts and Bolts. I love this little series and have watched it several times through – I highly recommend it. I later found Garrett’s own channel and was instantly sucked into hundreds of videos on a variety of topics. Probably the one thing that struck me most, right off the bat, was that his delivery (both vocally and stylistically) was very similar to a favorite channel of mine that I had not watched in a VERY long time, but enjoyed tremendously back in the day, and that was John and Hank Green of the vlogbrothers. Garrett, admittedly, is also a huge fan of John and Hank, and I imagine that he was influenced tremendously by those guys, hence the similarities.

There are three specific playlists on Garrett’s channel that I am currently working through and they are all tremendously helpful, and entertaining too:

Writer Wednesdays, where he spends three or four minutes talking about a different subject in the world of writing and indie authorship. These are GREAT little nuggets of information. I knocked out all of those in about two or three nights on the couch.

Story Telling Podcast, where he and two other regular hosts talk about all things writing and indie-pub. They hosted various guests from time to time and it’s always a funny and informative hour’s worth of bad puns, foul language, and general nonsensery (but I mean that in the best possible way). They no longer do the podcast – but the videos are all still up, so go check them out.

VlogaNovel, where Garrett literally does the entire process of crafting a novel from start to finish, right there in front of you. Live. Unadulterated. Line by freaking line. He brainstormed, outlined, wrote the manuscript, self-edited, designed the cover, AND EVEN narrated the audiobook, completely live and on-air for all to see. This. Guy. Is. Fucking. Talented. The project involved a serialized story called Nightblade, which he originally wrote and released episodically over several weeks. This format of serialized fiction was VERY popular a few years ago, and it’s the model that Sterling and Stone had basically pioneered and perfected, with tremendous success. Today, however, serialized fiction is not as commonplace and a bit played out, and Garrett has since re-released the books as a single volume.

All that being said – the VlogaNovel experience that I witnessed was truly mind-changing for me as a writer. It gave me so much inspiration and confidence to push forward and get out of the writing slump that I’ve been in. Watching Garrett slog through line after line of the story really humanized the process for me. No longer did writing a novel seem like an unattainable goal for me. I literally had just watched, step by step, what to do and how to do it, from soup to nuts. Not only that, I had an incredible “light-bulb” moment when I saw how he had broken down the global story into episodes, and then each episode into five or so scenes (By way of the Snowflake Method). I saw a tremendous analogy there to my own process that I’ve been going through to write short stories. Building each single episode (and its four or five scenes) to be a complete arc that has a beginning, middle and end, is WAY more manageable for me to do then trying to plot an entire 80,000-word novel with just a few sparse guideposts that are talked about in Story Grid (see earlier post). Not only that, if it’s done correctly, you can structure the episodes in such a way that you still hit all those pivotal mile markers that make a global story work, and the reader keeps getting hooked at the conclusion of each episode. At the end of it all, you’ve got a book, hopefully.

[Pauses to inhale]

To bring this long-winded post full circle: Armed with new inspiration and new techniques, I am shifting gears once again and turning my attention back to novel writing. I won’t elaborate on what exactly it is that I’m working on, because I’m still fleshing out the details, but I will say that it involves the world that I created in Tranquility, and to an extent, the story that I started writing in The Architects. Needless to say, I am SUPER excited.

I think a lot of my hesitation before came from the fact that I wanted my very first novel to be “the breakout success story,” and I’ve come to realize over months of learning from other indie authors that it just doesn’t work like that. At least, in 99.9% of writers out there. Even the best authors in recent times wrote upwards of ten books before they finally landed a publishing deal or found sustainable success as an indie author. I finally realized, I have to cut my teeth on a project I’m passionate about, and it needs to be novel-length work. So why not just do it. Stop hesitating. Stop procrastinating. Stop running from it. Just freaking do it.

Decide. Commit. Succeed.



The best bad choice

For the last year or so, I’ve narrowed my focus to short fiction, in an effort to improve my craft on a smaller scale. I feel like this has been tremendously helpful in many aspects, and it’s produced some short stories that I’ve been very pleased with.

