When most people hear that I work, they ask me where I work. I inevitably reply, “I work part-time at the financial aid office at OSU.” What I often forget to add is, “I’m also a fiction writer in my spare time.” The reason I bring this up is because I recently read this article on the Huffington Post (which you can check out here) in which she learns that her friends don’t see her as working because she writes full-time, and reasons why writing full-time should be considered working (some of those reasons I will reiterate here).

The thing is, writing is work. Hard work. Some people envision writers as sitting on their butts with a notebook, typewriter, or a laptop and watching a story unfold before our eyes. In their minds, we might as well be playing video games or watching Netflix for all the energy we’re expending.

The reality is far from that image. Here’s my process for writing a novel, for example: I outline the story, which usually takes a couple of weeks depending on how crazy my life is. Then I do my preliminary research, which is usually done when I’m not working at the office or doing schoolwork (so summers make a great time to do research because I’m not in classes, but sometimes I’m not lucky enough to be in summer when I do research). Then I start to write. And there’s nothing more daunting than the blank page at the beginning of a project. My novels are usually upwards of eighty-thousand words, so seeing that first blank page is terrifying. I have to force myself to get the first words onto a page and from there try to get into a groove.

Usually I’m doing schoolwork and working part-time while I’m writing, so I often save my writing during the evenings, and usually during the commercial breaks when I have something on TV I really want to watch. So how much I get done is dependent on time, how distracted I am, if anything else comes up in my life, and a million other things. With this sort of schedule, writing a novel can take anywhere between six months (which was the case with Snake) to almost two years (as was the case with Reborn City). I’m in the final chapters of Laura Horn, and I’ve been working on that for over a year, taking breaks for all of life’s crazy moments.

And that’s another thing: sometimes I have to take a break from writing in order to work on school or anything else going on in my life. When that happens, it usually takes longer to get words down on the page. As was the case with RC and is the case with LH.

Your average writer.

And if I need to do some additional research? That takes a bite out of writing time too.

And after I finish a novel, it usually requires one to three more drafts before I’m ready to publish it. Even then I usually send it to someone (usually another author and a friend, though in the future I might be looking at professional beta reader/copy editor to help me with the technical stuff) to make sure I haven’t missed any plot holes or horrible typos. Then I design the interior and the cover, apply for a copyright, and set a release date.

And after the book comes out, there’s all the marketing to do. Heck, even before the book comes out, I’m advertising in every place I can so that as many people as possible will know about the book and maybe want to read it. I’m blogging, Facebooking, tweeting, updating business cards, e-mailing, slipping mentions of my new book into articles, updating my resume, telling people by word-of-mouth, and asking people who do end up buying the book that once they’re done, I’d really appreciate it if they’d write a review or do something else to let me know what they think. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the marketing I have to do in order to get word of my book out there.

Because let’s face it, I don’t have a team of advertising professionals. I’m self-published, so part of the territory is that I’m doing all my advertising on my own. It isn’t easy, but it’s something I take upon myself so that my book can sell well and people will read it.

Does that sound like sitting on my butt playing video games or watching Netflix? No, it’s work. We don’t have time cards or an office cube or water coolers, and very rarely anything like a regular paycheck. But yeah, we are working. It’s as grueling a job as working in the Sales Department or on an assembly line or going to a meeting with execs from another company. Our job just allows us the perks of setting our own hours and picking our own projects.

In summary.

So I think from now I’ll be adding that writing is my other part-time job when people ask me where I work. And I hope people who read this article who aren’t writers will realize we’re not just relaxing in our living rooms or home offices (if we’re lucky enough to have those) playing solitaire or watching funny cat videos on our computers. We’re working, and we’re working hard.

Still don’t believe me? Then go ahead and write your own novel that’s halfway decent, and then tell me it’s not work. I’ll wait.

How do you feel about writing as work?

Has anyone ever mistook what you do for free time? How did you respond?

