Friday, March 29, 2013

My Experiences with Social Networking - So Far

Last week I touched briefly on the topic of social networking.  This week, I want to go into a little more detail.

Blogging, as I mentioned last week, is my way of communicating with my potential fan base.  Although I'm always willing to communicate directly with readers (and would very much like to do so), I usually write these posts without feedback, hoping to gain momentum as I go.  I don't really know what people are getting from my content (if anything), but as a writer it doesn't really hinder me to keep writing, regardless of feedback.

Maybe I should leave an email address:

You can contact me directly through my email.  Let me know what you think about my blog, my reviews, my experiences, my upcoming book, or whatever you want to talk about.  I'd be happy to hear from you.

Blogging is the best forum to leave a lot of raw information.  Sure, I clean it up a little, but this is basically like writing in a journal.  I get to write about what's going on in my life, with my work, or whatever I feel like writing about.  It's an outlet for me, and a window into my life for readers.  I love it.

Twitter:  I haven't been very successful with Twitter, but at least it's not hard to use.  All I have to do is log on whenever something significant happens (or if I feel like shouting something into the digital realm).  The truth is, I'm not really sure what makes good Twitter content.  I know it has to be short, it shouldn't be spam, and it should invite communication between the tweeter and the followers.  Beyond that, I'm not sure.  I do my best, but I just haven't picked up steam yet.

Then, of course, there's Facebook.  I use Facebook, and have an author page, but I tend to use Facebook as a tool to communicate with other writers.  I talk to them, find out about their work, learn from them, network with them, and my life is better because of them.  It really does help to know other people with similar interests, especially if you're a writer.  The art of writing is often overlooked by those who aren't directly involved with it.

That's pretty much the extent of my social media presence.  I do have articles on Yahoo! Contributor Network, but I haven't been active on that site in a while.  I prefer writing fiction, although my YCN articles have brought home more money at this point.  It should be noted that I only have two short stories available at the moment, and I haven't really broke out of my stable when it comes to my independent publishing potential.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

So, what is good content for social media?  That's hard to say.  I would guess that there are as many opinions as there are people who use the sites.  With so many opinions, how does anyone know how to catch the attention of potential readers?

That's something I'd like feedback on, because I'm still not sure.  My plan has always been, to write.  I will write the fiction I feel inspired to write.  I will blog about what I think is relevant and interesting.  I will tweet the more significant moments of my writing career.  I will update Facebook in ways that inform my friends about what I'm doing, and what to expect.  I will do these things to the best of my ability, and learn more as I go.

Although tedious at times, I view social networking as an overall positive experience.  I would have never been able to network with the writers I've met without Facebook, and I cherish being able to share my thoughts by blogging about them.

I always want more feedback than I get, but I think that's probably true for anyone in my position.  Therefore, I sit back, continue to write, continue to connect, continue to learn, and invite the opinions of others to share in my personal journey as a writer.

Once again, to contact me directly:

Friday, March 22, 2013

My Experiences Writing a Novel - So Far

When I first started this blog I had a certain idea about how it should be, what I should write about, and what I should NOT write about.  Over time, I realized that I might want to review other independent authors, or do something like a blog hop, like I did last week.

All of that aside, I still want to make sure to share my experiences as a writer.  That's really what this blog is about at its core.  For this entry I plan to go over my writing process, what's been working for me, how I think my progress is going, and setbacks that have occurred.

First, I would like to backtrack, and talk about the questionnaire I did for the blog hop last week.  It's really a first glimpse into my novel, The Dream Machine, and I hope readers of this blog will take a look at it.  I'll have more information about the book later on as it progresses, but the blog hop post actually contains a lot of information about the novel.

Now, even though the novel hasn't been published, I want to talk about my experiences writing my first book up to this point in time.

Before I started The Dream Machine last October I had a few choices waiting for me in files on my computer from previous attempts at writing.  I knew I wanted to actually FINISH something, but I didn't know what it would be.

Finish what you start, is what I was thinking.  Okay, so I had choice A, B, and very little of C.  I wouldn't say that I never finish what I start, but when it came to writing I was very discouraged about the whole process.  Write an entire book, mail it in, and no guarantee that anyone would be interested in publishing the thing.  More to the point, there was more of a chance that it WOULDN'T get picked up.  Like I said, very discouraging.

That had never kept me from writing, though.  It kept me from FINISHING my stories, but not from writing.  With the rising popularity of self-publishing, and a more optimistic outlook on my part, I decided to take a more serious approach to writing a novel.  So, what was I left with?  A beautiful selection of previous interests, ready to be explored and expanded.