The last couple stories have been somewhere between eight and ten thousand words, and typically broken up into multiple installments. This has allowed me to practice writing in scenes, where three or four scenes would make up the entirety of the story itself. I’ve found that this is an effective way to have a comprehensive arc that has a clearly defined beginning, middle and end – generally speaking. As I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog post, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time focusing on the writing methods that are outlined in The Story Grid. I won’t go into all the details, since you can refer to Google if you want to learn more about that particular method. But in short, the author of The Story Grid puts tremendous emphasis on following the “Five Commandments” of storytelling, which require that any given unit of story (scene, sequence, act, and full manuscript) contain the following five key movements:

  1. Inciting Incident
  2. Progressive Complication
  3. Crisis
  4. Climax
  5. Resolution

There’s a lot more to The Story Grid method, but these key movements are first and foremost when crafting your story. In the short fiction that I’ve produced over the past year, I’ve concentrated on following this and other advice discussed in The Story Grid, and I’ve found that it’s helped my writing tremendously. Since my last few pieces have been upwards of ten thousand words, and at least three or more scenes, it’s been a challenge to ensure that each unit of the story has these five elements, and that the story feels complete by the end of the piece.

In the same previous blog post, I also highlighted another writing resource that I had come across in my research, which is The Write Practice. This is a website and subscription-based writing community that has a plethora of free articles and advice on the craft of writing, while focusing on the importance of deliberate practice. In addition to the forum of fellow writers, the website hosts a seasonal writing contest every few months. For a small fee, writers can enter the contest and submit a short story based on a writing prompt that is tailored for each contest. Additionally, entrants receive limited-time access to their online writing community and are able to “workshop” their story prior to the submission deadline. This allows for writers to give feedback on each others stories and improve their drafts during the work-shopping period. When I first came across their website, the Winter 2017 contest had recently closed, so I wasn’t able to enter or submit a story. But nonetheless, the prompt for the contest inspired me to write the first short story in the Joe Fletcher series, entitled The Delivery Man. Needless to say, I kept my eyes and ears peeled for announcements of the next contest.

Alas, the Spring 2018 writing contest is now here and of course, I’ve entered the competition! However, the constraints of the contest are an entirely new world for me. First and foremost, the maximum length for the submission is only 1,500 words, which is approximately the length of one well-constructed scene. Secondly, the prompt for the competition was pulled straight from the pages of The Story Grid: write a story where your character faces a “Best Bad Choice,” where neither option is a good one.

I found it incredibly difficult to combine the prompt and all of the core elements into 1,500 words or less. Additionally, I decided to write my story in first-person perspective, with a female protagonist, which is something I had never done before. But after much deliberation, I landed on an idea that eventually took shape, and was able to craft a story which hits all of the Five Commandments on some level. At the time of writing this blog post, I am currently work-shopping my story in The Write Practice online community, but I also thought it would be a good idea to post my submission here to get additional feedback. An added bonus of the contest is that each and every story, whether or not it wins or places in the contest, will be published on the website of their affiliate literary magazine Short Fiction Break. For a period of three months after publication, the magazine requires exclusivity, so I will be taking my story down from this blog temporarily during that time.

So without further ado, I’m proud to present my short story contest submission – Third Shift. Be sure to give it a read and send me any feedback as soon as possible, as the story will be removed from the blog on April 9th.

Reacher, Bosch…and Fletcher?

Sounds like it could be one of those late-night advertisements for a personal injury law firm, doesn’t it? If you’ve been injured, you deserve compensation. Call the law offices of Reacher, Bosch and Fletcher – for your no obligation consultation. 

Jokes aside, I’m actually quite excited about my new thriller, which debuted my newest character – Joe Fletcher – in my latest short story entitled The Delivery ManWhen I first had the idea for the story, I didn’t even think about a character series. I simply had the idea for the plot, knew I needed someone to fill the protagonist role, and somehow landed on the foul-mouthed and often impatient Joe Fletcher.

I’m actually brand new to the genre of thriller, both as a writer and a reader. I’ve done a few by John Grisham, which I loved, and have wanted to expand my TBR (to-be-read) pile to include some of the more popular character-based thriller series’ that you’d typically find on the shelf at Barnes and Noble these days. Whether it’s Michael Connelly with Bosch, Lee Child with Reacher, or John Sandford with Davenport – these guys have cashed in on an age-old book model that has paid off for them in spades. The model is quite simplistic, really. Develop a character that people find relatable, but also unique; give them a troubled back-story and personal arc to humanize them, and then shove them into a different action-packed adventure (or mystery) in each and every book. The seemingly great thing about this model is that you can recycle much of the character details like backstory, there’s little to no carry through of plot from earlier books, and if you end up garnering an audience, it’s almost guaranteed that they will devour each and every book in the series – so long that the series doesn’t lose steam or get too repetitive.