As any author can tell you, there’s no one way we get our ideas. In fact, we get our ideas from everything: stuff that goes on in our lives, the people we know, current events, books, TV shows, movies, video games, from a phrase, from a place, from something we like or something we hate, and from more things than I can list. It’s the actual spinning of the story that can be rather difficult. We have the start of an idea, but we need to build up the story around it. Who’s the protagonist, what’s going to happen, where and when is it going to happen, why is it happening, etc. And depending on the author, the idea, and where it came from or what it consists of, the story based on the idea can come either very quickly or take a while.

For me usually it doesn’t take too long to come up with a story once I have the idea. There’s one notable exception however, and that’s when the idea revolves around a character and nothing else. By this I mean a character pops into my head, maybe no more than just an image but still a character, and I want to write a story around that character. And it isn’t easy for me to come up with that idea.

Other inspirations don’t take that long. I saw the movie Schindler’s List and came up with a whole book series based around the idea of someone actually leading a rebellion against the Nazis. Remember when I went to the Sky Steele show a week back? I had an idea from something we talked about after the concert involving a supernatural crime story. And a creature featured in a fantasy TV series I watched last year inspired a story about how religion can actually kill you. All of this happened within minutes or hours of being inspired.

But starting out with an intriguing character and little to nothing else? It takes me days to come up with a story to match. In fact, of the last ten ideas for novels I’ve had, half of them were based around characters and took me days to actually come up with an idea I could write down on my list of feature-length ideas (I’m up to 145 of those, by the way. Unless I can become successful enough to write full-time, I’m not sure I’ll be able to write them all!). They all started with one or two characters, maybe a setting, but all of them took days to come up what they would be doing or what would happen to them. The most recent one, which I first started trying to brainstorm a story around on Tuesday, I finally got something today.

Sometimes, the gears in my head turn so loudly, you can hear them.

What happened was that I saw this Halloween-themed video (which I will have to post about when October rolls around) and I got a little scared by it. Not only that, but I also kind of fell in love with one of the characters in the video and decided to base an entire Halloween-based story around her. Just one question: what kind of story? Finally figured out today to base the story around ancient myths about Samhain, the holiday Halloween is based on, but up until then I could not think of a single thing to base the story around. Well I did, but none of them really worked for me. I couldn’t see myself writing something around those other story possibilities, let alone anything I thought would be good. I’m glad that I was able to finally come up with something though, or might have gone a little madder than usual.

You know, as much as I love getting ideas for stories, I hope that in the future these sort of ideas, the ones that take several days to form and usually start with a single character, pop into my head less often. And when they do, I hope it takes less time to come up with a story based around them.

What about you? What sort of ideas do you struggle to create stories around?

What do you do when you’re struggling with an idea and can’t think of anything?

tqg cover

One year. I can’t believe it’s been exactly one year since my first book, The Quiet Game: Five Tales To Chill Your Bones was released. Maybe that’s because so much has happened in that year: I finished my third year of college, went on a study abroad trip to England, France, and Germany. I began and finished Video Rage, the sequel to Reborn City, and I’m very close to finishing Laura Horn. And I also released two more books. Am I forgetting anything? Oh yeah, I moved into an apartment off-campus with a friend and I also turned 21, which causes certain members of my family endless worry about my drinking habits (though I usually only drink alcohol 1-3 times a week, and usually not that much).

Anyway, back on point. The Quiet Game emerged from an idea I had while the editing process of RC was going on. That process was going slower than I thought it would, so I thought to myself, Why not release a collection of original short stories? I ended up doing just that, writing all those stories during winter break and rewriting one of them during spring semester. I also included at the end of each story a little bit about how the story came about and what influenced me while writing it, which was fun because it gave me more ways to relate with my readers. And after many long months, I released it on July 17, 2013, not too long after the copyright process ended. And it’s been selling and scaring here and there ever since.

