I'm Still Here by Kenneth Buff

Hello everyone. Long time no post. I thought I should catch you guys up with where I am in life, explain why I haven't hit my previous publishing projections I set for myself, and also reassure those of you looking for the next chapter in the Dick and Henry series and The Sunborn Saga that despite my slower production schedule, they are indeed in the works and will be published.

So, for starters, I have a new job. I spent the last year staying home with my daughter (she is now a year and two months), raising her, and now I've rejoined the work force again as special education teacher. I'm in a new district, serving new students with new needs, so there's been a lot of off-contract hours put into this, which takes away writing time. There's also a lot of time that I have to spend with my daughter and wife once I'm off work as well of course, and then there's that master's degree I'm currently working towards in SPED that is a requirement for me to complete to keep my new position. So, these things have put a bit of a damper on my writing time. But, that being said, they really have increased my passion for it, believe it or not. My brain is turning more now, and the excitement of creating a good story is burning as strong in me as it ever has.

That being said, I am currently working on a short story. I would say it's 2-3 nights from the first draft being completed. From there I'll mull it over some more until I feel it's good enough for my editing group to read, and after they look at it and get it back to me I'll do some more passes until the story feels complete. This is one of my mid-novel break stories I always do when I'm writing a novel. It's a dark fantasy story, something that would fit right in with my Skeletons collection.

That novel I'm currently working on is titled Little Noises. It's a dark fantasy more inline with Bad Dreams than Dick and Henry or Sunborn. I'm probably about 90% done with it, and it'll end up being 75,000 words or so (give or take).

Typically I give myself estimates on completion, and I usually lag behind those, so this time I'm not making any promises to myself or to you. I know what I have to put in for my job, my schoolwork, and my family, and there's no room in there to give. Which leaves me with about an hour or less a day to write. That being said, I'm looking ahead to school breaks (Christmas Break, Spring Break, Summer Break) and am already planning out how I'll squeeze in maximum writing and editing time so I can get as many novels edited and published as possible (I still have some I'm sitting on that just need revisions. These are novels that are not part of any of my series, sorry folks).

So, if you're a new reader or an old one, know that I'm aware I have series that are currently drifting in the wind, waiting for the next parts to be written and I do hear them calling for the next chapter. Also know that in my head those stories are brewing, and that I can't wait for the day to come where I pour the words out, edit those words into submission, and then hit that publish button.

Another thing before I go, I'm looking at this as a long game. I have many stories I want to tell. Both in my current Dick and Henry and Sunborn series, and other original novels and short stories. I plan to write all of them, no matter how long that may take. Nothing bothers me more than a story not finished, so there's no need to worry about that. But the way I'm looking at it is that I know over time I will get more efficient at planning for my new classroom, I will finish up my classes in a year, and I will get back some of my lost time, freeing me up for more writing. I also have my school breaks built into the calendar. So I'm not worried about the fact that right now things are slower, because I know they'll speed up. I also know that I'm not quitting this, and that my whole life I've been a writer, and I will always continue to be that.

Thank all of you for following me and my crazy characters. I hope to continue to bring more of them to life for years to come.

Punching Down by Kenneth Buff

Something's been bothering me lately. It's this "over liberalism" I've been experiencing on Facebook and Twitter. By that I mean this somewhat popular idea that you take a liberal position, and take it to so far to an extreme that it no longer makes sense. The one I'm thinking of specifically that I've seen a lot lately—because of bad actors who happen to be female in the Trump administration (Ivanka, Melania, Sarah Huckabee Sanders) have been in the news a lot lately—is the idea that women have been systematically abused by society, therefore we shouldn't criticize them. The first part of the statement is true, the second part is an extreme position that makes no sense, and actually does the opposite of what the believers of this idea intend it to do. Liberals (even extreme ones) believe women should be treated equally. Holding them all up to some idealized pedestal where we can't criticize them is not treating them equally. This position is actually how we got the systematic problems we have now. People used to believe women were too beautiful (which meant delicate. Flowers are beautiful, they're soft and easily destroyed, etc.) to be in the work force, too innocent to be bothered with seeking a life outside of the home. We're past a lot of these ideas now, going back to them is not helpful.