For some reason, I chose option C, the option with MAYBE half a page worth of content already in place.  The idea was interesting, but half-baked, and choosing this option was almost like starting from scratch.  That was fine, AS LONG AS I FINISHED IT.  If I didn't (don't) finish it, then why keep starting new stories?

Bottom line:  If I can finish this story, from beginning to end, then I should be able to finish my other stories.
It wasn't long after starting this story, The Dream Machine, that I realized it wasn't something I was used to writing.  It was science fiction, and I was used to writing horror.  And guess what... Science fiction is HARD to write.

There were so many questions at the beginning that I was constantly stopping in my tracks.  I would be on a roll, surpassing my word count from the previous day, and feeling like I might be able to double, or even triple, my workload for the day.  Then, a question:  What does a city of the future look like???

Okay, so I got it.  THIS is what a city of the future looks like... No, wait... What does a city of the future NEED to look like for THIS SPECIFIC STORY???  Okay, got it.  Nope, try again, because it's actually a little bit different than what you wrote.  Finally, hopefully, I nail it down to what I want.

That has been the biggest problem that has persisted throughout my writing process.  I guess you could say I should have planned out the story better before I started, but I would have never been able to KNOW until later on, after the story was taking shape through the actual process of writing.  It's really a very beautiful part about what writers get to do, letting the story take on a life of its own.  All I can do is help it grow.

On to word count.  At first, I was committed to 500 words a day.  If I had kept that pace I would be done by now.  Did I drop down to 300, 200, 100?  No, whenever I sit down to write I usually crank out 1,500 - 3,000 words.  I've went over that, but not usually.  The problem arises because I don't sit down to write every day.

Please, go easy on me.  I can hear the more experienced writers now, telling me that writers write, and I need to make time for it every day.  That's true, and I agree.  I try to write, or do something related to writing every day.  But if I'm being honest about my experiences here, as I plan to be, I have to admit to getting sidetracked.

There isn't a day that goes by where I don't think about writing, but that doesn't always mean I'm producing content.  Sometimes, I get writer's block.  Most of the time, however, it's just normal every day things.  Right now, as I'm writing, I'm being told that my family is ready to go to the store.  My daughter is standing in front of me in her diaper, with her pajamas tangled around her legs, trying to plug a keyboard into her bellybutton (Hmm, doesn't look ready to me).

And what am I doing?  After checking my word count I can see that I'm over 900 words into this blog, but it doesn't count toward my book's progress.  It is, however, part of my social networking presence.  Hopefully, people will read my blog, associate the story with a personality they know (and love), and get interested in reading my book when it comes out.  It's also a way to communicate with my potential fan base, always a good thing.

Although it wasn't something I was looking forward to when I first started to seriously work on my novel, social networking has become a big part of my writing experience.  I'll check Facebook every day, and sometimes I'll hang around and communicate with other writers.  For me, Facebook revolves around a single group devoted to independent writers.  I'm more than happy to spend time there, trying to absorb as much information as I possibly can.  That's another diversion, but a pleasant one.

With all the diversions around, I'm surprised I get any work done at all.  But, I do.  My daily word count for The Dream Machine definitely hasn't been as high as I had first hoped, but I have to acknowledge the work I've been doing in other areas.  I've been reading books from fellow writers, writing reviews, writing blogs, and I've been learning more about independent writing.  I'm more informed than I was when I started this journey last fall.

On top of that, I've been writing short stories for upcoming anthologies.  By the time The Dream Machine is published I should have a nice selection.  From that selection I should be able to separate the stories into their appropriate categories, and start focusing on those books.

There has been a lot of learning going on, a lot of networking, a lot of new friends, and an overall pleasant experience.  The actual work of being a writer is more demanding than I had first thought, but not necessarily in the way I would have thought.  Being a writer isn't just writing... Well, maybe, but not in MY world.  In MY world, it means writing, discussing, learning, backtracking, sidetracking, printing, reading, reviewing, editing, watching, blogging, tweeting, and writing some more.

Would I trade in these experiences?  You'd be very hard-pressed to make me, because working on my potential career as a writer has been one of the most gratifying experiences of my life.  I feel at home in front of my word processor.  I can only hope that these are experiences I will get to continue having.  For every chore that writing places in front of me, it offers twice the amount of enrichment to my life.  Writing is my therapy, and my drug...

...More experiences yet to come.......