Besides also being my first published book, The Quiet Game is also my most popular book. I think that might be because it’s a lot shorter than the other two and it’s a lot cheaper. But that doesn’t mean people don’t like it. I’ve gotten ten reviews over the course of a year on The Quiet Game, and people have had some positive things to say:

5 wonderfully crafted tales! I purchased this as an eBook originally and put off reading it for quite a while, I really wish I hadn’t waited. Sometimes when one purchases a collection of short stories you expect some of them to be less entertaining or of lower quality than the others, but none of these disappoint. Well worth the money, especially considering after you read each story the author gives you creative insight into what inspired him to write each tale, which is really wonderful.

–Jeff D

Imagine if you will a young Stephen King penning dark scenarios inspired by his youth, and what you get is this anthology. Through this collection of short stories, Rami Ungar brings us into the world of dark urges, childhood traumas, ghosts, phantoms, and dark psychological thrillers. An inspired creation, and definitely a good intro to this indie author’s world!

–Matthew Williams, author of Whiskey Delta

All of the stories were really diverse and fun to read. I also enjoyed the authors blurbs about each stories origination and development. Keep up the good work!

–kimberly broulliard

These and other reviews have lead to The Quiet Game gaining a 4.3 rating on Amazon, which I am very happy about. It also encourages me and makes me think that this and my other books will continue to do well and that I will be able to write very good and very scary stories for years to come.

To the people who helped me create The Quiet Game, thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me. You don’t know how much I appreciate it. To the people who have already read and/or reviewed The Quiet Game, thanks for your patronage and I hope in the years to come you’ll enjoy reading my books and getting scared by them. And to those who will read The Quiet Game and my other books, I hope you enjoy them. And whatever you think of my books, please let me know in a comment or a review. Bad or good, I love feedback.

If you’d like to know more about The Quiet Game, click here for its page here on the blog, or check it out for yourself on Amazon and Smashwords. It’s available in both print paperback and e-book, though the former is only available on Amazon.

That’s all for now. If I have anything else, I’ll let you know later in the day. Have a good one, my Followers of Fear.

Today during my lunch I started watching the Fourth Doctor serial The Sontaran Experiment. Later this week or next I’ll start watching the Fifth Doctor serial Arc of Infinity, and by the end of the summer I’ll probably have watched quite a few more serials. In short, I’ve been bingeing and will continue bingeing on Classic Doctor Who for a while.

Classic Who is pretty interesting. The show lasted for 26 seasons, usually around 20 or so episodes a season, and ran from 1963-1989. They went through seven different leads, at least fifty companions, and a whole host of supporting actors, cameos, writers, directors, producers, and other crew members during that time, becoming one of sci-fi’s biggest staples and was revived twice, once in a TV movie and again in a new TV series whose eighth season (or series, as they call it in the UK) will premiere in a month and a week. This is all quite amazing, considering that Classic Who had a fairly limited budget for special effects.

And I mean fairly limited budget. Like Star Trek in its early years, and occasionally even worse than that. The first couple of years under the Third Doctor, most serials were confined to defending the Earth because of budget cuts preventing the filming of stories taking place in fantastic and strange locales. And even at the best of times, the special effects weren’t that great. Check out this clip from the Third Doctor serial The Three Doctors (also the first serial ever to feature a former Doctor return to the role). Near the end, you’ll see what I mean:

Yeah, that stuff at the end was an anti-matter monster. And apparently it teleported them somewhere. Not exactly high tech, was it? You watch enough classic episodes, you see that they had to make do with not a lot of money, which sometimes made the monsters look very homemade and laughable, or they had to be filmed in certain ways so that the kids at home wouldn’t see an actor’s two feet sticking out of a monster’s butt. Occasionally that even led to criticism of the whole story: the Third Doctor serial Invasion of the Dinosaurs was derided by viewers because the stop motion dinosaurs weren’t very good and seemed to take away from the overall story.

