“How It Ends – Part One”: Free Book Promotion (Shameless Marketing)

c45394dc3c76377ad4e38898ed06df782bf09266In honor of NaNoWriMo (okay, not really, but I was trying to figure out how to tie it into what I’ve been blogging about lately), I’m dropping the price of Part One of How It Ends to nothing. That’s right, a big $0.00.

(Yes, I brought one of the serials back, despite the fact that I explained why I took them off here. I reserve the right to change my mind about things.)

Okay, actually, technically speaking, the price for Part One is already $0.00 on B&N.com, Smashwords, and iBooks. But Amazon doesn’t let you price something at $0.00. There are ways around that (I talked about it here) but that hasn’t worked for me yet.

Yet.

I’ll keep trying to fight the system.

*shakes fist in Amazons direction*

The point is, in the meantime, for the next five days, on Amazon, Part One of my science fiction robot apocalypse love story How It Ends is free. So go pick it up. Why not? What could it hurt? It’s a free book. Who doesn’t like free things?

You do too! Put your hand down!

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NaNoWriMo 2014 Update

IMG_4281We’re twelve days into NaNoWriMo 2014. How are you doing? Have you cracked under the pressure? Are the words flowing out of you like silver streams of pure literature destined to alter the landscape of fiction as we know it? Are you plowing through your novel, letting the stream of consciousness spill from your mind in an unhinged screed* not fit for human consumption?

(Hint: The answer to all of these could be “yes”.)

For my own foray into NaNoWriMo, things are going well. I passed the halfway point last night. I’m no longer underwater in my word count. As of this writing, I’m closing in on 27,000 words. Basic math tells me I have about 23,000 words to go. (Basic math, by the way, is sometimes a stretch for me–I was an English lit major, after all–but I think I’m on solid footing here.)

Here’s what I’ve uncovered in the twelve days since I’ve started this journey:

* I’m in LOVE with how much this contest forces me to write. I have a terrible habit of being what Stephen “Uncle Stevie” King call a “lazy writer”. When the writing gets tough, I have a tendency to walk away from it and come back a few months later with no clearer way of tackling the problem. Except that, a few months later, my writing muscles have gone unused and have atrophied and my creative mind has grown fat and lethargic. This contest forces me to confront my writing every day, to flex my penmonkey muscles, and make some actual progress.

* A single sentence CAN turn into a novel. Like, quick. The novel I’m writing writing now is called Lost Things. It was based on a single (and perhaps rather long-winded) “what-if” sentence I wrote on the back of a church bulletin. The sentence looked kinda like this:

What if a man helps ferry dead souls to the afterlife by the use of items that show up on his kitchen counter that were personal and special to the deceased, but one day, using one of these “lost things”, he accidentally frees something evil and is then caught in a battle to defeat it?

Yeah, it’s a run-on, I get it. But it’s turned into something special for me. This one (long) sentence has turned into 27,0000 words in twelve days. This short synopsis helps flesh out that “what-if” sentence:

For forty-two years Bill has been dealing with the Lost Things. They appear in the morning on his kitchen counter. Each time they do, he takes them to a local secluded glade and, using an ancient rite, he frees the Lost Things’ owners, for each Lost Thing represents a deceased member of the Bill’s town. Each soul needs help transcending the void. After so many years, Bill is tired. He can feel his own time is near and knows he’ll need a replacement, which is why he agrees to teach Geoff. Geoff is a young man, married to his cancer-stricken wife Mara. But there’s a darker force at work in Bill’s town. A force that drives them to free the soul of a maniac and unleash a monster. Bill, Geoff, and Mara must overcome their fears and stop this evil before it can unleash Hell on earth.

As I plow through the writing, I find the it’s unspooling in my mind, with each day adding a new facet that I can fold into the main story.