While this is definitely an over-simplification of the genre as a whole, it’s a tried and true model that, when executed correctly, can turn a no-name author into a bestselling powerhouse over time. I think readers in general like the idea of familiarity and find comfort in getting to know a character time and time again. The individual plot lines keep the reader intrigued, while the familiar mannerisms and dialogue of the character get them coming back for more. While it’s true that I haven’t even read a single one of these beloved series giants, I’m fascinated in the model itself and have absorbed loads of articles, blog posts, and podcasts on this subject and am eager to try this model myself.

Granted, my Fletcher debut is obviously a short story, and I plan to continue to write short stories for at least the near future – but the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that this model can be fun and entertaining to both read and write, even as a short story series, rather than a run of novels. I’m determined to continue writing as much as possible, and hone my craft bit by bit, and I feel like applying this idea to some of my short stories going forward can kill two birds with one stone – I’ll get closer to finding my voice as a writer, and I’ll become more acquainted with the character-based model and hopefully become quite good at executing it.

With all of that being said, I’ve formed the idea-nugget for my next Fletcher short story, and I’m very excited to get started on it. In truth, I was planning on starting it today, but I ran out of time this afternoon, and couldn’t devote the several hours that it typically takes to get a story rolling and find some traction. So instead, I’m writing this blog post. But I fully expect that by week’s end, I will have the first installment for the new short story, which I’ve titled The Ransom Run.

P.S. – I’ve always been in the habit of doing the title art for my stories, before I even start writing them. I like to think it gives me a visual aid to stay excited and inspired during the writing process. Consequently, the title art for The Ransom Run is already finished, and if you’d like a sneak peak, head over to the Fiction section on this blog and check out the fruits of my labor. Personally, I think it looks pretty cool!

Update 2/4/18 – The first installment is finished and online.

Update 2/18/18 – Part II is now available!


It’s been a while since my last post, I know. But it’s for a legit reason, because there have been gobs of other stuff filling my free hours for the past several months now. I won’t get into too much detail here, but the primary time-hogger of late has been something I haven’t done since college. Studying.

Yes, unfortunately you read correctly. As some (or all) of you may know, I’m a project engineer by day, working for an automation firm that specializes in factory/plant control systems. And sometime around March of this year, I made the decision, with the support of the management team at my firm, to try for my Professional Engineering license. In addition to needing a bachelor’s degree, and four years of credible experience, one must take and pass the dreaded eight-hour PE Examination (gulp). Long story short, I’d been studying since March, took the exam in late October, and now anxiously wait with bated breath for the results to post (hopefully by Christmas). Anyway, my ass has been studying like a bandit for 6+ months, so needless to say, there hasn’t been much time for something like writing.

Moving on. So in this post, I want to first talk about two writing resources. One that I’ve recently discovered, and another that I’ve been addicted to for over a year now. The drug of choice is a book/podcast/website called The Story Grid, and it is the greatest thing since sliced bread. In all fairness, I haven’t bought/read the book yet, but I have definitely devoured the 100+ podcast episodes (and counting) over the course of the past year or so, and I’m completely hooked. I won’t go into a full breakdown of what it is and why it’s so great, because you can easily find that out with a quick google search. But essentially it’s these two guys: Shawn Coyne – an industry vet who’s worn every hat imaginable; editor at a major publisher, literary agent, and of course an author himself. The other guy is Tim Grahl – a book-marketing guru and consultant to authors like (my self-pub hero) Hugh Howey and other big-timers. The entire premise of the podcast is basically this: Tim is a newbie writer and hopes to produce a (successful) YA novel, while Shawn spends each week ripping apart the latest chapter(s) that Tim has written, and guides him to clearer waters. In truth, that’s a bit of an over-simplification, cause there’s lots of other author-nerd goodies that they discuss each week. But let me just say that I love, Love, LOVE this podcast. And if by some miracle, either one of you (Shawn or Tim) somehow land on this blog post – hats off to you gentlemen. You both are super duper awesome and I thank you.

