2018 Reading

Once again this year, I participated in the GoodReads Reading Challenge. My goal was 30 books. I’d like to read more, but with a full-time day job, and work on the novel, the goal seemed achievable but at the same time, a challenge. I’m happy to report that I’m a winner! Where’s the Publisher’s Clearing House novelty check when you want it? My final tally is 38 books. Here’s what I read:

  1. Dynamic Story Creation in Plain English, Maxwell Alexander Drake
  2. Writing Mysteries, (various)
  3. Pack Dynamics, Julie Frost
  4. Interviews & Interrogations, Darren Drake
  5. Clownfish Blues, Tim Dorsey
  6. Magpie Murders, Anthony Horowitz
  7. Ordinary Grace, William Kent Kruger
  8. Knots and Crosses, Ian Rankin
  9. Ten Dead Comedians, Fred Van Lente
  10. A Case of Espionage, Paula Longhurst
  11. This Fallen Prey, Kelley Armstrong
  12. Dark Matter, Blake Crouch
  13. Bound to Die, Laurie Rockenbeck
  14. Protocol, Kathleen Valenti
  15. The Bishop’s Wife, Mette Ivie Harrison
  16. Death of a Cozy Writer, G. M. Malliet
  17. Holding, Graham Norton
  18. Abra Cadabra, David Kranes
  19. Think of a Number, John Verdon
  20. Odds On, John Lange
  21. Bluebird Bluebird , Attica Locke
  22. Money Shot, Christa Faust
  23. Hollywood Homicide, Kellye Garrett
  24. The House of Silk, Anthony Horowitz
  25. An Exaggerated Murder, Josh Cook
  26. A is for Alibi, Sue Grafton
  27. Tiny Crimes, (various)
  28. Winterkill, C. J. Box
  29. Follow Me Down, Sherri Smith
  30. A Year of the Monkeys, (various)
  31. Lethal White, Robert Galbraith
  32. The Facts of Life and Death, Belinda Bauer
  33. Killshot, Elmore Leonard
  34. Dodgers, Bill Beverly
  35. A Different Kind of Evil, Andrew Wilson
  36. The Killer Inside Me, Jim Thompson
  37. Pistols and Petticoats, Erika Janik
  38. Elusive Elixir, Gigi Pandian

So what does 2019 look like? I’m going again with 30 books. I think I can do more, but 30 is still a stretch. It will again be a mix of anthology, mystery, and craft improvement titles. What is your reading goal for 2019? Hit me up on Goodreads. Let’s keep each other moving forward to meet our goals.

Birthday Gifts

book-club

Last week I celebrated my birthday, although as you get older you tend to think that a birthday is less important and a 1-Up is much better.

My wonderful wife, who always comes up with great gifts, gave me a membership to a book club. I don’t read just anything so she had to be picky. My choices tend to be mystery (but not cozies), thrillers, and crime stories. She chose Blind Date with a Book. As it is based in the UK, I get the UK versions of books. The blind date part comes from you not choosing specific books. Instead, you just pick genres, in this case she selected three genres, and they pick the book for you. You don’t know what title you’re going to get.

There is good and bad in book clubs. The first is you’ll likely get books you don’t want to read. The good is you get books you likely wouldn’t pick on your own. Such is the case with my first book, Dodgers by Bill Beverly (The US imprint was published by Penguin). This is a crime story, not a baseball story. The book club shipped it gift wrapped and with a personalized birthday card. Here’s the book’s  Goodreads synopsis:

Dodgers is a dark, unforgettable coming-of-age journey that recalls the very best of Richard Price, Denis Johnson, and J.D. Salinger. It is the story of a young LA gang member named East, who is sent by his uncle along with some other teenage boys—including East’s hothead younger brother—to kill a key witness hiding out in Wisconsin. The journey takes East out of a city he’s never left and into an America that is entirely alien to him, ultimately forcing him to grapple with his place in the world and decide what kind of man he wants to become.

Written in stark and unforgettable prose and featuring an array of surprising and memorable characters rendered with empathy and wit, Dodgers heralds the arrival of a major new voice in American fiction.

Dodgers won several big awards including the LA Times Book Prize for Best Mystery/Thriller, the British Book Award for Best Crime and Thriller Novel, The CWA Golden Dagger, and the CWA John Creasey Dagger Award. This isn’t a new book. It was first published in 2016.

I’ll withhold my review until I’m done reading the book. Watch my Goodreads page for the review in the next few days. And I will anxiously await the next delivery from Blind Date with a Book.

Improve Your Podcast

Earlier this year I took a new day job. Instead of working from home, I now commute about 23 miles one way. Recently I decided to listen to writing podcasts during the commute and started with some recommended by writerly friends. As I expected, the quality varied.

podcast-microphoneThere are two things that make a podcast successful. Great content and great sound. While every podcast I sampled had the content, the sound quality wasn’t there on many of them. Typically, one of the hosts sounded fine while another didn’t. While I recognize the sound can’t be great every single time, I sampled more than one episode of the suspect podcasts and found each of them consistently had bad sound quality. Despite the good content, I have dropped all of the bad sound ones from my feed.

I spent my high school and college years working at several different radio stations and learned much about sound. For a podcast, there are three primary causes of bad sound.