* As this is my first NaNoWriMo, I know that when I go and try doing this again next year, it’s entirely possible that the experience will be the WORST writing experience of my life. I have this thing in my head right now itching to break free. It’s scratching at the inside of my skull with long dirty fingernails, trying to open the cracks. It’s leaking out now, right into my novel, but that’s this year. Next year, I might have the story idea, but it could fight me tooth-and-frickin-nail every day for thirty days.

* Insomuch as there is a community out there to help encourage you to write, what with all the “pep talks” that appear in your NaNoWriMo mailbox, the NaNoWriMo forums, and the NaNoCoach hashtag on Twitter, this journey, this effort, this mountain I’m (and you’re) trying to climb–yeah, well, news flash, you’re climbing it ALONE. No one can help you with it. If it’s climbing a mountain, then all the encouragement is people lining the sides of the mountain trail cheering you on. But none of them can lend a hand or lower a rope or a tree branch or find something useful to…sorry, drifting in a movie quotes for a moment. The point is, YOU are the one writing. YOU are responsible for all 50,000 words. No one else. And while encouragement helps, YOU have to be the one with the intestinal fortitude to soldier on. This is when you learn whether you really can do it.

That’s where I am so far. To date, it’s a really great experience. More than halfway there. If you’re not halfway there, no sweat, you have time. We’re not halfway through the month. You got days to make up some lost words. So let’s keep it going. Time to knuckle under, not lose focus, not stray from the marathon course, and keep going.

I got this.

So do you.

 

* Borrowed this phrase from a friend of mine because I love it.

A Grateful Remembrance

I’m reposting my entry from last year as a way of remembering the veterans in my family. This Veteran’s Day, take time to thanks the veterans you know, and their families, for both have made sacrifices for our country.

Scott C Lyerly

I’ve been thinking a lot today about my grandmother who passed away at the end of this past August. She was ninety-four years old. She out-lived her husband, my grandfather, by twenty-seven years.

The reason I’ve been thinking about her recently is because her loss is still very recent, and I haven’t quite let that settle into my mind or my heart. And because it’s Veterans Day.

My grandfather was a Marine. He joined the Marines after the bombming of Pearl Harbor. Because I was only thirteen when he died, I didn’t have the chance to ask him about his time in the service.

So many members of my grandmother’s and grandfather’s families were in the service. My grandfather and his brother were both in WWII. My grandmother’s cousins all had husbands in the service, as was my grandmother’s brother. One cousin lost her husband in the war and went…

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Happy International Keyboard Shortcut Day

no-mouse-allowedHappy International Keyboard Shortcut Day.

Never heard of it? Yeah, neither had it. That’s likely because Dick Kusleika over at Daily Dose of Excel made it up. Read more about it here. Basically, the idea is to use only your keyboard as much as possible between the time of 2:30 and 3:30 PM local on this, the first Wednesday in November.

I’m totally on board. I’m such a keyboard drive guy from my days use an old green-screen inventory management system. This should be pretty much a snap.

Happy Keyboarding!

Some Election Day Thoughts on the Viability of Candidates

ivotedDid you vote today? Should you have? If your state was running an election and you voted, good for you. If your state was running an election and you decided not to vote, well, then I guess good for you as well. One of the great things about our country is the fact that you could decide to vote or not to vote. It’s totally up to you. It’s that freedom of choice that we as Americans have that a lot of other countries do not have.

If, on the other hand, you had the opportunity to vote and simply didn’t because you were too lazy to get off the couch to do so, well then shame on you. You missed a great chance.

I really enjoy voting. I always feel happy and elated after I finish. I know I’m one small voice in a very large conversation, at least I’m making the effort for that voice to be heard. I’m actually not that heavily into politics. I don’t spend a lot of time reading political blogs, or trolling through online news/media outlets that cater to my political leanings. I do enjoy reading Politifact because of the way they pick apart the issues. They always provide clarification on some of the finer and more complex details of these talking points. I also enjoy FiveThirtyEight, because Nate Silver is so good at what he does. That’s pretty much it.