The other resource I want to highlight is one that is pretty new to me, and it’s called The Write Practice. The name really does say it all. It’s a website that has loads of good content like how-to articles, writing prompts, and seasonal writing contests that all encourage the wannabe-writer masses to improve their craft through lots and lots of practice. To give credit where it’s due, I first heard of this little gem via one of the aforementioned podcast episodes, and then later read that Tim [Grahl] had entered and received honorable mention in not one, but two of their recent writing contests. (Congrats Tim!) So I finally decided to check it out, and low and behold, one of the first things I encountered on the site was a re-affirmation of something I’ve had as a personal goal of mine for the past year. Write short stories. Lots of them! I also thought it would be cool if I entered their next writing contest and see how I stack up. Unfortunately though, on the day that I decided to explore that idea some more, I saw that the deadline for their winter contest had closed only a week before.

The prompt for the contest was Countdown – write a short story about a character up against a deadline of some sort; a limit of 1,500 words. The prompt immediately sparked an idea, and I knew I had to run with it, contest entry or not. And the missed deadline really wasn’t a factor because the max word count of only 1,500 words (roughly one well-constructed scene), was not nearly enough to tell the story I came up with. So all of that brings me here, to this blog post, where I am announcing Part I of my new short thriller entitled The Delivery Man. And as I write this post, I am actually almost finished with Part II, so/ I expect to have that up very soon. I hope you enjoy!

UPDATE 1/8/18 – The fourth and final part is complete and uploaded! Read it all here.

Moon dust.

In a previous blog post, I indicated that I would be putting my novel on hold and switching gears. At the time, I had a rough idea for a short story that I wanted to explore, and decided to make it the subject of my next project.

Although it took me several months to actually commit and put some thought and effort into it, I managed to finally do that this week. The result is the first of three installments of my brand new short story, Tranquility.

I plan to have the next installment completed and posted here within the next week, if I’m lucky. I was actually pretty shocked at how quickly and easily Part I just kinda spilled out onto the page, so I’m hoping the next two parts follow suit.

–UPDATE 4/8/17–
Part II is complete and uploaded!

–UPDATE 4/15/17–
The third and final installment is now available!

Story engineering.

I figured it would be fun to include more entries on the process of my writing and research, rather than just the sparse announcements that mark the completion of a piece. So buckle up, and prepare to enter the exciting and fun-filled world of Mike’s Fiction Adventure (trademark pending).

I spend ALOT of time reading – about writing.  Most of the material that I immerse myself in are blogs by various authors, some traditionally published and some self-published. A quick digression here. For those that are unaware, allow me to fill you in on the differences between traditional publishing and self-publishing, even though they are probably obvious simply by the interpretation of the words themselves.

Traditional publishing is the process by which an author lands on the bookshelf at Barnes and Noble (or others). It requires that one’s work be purchased (or “picked up,” to use industry slang) by a publishing house, big or small. The larger guys are harder to crack into, obviously. Most authors who seek the traditional publishing route often look for a literary agent first. This is a person who also has to see value in you and/or your book before they take you on as a client. Any legitimate agent worth their keep is very selective on who they work with and what authors they want to represent. If you are a first-timer, like myself, this typically requires one to endure months or even years of submissions, unbearably waiting for responses that do not come quick, and lots of self-loathing. If you’re lucky enough to land a decent agent, their job is to “pitch” your book to the publishing houses and hope that they can get it sold and get you both paid. This – is very difficult to achieve.

Enter self-publishing [*insert heavenly choir interlude*]. The internet has revolutionized, among many other things, the publishing industry. Any Joe Schmo that decides to write a book, can have that book up on Amazon as an e-book in literary minutes, with no upfront cost to the author. Similarly, one can use a print-on-demand (POD) service that will make your book available in print via Amazon or other online retailers, again, at no upfront cost. If your work is any good, with an eye-catching book cover, you could actually sell a few copies. If you’re really good, you can sell more than a few. If you’re REALLY good, and you know how to market yourself and your book using the wondrous world wide web, you can actually make a decent income.

That was supposed to be a quick digression – I get carried away sometimes.