When someone cuts me off on the highway, I yell at them the same way regardless of sex. My go-tos are usually "asshole," "dickhead," maybe "motherfucker" if I'm really upset. I tend to take this style of criticism (equal across sex and race) and apply it to everything in life. It doesn't matter to me if you're a man or a women, when you do something shitty that affects other people, especially in mass, it needs to be called out.

Above, I wrote: Liberals (even extreme ones) believe women should be treated equally. Something in my own sentence I just wrote bothers me. It's the parenthesis, Liberals (even extreme ones). I honestly don't think there's such a thing as an extreme liberal. Either you're a liberal or your not. If you have a policy idea that doesn't make sense, that's not liberalism, that's nonsense, and nonsense isn't a platform. And really, anymore I don't even like the idea of political labels. Yes, I think most of the platform ideas of "liberals" make sense, but so do some from libertarians, and probably some from conservatives. Overall, I don't like the candidates put forth by either of those parties (the libertarians or the Republicans), but there's common ground that can be and should be found to get shit done.

But, I digress, let me get back to my main point. The bad actors in the Trump administration (when examined it appears to be literally all of them) are objectively terrible people, and regardless of their sex it's okay, and in fact should be the duty of every American citizen, to say so. You can phrase it as their policies are bad and you don't know how they are as a person all you want, I suppose. It's still a free country, but when you knowingly do the evil things this administration does, there's no argument for morality in your personal life when this is what you do with your public one.


Where We Are by Kenneth Buff

So summer's here. As a teacher (and stay at home parent...I'm currently both 🤷) that's always nice. The last three years we've always moved (to another state) when summer came around, so it's nice to finally be able to basically enjoy this one. Well, mostly. Both Miranda and I will still be taking summer classes to get fully certified up here in Kansas, and we're hoping to buy our first home and move into it, but, other than that, we're basically lounging, doing what teachers are supposed to do during summer once they're seasoned (of course we'll be looking-up strategies, curriculum, and re-designing our classrooms throughout the summer, so 🤷).

With all that said I still plan to get my post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel, MOON, out this summer. I've got it in my head what I want to do with it in the rewrite, and I'm ready to steamroll through it once I feel like I can. Typically I finish my works in progress (currently 50k into another novel titled Little NoisesI) before I move onto another, but writing has been slow going for me lately. There's been a lack of motivation for various reasons, and now I'm trying to decide if I want to finish Little Noises first, pushing my self hard to complete it quickly while maintaining quality, or do I want to push pause on it and instead focus on getting MOON rewritten and then rewritten again, and then edited, and then published.

That sounds like a lot, but when I'm rewriting/editing, I'm flying. I work tirelessly on whatever book I'm rewriting for hours every single day until it's done. And then when it's done I read it on my Kindle for another two–three days, writing down all the typos I catch, phrases that need changed, etc., and then if I make major changes I load it back up into my Kindle and I do it again. So, yeah, I'm vary thorough now when it comes to editing (and this is after I've already had the first draft edited, which I then use during my rewrite to get all the problem areas fixed as well as the original typos).

I think I'm currently going to keep working on Little Noises, trying to hammer out as much as possible this next week, and then decide the following week if I want to hit the pause button and jump head on into rewriting, editing, and then publishing my next novel. It's a tough decision, because I really love editing and rewriting. It gives you a clear structure that you don't necessarily have when you're writing the first draft. You have a goal that's easier to measure (take this work that already exists and make it good instead of just 🤷) and it's easy to create a workflow that doesn't feel grinding, but rather inspiring. When you're writing the first draft there are major highs and lows. Sometimes you think the writing is going amazing, other times you think it's complete shit. But unfortunately you have to finish it, regardless of how you're feeling, or how good or bad the actual writing really is (your feelings are not the best measure of this. Your eyes days later when your emotions are separated from the words are).