That said, I have to confess that I have opinions on what makes a good political leader. (I’m thinking mainly of the Executive branch here.)

To state my opinion, I’ll use Massachusetts as an example. Today I voted for Governor of Massachusetts. My options were Martha Coakley (D) or Charlie Baker (R). No, I’m not going to tell you how I voted. What I am going to do is talk about each candidate’s background (at a high level) and explain why I’m not sure either of their backgrounds necessarily will lead them to be effective governors.

Let’s start with Charlie Baker. In the 2012 election, I lost count of how many times I heard somebody say “we need a business leader in the White House.” Let’s bring it down a level and focus on governor, often times the step just below President. Charlie Baker was in fact a business later. He was the CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, and helped turn it around when it was facing bankruptcy.

  1. Lots of people say that good business leaders would make great political executives. Here are my basic problems with that:
    A company executive doesn’t play by the same rules that a political executive must play by. If the CEO of the company doesn’t like the performance of someone in his company, he can fire that person. Yes, there might be some hoops to jump through when it comes letting someone go, there are Human Resource personnel to consult, but in the end a CEO has enough power to make those kind of personnel decisions. When you were the president, or the governor, you can’t fire people whose performance you don’t like. Sure you can fire your cabinet secretaries or your office staff, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. A political executive needs to get work done. To do that they need to work with their counterparts in the legislature. If the president doesn’t get along with his counterparts in the legislature, he can’t fire them. Both parties have to agree to compromise or, as has been the case recently, agree not to compromise, in which case nothing gets done.
  2. Another point is that company executive can enact policy is without necessarily having a consensus. Again, a business executive isn’t going to operate in a vacuum, and obviously they will consult with other officers and usually other outside entities such HR and Legal to ensure they’re not breaking laws or fail to be in compliance with federal regulations, etc. In politics, however, order to enact political policies, you must have that majority that you don’t need in a company.

On the flip side, I’ve heard people say that lawyers make the best politicians. After all, we are a law driven the society, and the policies, laws. and procedures that politicians enact are there to provide further governance for the people. Who best to understand the inner workings of how laws are constructed and work than a lawyer? Martha Coakley is a lawyer. Does that mean she is the best qualified candidate? Not necessarily.

  1. Lawyers, in addition to have a clear understanding of how the law works, also need to understand how to lead. Being a lawyer means that you understand and know how to navigate to labyrinthine bureaucracy at is the federal government. Just because you know the way out of the maze, doesn’t mean you know how to lead people there. Sure some lawyers, probably lots of them, have a lot of leadership ability and a lot of charisma. But the practical experience of running an organization, such as a public company, weighs an awful lot in people s minds.

So who makes the best executive? A governor possibly makes the best executive when jumping from state level to govern our country. That’s why you see so many governors eventually becoming president of United States. But that’s not always the case. We’ve seen deeply ideological governors become deeply ideological presidents. They weren’t necessarily the best or brightest, yet their popular appeal helped get them in.

No, I’m thinking something else entirely. Someone with a much different experience than lawyers and CEOs. I’m going to go out on a limb here. I’m going to vote for a different kind of person.

The project manager.

This may sound weird and almost silly on the face of it, but hear me out. The primary role of a project manager is to take a group of people and lead them in an effort to deliver something to the business. If you want to get more technical, here’s the definition from PRINCE2:

A Project is a temporary organization that is created for the purpose of delivering one or more business products according to an agreed Business Case.

It seems to me that a lot of the same characteristics that qualify a person to be a great project manager could also qualify them to be a great public official. Let’s focus on a few.