First up is low quality microphones. If you’re going to have a good quality podcast, get good quality mics. You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars. Quality mics are available on Amazon for around $50. Read reviews. Talk to other podcasters. Do your research. Note that most headsets have very poor quality mics, so skip these all together unless you want to pony up the cost for broadcast quality hardware like TV sports announcers use.

Second, make sure you are close enough to the mic. My guess is the poor quality on most of the podcasts I checked out was due to having one mic and the second host was too far away. TV and movies are notorious for doing this in scenes, even where the actor was supposed to be a professional. Get one mic for every person. You don’t need to put your lips on the mic, but it should quite close to you.

Third, make sure you use the mic correctly. Have you ever been to a meeting where the speaker holds the mic in front of their mouth and you still can’t hear them? Some mics are designed to speak directly into the top end, others the side of the mic. Still others are designed to pick up lots of sound. These are called omni-directional. Not good for podcasts as they are more likely pick up your barking dog or the garbage truck outside. Know what kind you have and how to use it.

One final tip to keep that mic in top usable condition. Don’t tap it to check if it’s on. That can damage the sensitive filament that picks up sound. You should speak into it.

There were other reasons why I dropped some podcasts. On one the host would giggle for no reason. It was annoying. But for most, it was due to poor sound.

Infinite Weekend 2018

As a writer, sometimes the best thing to do is get away. This weekend, I am at the Infinite Weekend Writer Retreat at a cabin in the mountains of Utah. I am surrounded by 30 of my writerly friends who are all at various stagings of writing their short stories or novels spanning various genres, mystery, horror, and fantasy.

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What is the retreat all about? Basically it is hitting some writing goals, whether that be actual new words on a page, pre-writing for NaNoWriMo, revising, or editing. We all take turns at preparing and cleaning up a meal. There are a couple of short educational presentations each day. There is plenty of time to hike, sleep, explore, or just think. And at night there are games or movies to rest the brain. It’s also a time to make new friends and see old ones again.

This is my third year at the Infinite Retreat, a testimony to how great this weekend it. Getting a retreat is something every writer should take time for. They are amazing.

LUW Fall Conference

One of the awesome perks of being a member of the League of Utah Writers is attending the annual Fall Conference. This year, it will be October 6-7 at Salt Lake Community College in Taylorsville. dreambig

I decided not to speak at the conference this year so that I can concentrate on learning. With Friday being free for everyone and Saturday featuring special guests Kevin J. Anderson and J.H. Moncrieff, as well as a host of local presenters, there is so much to learn.

Some classes I plan to get to are Get to Work, Law for Writers, Improve Your Online Karma, Scrivener Beyond the Basics: Outlining your Novel, Tips for Beginners, Writing Courtroom Scenes, and Grand Opening: How to Get Your Book Off to a Good Start. And that’s just the first day.

Things will wrap up Saturday evening with the Awards Banquet, where the league hands out awards in many categories. Then there is the Passing of the Gavel, where the new President takes over. I’m excited to see why my friend Johnny Worthen has planned for the league over the next year.

No matter what level your writing skills are at, there will be something for you at the Fall Conference. Please find me and say hello. I’ll be wearing a t-shirt with a funny saying. And above all, take what you learn, and get writing.

LUW 2017 Spring Conference

A year ago I was struggling with my first work of fiction, “Compelled to Kill”. When I started writing, I thought it would be easy. After all, I’d written two books and numerous magazine articles on software development. But I was struggling. It was much harder than I thought. So, I attended the League of Utah Writers Spring Conference.

I met other writers. I met editors. I met agents. I took notes. I learned. I applied. Here we are a year later and I’m still struggling with the story. But the difference is, today I have an idea of what I need to do. And it started at that conference.

What followed is exciting. I got sucked into the Utah writer community and I’m happy I did. I regularly attend two different chapter meetings, Oquirrh and Infinite Monkeys. I attended a writing retreat. I went to the Fall Conference.

Then in January, I started giving presentations at chapter meetings. And today, I’m excited to announce that I will be speaking at Spring Conference. My topic there will be Unintrovertable. I’m thrilled to be chosen. And not only will this be your own opportunity to grow your skills and meet others. It will also be your chance to heckle me. Not something you get to do every day.

LUWSpringLogo2017

How do you sign up? I’m glad you asked. First, block off Saturday, April 8 on your calendar. Second, plan your route to Salt Lake Community College Taylorsville Campus. Finally, go to www.leagueofutahwriters.com and click on the Spring Conference banner right on the home page. Prices start at just $25, making this a cheap date.

Do it. Now. And I’ll see you there!

Un-introvert-able

Writers sometimes get to make up new words. It’s quite fun. Trust me. In this case, Un-introvert-able, is the name of my new class specifically for writers.

Here’s the synopsis:

Writers are often introverts. And sometimes without preparation you need to say something in public. But fear takes over and you say nothing. In this class, I take what I’ve learned from teaching software developers how to be better speakers and apply it to impromptu speaking for writers.

Topics that are covered:

  • How the introvert’s mind works
  • Overcoming fear
  • Preparing for the impromptu moment
  • The verbal story pitch
  • Asking questions at conferences and seminar
  • Readings and book launches

Class: 1 hour. Lecture style. Some class participation.

If you’re interested in having me present this class at your writer’s group or conference, contact me.