But that just goes to show how amazing the stories the writers told were, both then and now. What they didn’t have in terms of budget, they made up for in telling compelling tales where the Doctor had to fight in order to save the world (or worlds). Stories like the First Doctor serial The Edge of Destruction or the Fourth Doctor serial The Horror of Fang Rock are very suspenseful stories that rely on very little special effects to instead tell very character-driven horror/suspense stories, and the Seventh Doctor serial The Curse of Fenric was actually so terrifying I was a little scared! Not bad for a story whose special effects were mostly make-up and costumes.

Just a glance at that photo is enough to unnerve me!

These old stories contained much more than special effects. They had mystery, pretty funny jokes, history and science, and compelling plots that kept viewers coming back for more and more each episode. Not to mention how these episodes could confront and tackle complex social issues so that even very small children could learn from them. Dalek stories, from the original First Doctor serial The Daleks to modern-day stories are rife with Nazi Germany metaphors, which have been mentioned by various characters over the years. The Green Death dealt with environmental themes by showing what can happen when you let corporations run rampant over natural resources without enough regulation. And American viewers probably squirmed a little when they saw The Power of Kroll and saw in the conflict between the colonists and the Swampies the fight between white Americans and the Native Americans. I’m surprised the Doctor hasn’t been used as a teaching tool for different causes or issues.

And it wasn’t just the stories that drew the viewers in. The characters the writers created were pretty amazing as well. Heck, it was the writers who managed to keep the show going after First Doctor William Hartnell had to leave the show for health reasons and was replaced by Patrick Troughton. In any other show, the main character being replaced by someone who was a completely different character (but still the same person) would’ve ruined the show. It says something about the writers that they could keep the show going after such a change.

And not just the changes in Doctors. The other characters were amazing as well, helping the viewers to connect with the Doctor and see him and the events surrounding him from a human perspective (literally). Yeah, some of them were annoying (Peri Brown got on my nerves), but for the most part they were all a pretty awesome group of characters. Some of my favorites include Jo Grant, played by Katy Manning, who learned much from the Doctor and became quite a heroine in her own right during her time as his assistant. Or Ace, the last companion of the classic series and played by Sophie Aldred, a punk teen from London who nicknamed the Doctor “Professor” and was in many ways his protege. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Sarah Jane Smith, played by Elisabeth Sladen, one of the longest running companions and by far the most popular. She even had her own spin-off show for a few years. God, we Whovians miss her.

Not just the stories, but the characters made this show amazing.

All in all, it’s not surprising that nearly fifty-one years after two teachers followed one of their students home and into a police box that was much bigger on the inside than on the outside, the show is still going on all these years later. Sure, ther have been hiatuses and breaks, but there’s been a fandom big enough that the show has gone on to become one of the most popular and probably the longest running sci-fi franchises in the world. And I believe the writers over the years, especially the writers in the classic series, have played a huge part in that.

Anyway, I’m certainly having fun watching the old Doctor Who serials. I just wish it was easier to get hold of them. Well, that’s all for now. I’ve got the first draft of a novel to finish up, so I’m going to get on that hopefully tonight, but first I need to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow. Wish me luck with that.

I know I’m a little late to this conversation (though I did post a lengthy message on my Facebook page when it first happened) and I would’ve written a blog post about this sooner, but I’ve been busy with other work. Well, better late than never. Besides, Jon Stewart managed to make some jokes on it last night, so I can do it tonight.

There used to be a time when religious liberty meant that you could go to church ro synagogue in peace and without fear of ridicule or attack. Where your religion didn’t bar you from certain neighborhoods or trades. Where you didn’t have to wear a yellow star, and you didn’t suddenly have to leave country or convert in order to avoid death and suffering.

When the hell did it change that a couple of people could make decisions about the health of thousands of women?

As noted above, a lot has already been said about the Hobby Lobby case. However, I’m going to go over it because I find the majority ruling of the Supreme Court simply infuriating.