The Stories in My Head and On My Hard Drive by Kenneth Buff

So the Bad Dreams audiobook is almost done. We're probably hours away from it being up on Amazon for all you audiophiles out there. But, that being so, my mind is locked on all the projects I have in the wings. (Also, I should mention I have a new short story out as well, it's titled WayfinderI'm currently writing a new novel I'm calling Little Noises. It's about time travel, memories, regret, and more. It's probably the most Stephen King-ish thing I've written as a novel, but it's definitely more sci-fi than anything he's written and it's definitely written in my usual breezy style (sometimes I buck my own convictions, and intentionally write differently. As I did with some shorts in Skeletons and in the first Sunborn novel).

I've also got a novel I've been sitting on called MOON, which needs a pretty big re-write. My writing group has edited it, and I just need to go through each chapter, re-write it, and clean it up several times. Moon is a sort of farcical post-apocalyptic story with heavy sci-fi elements as well (I like to genre blend. Bad Dreams is another example. I combined horror and fantasy in that one). It's about personal promises, and the loneliness and desperation one feels when living alone for far too long.

Further down the line is a two part novel I have called Breachers. It needs an even bigger re-write than MOON, and is one I've been sitting on since Colorado. It was inspired by my first year as a special education teacher. Seeing kids deathly afraid of the state test, and the way teachers and principals talked about the test, made me imagine a world where kids who couldn't pass it couldn't live. So, this dystopian novel was born, and it stars a teacher with a conscience, and a band of kids who've been sentenced to death.

I also have the first chapter of a new Dick and Henry story written and a plan for a new series within the series. Basically I want to write a series of novelettes that will be connected into a larger work. So, it will basically be like the first D&H book, A Space Saga only much longer. The first story in this novelette series is about a kidnapping that takes place at a wedding. I want to expand on Dick's character in this series, exploring how a man feels after coming home from a long journey in space. I also want to explore his questioning of his humanity, his friendship with Henry, as well as delve into his sudden fatherhood and marriage to a women who was once a criminal he detained.

So, that's where I am right now. There's always more stories cooking upstairs too, which makes it even harder to finish current projects on time. Makes me feel like this Tweet by Hugh Howey:

Screen Shot 2018-04-26 at 8.19.32 AM.png

And The Book Is... by Kenneth Buff


Ta-da! The first book from my catalog to become an audio book will be Bad DreamsJust look at that new beautiful cover art by the talented Ben Adams (you can find his artwork on dozens of popular book covers, including inside the paperback edition of best-selling author Hugh Howey's book, Beacon 23).

So, we have new art, and also, a new voice. To find that voice I went through Amazon's ACX, which is essentially the KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) of audiobooks. Or really, more like a Fiverr website that's strictly for audiobooks. Once I had this new slick artwork for Bad Dreams I uploaded my prepared script (I picked scenes that highlighted the tone and the main characters arcs) and hit the submit button. After that the auditions rolled in. I did some reading on this process, as it's a big decision and a lot of work and cost, and was afraid that I wasn't going to be able to afford a high quality narrator. I had my project listed in the $100-$200 PFH section, and from what I read you needed to be in the $200-$400 PFH section to get the professionals (I've waited this long to make any of my novels into audiobooks, so having something sloppy that will have to be replaced later didn't appeal to me).

Needless to say I considered canceling the whole thing. I wrote the blog post in my head, telling you, dear readers, that I wasn't going to be able to bring the story to your ears just yet, but hopefully one day. But then a day or so went by and I decided to look through the auditions despite what I had read. I clicked on some profiles, and saw that indeed most of the auditions were from people who had never produced an audiobook. But then I saw something that caught my eye. It was a yellow checkmark next to the name of a narrator, and I knew this meant something important, because Twitter and Facebook have taught me well. So, I clicked on Steve Carlson's audition, and I was blown away by the world he created with the words I had written. It was the kind of thing that makes you feel like you're not half-bad at what you do. So, after that I talked with my wife, I listened to all the other auditions (some were not good at all, others were not the right fit) and in the end I decided to go with Carlson.