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Blog Hop, The Dream Machine


What is a blog hop? Basically, it’s a way for readers to discover authors new to them.  I hope you'll find new-to-you authors whose works you enjoy.  On this stop on the blog hop, you'll find information about myself and one of my books and links to other authors you can explore!

My gratitude to Donna Thacker for inviting me to participate in this event.  You can click the following link to learn more about her work.

In this blog hop, I and my fellow authors, in their respective blogs, have answered ten questions about our book or work-in--progress (giving you a sneak peek).  We've also included some behind-the-scenes information about how and why we write what we write--the characters, inspirations, plotting and other choices we make. I hope you enjoy it!

Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts and questions. Here is my Next Big Thing!

1: What is the working title of your book?

*  The Dream Machine

2: Where did the idea come from for the book?

*  The book came from my observations about modern mind control.  We take it for granted that everyone wants to control our minds.  We know we're being manipulated on a daily basis, yet we seem content to have our minds controlled as long as the controllers keep us entertained.

3. What genre does your book come under?

*  Science Fiction, with elements of conspiracy theories to back up the plot.  The story takes place at the end of this century, after technology has failed us, and the Dream Machine is there to fill the void left by the broken promises of the past.

4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

*  That's hard to say... the books are always so much better, aren't they?  I guess if I HAD to choose... I would get Edward Norton to play the difficult role of the main character, the inventor of the Dream Machine.  He would have to be believable both as a scientist and an action hero, but his true skill would be making the world of The Dream Machine a believable one.

*  I would get Leonard Nimoy to go against his typecast, by putting him in the role of the greedy businessman who funds the Dream Machine to gain ownership.  He has the perfect, likable smile for the part.  You wouldn't know whether to love him or hate him, and that's perfect for this character.

*  Julian Moore would be great in the part of the main character's love interest and leading role.  The female for this role would have to be appealing in her feminine charm, but should also be able to keep up with the main character when it comes to action scenes.

* And finally, I think Kevin Spacey would be good in the role of the main character's personal nemeses, who just happens to be his lab assistant.  He would have to be convincing as a scientist, have a dark side, and can't be afraid to explore the more taboo possibilities of the Dream Machine.

5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

*The inventor of the Dream Machine must stop the misuse of his machine before the world leaders enslave the human race by using their own dreams against them.

6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?

*My book is going to be self-published.  I'm a firm believer in self-publishing.  I think it's a wonderful opportunity for writer AND readers.  It gives writers the ability to write the stories they care about, and as a result, gives readers a bigger and better selection of stories aimed at their interests.

7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

*  I started writing The Dream Machine last October, and I'm currently editing (as of March).  It's one of the hardest things I've ever, but I'm looking forward to completing my first novel.  It's been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember.

8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

*  I'm not sure about books, but if you combined the movies The Matrix with What Dreams May Come you might have a pretty good idea of the concept.

9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?

 *  I was inspired to write this book one night while I was watching TV.  It was late, and I was getting sleepy.  I was looking down at the Nintendo Wii remote that I was using to select movies on Netflix with, and just thinking about how strange it all was.  There I was, pointing a small box at a bigger box, content to stare at one small portion of my environment for hours at a time.  It had to be a type (or THE type) of mind control.

10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

*  Most people don't think of their environment as having layers of mind control, but that's because we've all grown up thinking of TV, radio, billboards, internet, etc., as normal... But ask your grandparents or great grandparents what they thought about TVs when they were first introduced.  Some of them thought people were in the TV box, performing for them... "I always wondered how all those people got in there," my grandmother said to me, as she remembered seeing a TV for the first time as a child.  "It took me a while to realize that it was all just fake, and not really there."  Personally, I remember my granny (my grandmother's mother), and how she would talk about the characters on soap operas as if they were real people from her life.  She would worry about them, and talk about their scandals as if they were family members.

Some of you might be laughing, or even relating my stories to your own.  Or, maybe you think I'm making something from nothing.  Either way, you're probably thinking in terms of THE PAST, and how the older generation was.  Our generation is so much more enlightened, right?  We know how TVs work, and that they're just a form of entertainment.  But later on tonight, which direction will you be staring?  And do you think your ancestors would understand why you and your family watch these fake stories, care about royal figures who have nothing to do with you, or why you have to be told what to buy in the segments in between?  Of course not, because our reality is completely insane, and if someone from 100 years ago was placed into YOUR reality they would probably have a panic attack and die.  That's how much manipulation is going on during your average day.  We don't notice, because we've become accustomed to it.

11: Why are you so much better-looking in person than in your photo?