First off, Hobby Lobby says that it doesn’t want the federal government to force them to hand women employees birth control. Um, the people who will be handing birth control over will be the pharmacist. The insurance company your company uses will actually be paying for it, drawing on the money every employee puts into the company insurance policy to pay for the birth control. So basically everyone who’s on Hobby Lobby’s health insurance policy would be paying for the birth control. The fact that only a few people at the top can decide what everyone is paying for in their health insurance worries me somewhat.

Second, the owners of Hobby Lobby are objecting to contraceptive pills that “cause abortion”. Most fertilized eggs actually self-abort and don’t embed themselves in the uterine wall, so maybe you want to protest whatever mechanism causes that? Also, the pills that “cause abortion” actually a bit of a mystery, as scientists aren’t sure how they prevent pregnancies. So maybe you might want to figure that out before you start a lawsuit? Especially since you still cover Viagra and vasectomies, the latter of which basically makes the testicles useless and gives seed nowhere to go to procreate. I think the Biblical term for that is “spilling seed”.

Continuing on with this, I’m not so sure Hobby Lobby actually objects to birth control pills, as some of the companies, trust funds, and other financial mechanisms its owners have fingers in actually hold stakes in pharmaceutical companies that produce these very pills that are being protested. Is it really protesting on religious grounds to provide abortion pills? Or is it something about not having to pay for a product you already own?

And I’m really worried about this decision, which opens up some serious floodgates for lawsuits. The term “closely-held corporation” is a pretty loose definition. Already we’ve seen evangelical colleges asking to be exempt, and other companies as well that one wouldn’t normally think of as “closely-held companies”. Under the loose definition though, they might.

And if religious liberty can be used as an excuse to get out of covering contraception or other “objectionable” medical practices, what’s next? Catholics are against all forms of contraception. Jehovah’s Witnesses are against blood transfusions. Scientologists are against psychiatry. Christian Scientists generally don’t like traditional medicine. And what about objecting to other things based on religious belief? Other laws? What if a family bakery that got incorporated decides not to make a wedding cake for a gay couple because they believe it’s a decadent lifestyle? What if a print shop refuses to print flyers for an event hosted by the local Wiccan community because they won’t “help witches and Satanists”? As Justice Ginsburg said in her dissent, it’s a slippery slope.

All in all, I’m really troubled by the implications of this decision, besides the fact that a few people, mostly older white men, are getting away with making medical decisions for thousands and thousands of women and thinking that is okay. It’s already hard enough to purchase safe, affordable birth control, and some people need the help of an insurance company to afford it. Some of these women aren’t even taking birth control medications to avoid getting pregnant! Birth control medication is good for regulating menstrual cycles, prevent endometriosis, reduce the pain of cramps or migraines, and even fight acne! Most women actually take the pill for multiple reasons, studies find.

And they can’t just go looking for another job that offers birth control on the insurance plan. Some women can’t afford to leave a job because it’s all they have. The job market is still rather difficult these days, and leaving a job to look for one that might offer the right insurance isn’t exactly like walking through a park. In fact, it could lead some families to financial ruin.

Now that I think about it, most of the women who will be most affected by this decision will be women in the lower-middle, working, and poverty-stricken classes. Meanwhile, the rich can still easily afford birth control should they desire it, or own the companies that produce birth control. This si not just starting to resemble a new battle in the war on women, but also a form of class warfare and keeping the lower classes in their place. And I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s thought this.

What say you on the Hobby Lobby case? Where do you see this going in terms of consequences?

(Be aware I will be screening comments. So if I get the kind of comments from people who can’t bear any opinion but their own, it won’t show up on this blog)

I’ve got another one from Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors! This one is Tips For Gaining New Followers on Your Blog, and as you can guess from the title, its full of tips I’ve found useful at one time or another in attracting followers to the blog you are currently reading. And if you have any tips on how to grow an audience on your blog, please check out the article. If enough people respond with their own tips, I might end up making an article from said tips.