Carlson's a professional. He's an author, TV and film star, and more recently the narrator of over 60 audiobooks. You can check out his resume here if you'd like more details (check out that Bruce Campbell flick!)

Now, as far as release date, I would say this will probably be out on the world of Amazon in a month or two. But, if you don't think you can wait that long you could always get yourself a copy of the paperback or ebook with that new awesome art! Click here if your heart desires.


An Audiobook by Kenneth Buff

Well, it's been a while since I've commented here. My last post was in November where I laid out my projections for future publications. I'm behind them by a month or so. Little Noises is 40 thousand words in (hoping for 65-70), and Moon is still waiting to be edited. I have the beginning of a future Dick and Henry story written (and the plot for more of it in my mind), but it's sitting and waiting for me to finish the projects in front of it. 

A lot of the reason I'm running behind (aside from the short stories that pop up demanding to be written...you'll see some of those in the near future on Amazon) is just bad time management on my part. I'm still adjusting to being a father, a friend, and a husband while also still working on my writing. It's a struggle, but one I can overcome if I buckle down and adhere to the schedule.

Well, enough of the "bad news." Let's talk about the fun project I have in the works that requires very little time from me creatively (meaning you will see this project sooner than any other on my list). I've currently commissioned a new cover for one of my earlier novels with plans to turn this book into an audiobook! 

The process for this is relatively easy using Amazon's audible service. I create a script for potential narrators, describe the characters, plot, and what I'm looking for, and then I post it and sort through the submissions until I've found someone who clicks with the project. I'm looking forward to collaborating with someone to bring one of my stories to life in a new way and bring it to a wider audience. 

Oh. I haven't told you what book it is yet. Should I tell you? Hmm...maybe I'll wait until I have the cover and reveal it then. 

Yeah. I think you'll have to wait. Should have something to share this coming week.

Current Projects & 2017-2018 Projections by Kenneth Buff

So, it's been a little bit since I've wrote a post on where I am in my conveyer belt of work (I've written before about my process as a conveyor. I write, wait for my writing buddies to edit, then finish what I'm writing, give it to my writing buddies, and then edit what they've finally finished editing), so I thought I'd do that with this post today. Okay, so currently I'm working on a project I'm calling "Little Noises," it's at 30,000 words, and I'm projecting it to end up at about sixty-something-thousand. It's a bit of a genre blend, it has sci-fi elements, fantasy, and probably more horror elements than anything else I've written before (I had no real genre intentions when I started writing it—I often don't—but it just kind of became what it is, and I think that's a good thing). It feels like very strong writing, I don't think I'll have to give it a major overhaul when I'm done (I'll do my usual editing, but I feel like I won't have to scrap a lot and write whole new chapters like I've done with other works). 

Once I finish with my first draft of "Little Noises" I'll start editing the previous novel I finished, "Moon." The cover is ready for that one, and my writing buddies have finished editing it, so I just need to sit down and hammer out the final version. 

After I finish with "Moon," then I'll probably work on my next Dick and Henry story. There's been a recent up tick in the sales of The Temporary Detectivewhich has really inspired me to work faster on that series. I have one story I've started that's still in the beginning, but I have others in my head that I want to commit to paper as well. It's taking some self-control to not jump into writing a new Dick and Henry story right now, as I have too many open projects that I need to finish before I commit to something else. I might write a Dick and Henry short story on the side (and the hope, if I do do that, would be to eventually write enough Dick and Henry short stories to make a new short story collection, only this one would be much longer than The Space Saga). 