  1. In any given project there is an end goal in mind. I would argue that these would be the laws, doctrines, policies, and initiatives that presidents put forth as part of their administration. How many times if we heard someone say what they’re going to do in the first hundred days in office? “Oh yeah?” I think. “Do you have a project plan for that? Then how do you know you’re going to achieve it?”
  2. Any project manager work his or her salt is going to lay out the risks and issues associated with getting this job done. When you do this, you get a fuller understanding for where the most pressing problems are or may be, as well as the to monetize (and there for plan for) any problem that occurs. I would hope any political executive who is trying to promote some kind of change would do this.
  3. A project manager is going to be given a budget. And, if they’re any good, they’ll managed to it. If it seems like the project is not going to come in on time or on budget, they may have to go back to a governing body to explain what the delay is. This is basic project management stuff. In this case, the governing body would be the voting citizens of the United States of America.
  4. A project manager is going to assemble a team that is capable of getting the job done. These are subject matter experts, technical advisers, and of course, the do-ers. You can only have so many managers before somebody has to roll up their sleeves and get the job done. If the project manager surrounds himself with the right people, then the project moves forward in a smoother way than if it was their cousin Vinny or their brother-in-law Bubba.
  5. Lastly the project manager has to be able to lay down the law when necessary. Assemble a good team, trust them to do the work, guide them when they need it, provide direction when appropriate, and given them the smack down if it’s not getting done. The understand that they succeed as a team, but if they fail, it’s the project manager who has failed.

So why not look for candidates who have a strong background in project management? There have to be reasons why this is not a good idea. Let’s hear ’em. Comment away.

NaNoWriMo 2014 – Day 2

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I promise not post progress every single day. I think will tend to make people bonkers. But here we are at the end of day two of NaNoWriMo, and I’m just curious: how’s it going?

For myself, I’m just over 6000 words. It’s a nice start, especially since I know that once the work week hits, life returns to its normal state of crazy.

No matter how far you’ve gotten remember that it’s farther than you were. Keep writing!

NaNoWriMo 2014 Commenceth

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NaNoWriMo started today. For those unfamiliar with this term, it stands for National Novel Writing Month. It started 15 years ago in the San Francisco area with 21 people participating. Last year there were over 400,000 people who participated. Not bad for something that started as a tiny idea.

So what is NaNoWriMo? It’s a thirty day month in which you are challenged to write one novel. You might think, hey, banging out a novel in thirty days? No sweat. I can read one in five. How hard can it be to write one? Well, marathon man, you can drive 26.2 miles easy-peasy, but can you run it? Okay then.

Basically, you have one month, the month of November, to write a novel. What constitutes a novel? For the purposes of NaNoWriMo, 50,000 words is a novel. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it’s a given that it’s a first draft. It doesn’t even have to be complete. You might end up writing an Alan Moore length million word gem. As long as you’ve got 50,000 words logged by midnight on November 30th, you win.

What do you win? The ability to say you came to play and play you did. It’s bragging rights. That’s about it. No cash, no prizes, just the right to say you took up the pen and completed the challenge. That said, there are sponsors who put up prizes, and who knows? You post and validate your 50,000 diamond, maybe you’ll win those. But that’s luck of the draw. The main prize is saying you did it.

Cost to participate? Exactly zero dollars. Best. Price. Ever.

Last year I couldn’t participate. I was in the middle of trying to finish the first draft of a crime novel I’ve been writing. This year, despite being in the middle of revising the second draft of said novel, I had an idea and decided to jump in.

This is my first time participating. I’m determined to finish. Rough calculation means I need to crank out about 1600 words per day. This will take me about an hour to hour and a half each day. That’s the goal. Plus, if I write more on the weekends, I can “bank” some words so I’m not as crushed for word count in the middle of the week.

I’ve already got a start and have a little over 3000 words written. I’ll be posting updates on this blog, but if you’re participating this year, you can follow me on NaNoWriMo at this link. I’ll be posting excerpts and looking for ideas and feedback as I go. Obviously I won’t have time to edit just yet, but any constructive feedback is helpful. The more the merrier.

Let’s tackle this beast together! Who’s with me?

Oh yeah, one more thing: the writing has to be legitimate writing. This doesn’t count:

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