And if you like reading the article, make sure to check out the rest of the blog. Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors is an excellent resource for all types of writers, and contains articles for self-published authors by self-published authors on how to write, edit, publish, and market your work cheaply and effectively. I’ve certainly found it helpful, so who knows. Maybe you will too.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day.

pat bertram

Today’s interview is with an author who has a lifetime of experience and some really great books too. Pat Bertram is an author with Second Wind Publishing, whose books include the thriller novels More Deaths Than One and A Spark of Heavenly Fire, as well as the non-fiction book Grief: The Great Yearning, a book about dealing with grief based on personal experiences. Pat also is an administrator and active participant in a Facebook group for suspense and thriller writers, and has two blogs, one of which she writes posts for at least once a day.

I was lucky to have a chance to ask Pat, whom I consider a friend, some questions on her life, her writing process, and what she’s up to these days.

How did you get into writing in the first place?

When I was in my mid twenties, I set out to be a writer. I quit my job, gathered up paper and pens, and sat down at the kitchen table to write. I thought writing was a type of automatic writing, that I just needed to put pen to paper and words would come. Didn’t happen. When I tried to force words on the page, I discovered I had no talent for writing, so when real life got in the way, I let go of my desire to write and turned my mind to other things. About fifteen years ago, I had some predicaments I wanted to work through, so I decided, talent or no, that I would write the story, which I did. And it was terrible! During the subsequent years, I have learned how to write, to pace a story, to write sparse but picturesque prose, but most of all, I have learned how to rewrite and edit.

How would you characterize the stories you write?

The unifying theme in all of my books is the perennial question: Who are we? More Deaths Than One suggests we are our memories. A Spark of Heavenly Fire suggests we are the sum total of our experiences and choices. Daughter Am I suggests we are our heritage. Light Bringer suggests we are  . . . ? So, perhaps my genre is “identity quest,” though I can’t see that as ever being a big draw. My only hope is to build an audience for “Pat Bertram books.”

What is your writing process?

I have no real process. When I do write, it’s usually late at night because all is quiet. I don’t set a daily goal — the words come hard for me, so I’m grateful for whatever words I manage to get on paper. Oddly, considering this is the electronic age, I still prefer to write longhand, though I am gradually doing more writing on the computer. As for the story, I know the main characters, I know the beginning of the story, I know the end of the story, and I know how I want the characters to develop, but I don’t flesh out the individual scenes until I start writing them.

You blog at least once a day, and you often talk about your personal life, both the good and the bad. What gives you the courage to share such information with your readers?

Before my life mate/soul mate died, I wrote innocuous — and fairly impersonal — posts about the books I read, the stories I was writing, general thoughts I had. After he died, I was shocked both by the true scope of grief and people’s ignorance of the process, so I made it my mission to tell the truth of what I was going through to help dispel the myth that after a couple of months, life goes on as it did before. I gained so much by opening up, that I have continued to be open as other traumas enter my life, such as my efforts to cope with both my aging father and my dysfunctional brother.

Are you working on anything at the moment?

Yes. When the members of my dancing class found out I was a writer, they suggested I write a book about them. It’s been fun —  all the characters have real life counterparts, so it has become something of a group project.

What is some advice you would give to potential writers?

Writing is not always about writing. Some authors can sit down and let the words flow and lo! There is a story! Other authors have to think about what they’re doing. So ask yourself, what story do you want to write? Why? What do your characters want? Why? How are they going to get what they want? Who is going to stop them getting what they want?

If you were stuck on a desert island and could only take three books with you, what would they be?

Three blank notebooks. And pencils, of course.

 

If you’d like to find out more about Pat, you can find her at her personal blog Bertram’s Blog and on Pat Bertram Introduces, where she interviews authors, publishers, and even book characters, as well as on her Facebook page.