So, as of now, I'm projecting I'll finish "Little Noises" by Christmas or early January, and then work on "Moon" after that and get it out by February. And then I'll start work on a new Dick and Henry story (hopefully I'll get some Dick and Henry short stories out too, as those can be published much faster), finish it within three months (so around May) and then have the new Dick and Henry novel (or novella) out by Summer of 2018. These are projections, so they're subject to change, but I will try to stick to these as solidly as I can, as it gives me reason to stick with my writing regiment and helps push me harder.

Prime Surprise Sweets by Kenneth Buff

So, I did it. I bought the button and I pressed it. If you're wondering what the hell I'm talking about, let me explain.

Amazon has a new program they're calling Prime Surprise Sweets. So, what it is a box of random treats put in a box and shipped to you. You order them, you don't know what they are, but you're excited anyways because they're a sweet surprise. Sound gimmicky? I haven't even gone over the biggest gimmicky part yet. To order this box of random treats, you first have to order the button to place your order. That's right, you'll have to order a physical button ($4.99 on Amazon) and then connect the button to your wi-fi at home to be able to order your surprise. The button is $4.99, the box is $18, but you get a "discount" of $4.99 off your first box (it's not a real discount as everything in the box only adds up to $13.01 when you check the prices in the invoice of your order).

So, despite the obvious gimmicky nature of this new Amazon program, I decided to give it a try. Mostly because I love sweets, but I also love Amazon, even when they do stupid stuff like this (making you pay for a separate button? Like the one-push-button on the site wasn't good enough to appeal to impulse buying?).

So, four days after pushing the button I got my first order, and in it I found four things. Sugar cookie chips, a chocolate whoopie pie, lemon infused shortbread, and strawberry mango gummy pandas. Everything you get in a Prime Surprise box is said to be made in "small batches" from "artisans across the country." The packages tote things like "organic" and other hippie buzzwords (don't get me started on the organic fad—or hippies). But, despite the pretentiousness of the program, the treats were all pretty good. My favorite was probably the cinnamon sugar cookie chips by HannahMax. The only problem was that because these are all expensive high quality treats, the serving size is kind of small (but, really all you need anyways), and relatively expensive. A Amazon search of any of the items in the box will confirm that you are indeed "getting a deal" by receiving them in the Surprise box, as everything I found in mine was only available in bulk from the sellers on Amazon for ridiculous prices (the Whoopie pies sell for $59.00 for a 12 pack).

Overall, I think I'll press it again, but only once a month or so as $18.00 boxes for what amounts to two evenings of dessert (you could stretch it out longer, but who has the will power for that?) is too steep for me.

I've added my unboxing video below of my first Surprise box.

Wait or Go?: How To Write a Story by Kenneth Buff

When it comes to writing a novel, there are two schools of thought. One says you need to wait for inspiration before you start pounding away on the keyboard. This theory says that you'll just gargle out crap if you don't. The other says you need to gargle out crap, that you need to type away before you lose your nerve, and sort the mess out later. So, which one is it that we should follow as writers? Speaking for myself, I think it's a bit of both.

It's definitely possible to finish a novel that you're not really invested in. I've done that a few times (and only published one of them so far after many extensive edits), and later edited it over and over again until it was something I could be proud of putting my name on. It was a lot of work, but in the end I had a finished book of high quality. That being said, even books that you're writing that you absolutely love the premise of, you will get sick of writing at some point. You'll reach a section where you're not sure what should happen, or you are sure what should happen, but you don't want to have to write all the stuff that comes between your last scene and what you want to happen next. Those are instances where you'll have to enact the second method of pushing through, writing even if you don't feel like it, maybe even writing something that's not that great, knowing you'll come back and fix it later. This can be painful, but if you're writing to move the story, doing what feels right, you may not have as much work to do later as you think.