* Good question... But I guess I would have to say it's because I'm not actually a book cover graphic.

THE DREAM MACHINE is expected to be published by the end of April, but hopefully earlier.  Keep an eye on this blog for more information about The Dream Machine, the process of writing, and more works of fiction from Joshua Hicks... coming very soon.

Who’s next on the NEXT BIG THING BLOG HOP?

It seems like my pool of potential candidates was pretty dry by the time this invitation was sent to me, so instead of redirecting you to a list of new blog hoppers I'm posting some people of interest.  I really hope you take a look at them.  I've enjoyed their work, and hope you do as well.  I've already done previous blog reviews of each of these authors, and the links below will redirect you to the reviews.  From there you can find multiple links of interest for each writer.

Donna Thacker

Angel Sharum

Kelly Herdrich

Saoirse O'Mara

Friday, March 8, 2013

Indie Review, The Lost Diadem (A Rogue's Tale, Part 1) by Saoirse O'Mara

I read this book in one day.  It's that good.  Maybe I'm just a fan of the genre, but I think the simple nature of this book makes it enjoyable.  I say simple, but the writing style of Saoirse O'Mara is nothing less than professional.  The book is easy to read, entertaining, and I'm looking forward to the third book of the series (more on that later).

Who will like this book?  This is a book for teens.  That being said, I really enjoyed it, and I'm 29 years old.  I also enjoyed the sequel, which I started reading the day after finishing this one (again, more on this later).  This book is intended for teens who enjoy fantasy, but is an easy and enjoyable read for anyone who enjoys the genre.  I wouldn't call it a short story but it is a relatively short read

Personally, I thought this book contained many (if not all) of the right elements to keep me reading.  The characters were likable, the amount of conflict felt right, and it left me wanting more.  I look forward to seeing the character development throughout the series.  Saoirse O'Mara has created a world full of characters who I want to learn more about.

If you have a teen who likes to read, download The Lost Diadem (A Rogue's Tale: Part 1).  It's perfect for anyone who enjoys following their favorite characters from book to book, but this is also a book that does well all on its own.  It's a quick read, an enjoyable read, and something that you can continue following by downloading additional books if you enjoy the story.

Download a free sample of The Lost Diadem (A Rogue's Tale: Part 1)

Learn more about A Rogue's Tale and Saoirse O'Mara, here.

Follow A Rogue's Tale on Facebook, here.

And Saoirse O'Mara's full contact information can be found, here.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Indie Review, Scattered by Kelly Herdrich

Indie Review:  Scattered, by Kelly Marselle Herdrich

I took a chance when I downloaded this book. It didn't look like something I would normally go for, but I downloaded the free preview, bought the Kindle edition, and I'm very happy about my purchase. The book deals with very sensitive issues, and was hard to read at times because the subject matter was so true to life. Alzheimer's is a horrible disease, and something my family has had to deal with. "Scattered" tastefully depicts one family's story as they cope with the disease, death, and faith.

Who will like this book?  Scattered is a full length book that takes place in the past and "present."  From one end of the spectrum you will be introduced to Paul and Grace.  There are many characters throughout the book, but Paul and Grace always felt like the main characters in my point of view.  Together, they deal with Paul's sister's illness, and despite Grace's impending marriage to another man, Paul has fallen in love with her.  On the other end of the spectrum you will be carried into the "present" to the year 2000.  Here, you will meet Grace again, shortly after the death of her husband.  Grace and her children, as well as her grandchildren, must cope with Grace's illness, Alzheimer's, a progressive form of presenile dementia that results in memory loss and behavioral changes.

Personally, I liked the alternating time-swaps that occur after each chapter of the book, the realistic portrayal of Alzheimer’s disease, and the positive messages spread throughout the story.  The chapters bounce back and forth from the past to the present, taking turns telling the story and progression of events, making it easy to keep reading.  We sometimes forget, or find it hard to believe, that our parents and grandparents used to deal with issues much like our own, so it's nice to read a story that depicts a story from two different time periods.

All of us will face tragedy at some point in our lives, and we all share a common end, called death.  How we deal with death can influence the way we live our lives.  Scattered is an educational story as well as inspirational, and by allowing ourselves to follow the lives of the family members depicted within this story we might also be able to take away valuable life lessons.  However, I'm not trying to come off as preachy, because this story delivers its message like all good stories should, by being entertaining.

Download a free sample of Scattered at Amazon.

Read Kelly Herdrich's blog at Kelly Without a Net.

You can also visit Kelly at Yahoo! Contributor Network, here.