With that said, the bulk of my reading (on writing) is on blogs from very successful self-published authors. Most recently, I’ve spent a lot of time pouring through the blogs of Hugh Howey ( and Joanna Penn ( Hugh Howey is – to put it lightly – my hero in the world of self-pub. Not only is he a marvelous author, but he is one of the most successful self-pub authors of all time. I won’t beleaguer you with the infinite list of his accomplishments. Just go look him up if you’re interested. Quick fun fact: Hugh is the cousin of my coworkers wife Dana, and lived in Boone for many years. Now he sails around the world on his catamaran. Small world, huh.

The other major piece to my research has been a How-To book that I picked up, after being highly recommended by Hugh and many others. It’s called Story Engineering, by Larry Brooks, and is all about mastering what Brooks calls “The Six Core Competencies of Successful Writing.” The title alone was enough to sell me. It’s got Engineering in the title, I’m an engineer. Sold.

This book, while I’m only a few chapters in, is getting me super pumped about improving my craft. It’s the perfect book for the methodical mind like me. It breaks the key elements of fiction writing down into a very clear cut and easy to follow formula that can be applied to any idea and any length of fiction, from a novel all the way down to a short story. For a person like me, this is the jackpot. It’s like a paint-by-numbers for writing fiction. God, I loved those as a kid.

Before I get too winded here, I’ll wrap it up.

A quick update: My last post indicated that I wanted to start focusing more on short fiction and build my way up to something novel-length. Using that mindset, I’ve managed to bloom an idea for what I think will be a very interesting short story. My goal here is to use the principles that I’m learning from Howey, Penn, Brooks and others and craft an awesome short story using the new approach and see how that goes.

Thanks for reading.

Humble beginnings.

Let me start by saying ‘Thank You!’ to all of the people (probably few) that took the time to read my first two installments of The Architects, which I released here on the blog over the past four-five months.

I’ve come to a few realizations, and learned a few hard lessons since the start.

First and foremost, finding the time to write is next to impossible for me. Juggling a full time engineering career, being in a metal band, devoting time to a daily workout (shocking, I know), and spending time with friends here and there, it leaves precious little time to sit down and crank out the next bit or blurb on whatever I’m writing.  While this is not the worst predicament in the world to have – as I finally feel like I have a sense of balance in my life for the first time in awhile – it makes the prospect of writing a 100,000-word manuscript (be it solid gold, or a hunk of crap) an overwhelming feat that will most likely not materialize.

Secondly, I found that every time I would sit down to write (few and far between as it were), I would be substantially more pleased with the scene I just wrote, and perceive my earlier bits as worthless drivel. I was constantly wanting to go back and revise or rewrite scenes that I had done earlier because I felt like my skills were growing with each sitting. And satisfying this impulse would be a definite nail in the Architects coffin, the damn thing would NEVER get finished.

Thirdly, and perhaps the biggest light bulb moment – The story itself was entirely too ambitious for my first journey into the treacherous waters of authorship. While I was super stoked on the narrative that I had spent months outlining, the characters I had loosely crafted, the interwoven plot lines, and the imagery that was dying to spill out on paper – it was a HUGE undertaking. Far too much for my feeble little mind, with virtually zero experience in the craft of actually writing the story that was in my head.

So, what the hell does all of this mean?

As the title of this blog post implies, I’m going to take a step back and focus on something that can lay a nice solid foundation for me to build upon. A more humble beginning.

More specifically, I need to hone my skills on a format that is far less daunting than a novel. I need to build confidence in my writing ability while not feeling compelled to make everything perfect for the sake of “writing the perfect novel.”

I have always been a very systematic type of person. Structured. Methodical. A bit anal. Okay, alot anal.  And it seems that if I follow my own logic and approach this hobby (and perhaps a future means of income) as a more graduated approach, I’ll be far more likely to see it through and ultimately succeed.

Translation – I want to focus on shorter fiction for now. Short stories, novelettes, and novellas. Basically, anything less than 40,000 words.

Not only will this be far more manageable for me, I will be more comfortable. And I will actually have a finished piece of work, be it excellent or terrible – it will be finished nonetheless. And I can move on to the next piece, which will hopefully be better than the last.

So that’s my plan. Write something new, Release it, Repeat.

And maybe one day in the future, The Architects will be resurrected to fulfill it’s rightful place among the greatest literary masterpieces of all time. Okay, probably highly unlikely. But I can dare to dream.

Thanks for reading.