Now, there have definitely been times when the inspiration has been so strong in my stories that the books almost wrote themselves. As I stated above, this does not last in any work, you always reach a point where it gets bumpy, but some books for me (like Bad Dreamsdid come easier throughout the whole process than others. One of my favorite memories of writing Bad Dreams is one that involved me waiting out my inner inspiration. I was probably 55,000-60,000 words into the book at this point, right at the end of it in terms of the story, and I knew I needed to nail the ending, but I just didn't know what that ending needed to be yet. So, I waited. thinking on it everyday, reading, talking to friends about my dilemma (I didn't share details, as I was afraid of spoiling the story) until I finally felt I was close to what I needed to do, and then I sat down and wrote it. I didn't have the full ending in my head, but I had an idea of how it should feel, and then I sat down and did the work, and it was an ending that I've received the most compliments on to this day. So, sometimes it pays to wait for your muse, as long as you're aware it may never come fully formed, and you may have to work with whatever she's willing to bring you (or "he." I hear Stephen King's muse is "a basement guy.")

In the end, no matter how you choose to fuel yourself for your writing (whether with inspiration or coffee) it will be you sitting behind the keys, pumping out words as fast and fluently as you can to build a world that didn't exist before you willed it. The choice is yours on how quickly you get there, and on how vivid that world is, but whatever you do, don't give up on that world.  A story abandoned is a sad thing. It's a bicycle without a chain. A balloon without air. Push through, or take a pause and think about your story as long as it takes until you know (or at least "feel") where your story needs to go. You owe the story (and yourself) that.

New Dick and Henry Story by Kenneth Buff

I've started a new Dick and Henry story, I'm about 6,000 words in, and I think it's coming along pretty well. I'm hitting pause on it while I work on some other stories, and it feels right to me. As much as I want to continue the Dick and Henry series, and as much as I have planned, it is hard to feel as passionate about these projects as I do some of my others. I think the issue is one both of limitation and one of difficulty. For me, there are limitations when writing in a series. There has to be an arc for the characters to reach within any story, or there is no point to the story. It will feel hollow if the characters don't grow. When dealing with a series, one which each novel is self contained, it's difficult to make that growth meaningful each time (and also realistic). I almost feel like I have to hold back on where I'd like to take Dick emotionally, for fear of going too far and having nothing left to say in future stories. Perhaps this is something I need to map out, so I can see exactly where I want Dick to be, and see what his arcs should be in each book. I know story wise what I want the next and last book to be about, but I haven't really thought heavily on the themes, though they seem to come naturally when I stop and think about them (each mystery has an obvious theme that would work with the story, but I won't mention them here, as it would spoil the surprise). Now, that was me describing what I feel are for me, the limitations of writing in a series, now I'll talk about the difficulty of writing in the Dick and Henry universe. I am primarily a sci-fi and fantasy writer. I don't write epic fantasy (the stuff with elves and dragons), but typically dark fantasy (Stephen King, mostly without the horror). You can get examples of this in the descriptions both my novels Bad Dreams and Lady Luck. Dick and Henry is definitely science fiction, but it's different then some of my other science fiction. Sunborn, is scifi, and so are many of the stories in Skeletons, but both Sunborn and Skeletons have aspects of dark fantasy. They both have gritty realism peppered around the sci-fi bits that ground it into something we could imagine our world turning into. Dick and Henry is different. It's primarily escapism, a throwback to the sci-fi stories of the 1950s, peppered with bits of social commentary and humanism themes. It's in these stories that I'm working my hardest to fit genre conventions to meet the expectations of my readers. I learned this the hard way, that readers will pick up a copy of a story expecting one thing, only to find themselves angry when they get another. I went back and edited the first collection of Dick and Henry stories, cutting out the heavy swearing. In the sequel I made sure to write the first draft without heavy cursing, and played up the sense of adventure and fun.

Now, despite Dick and Henry being some of the hardest fiction for me to write, it doesn't mean that I don't enjoy it, just that it takes me longer to do it, and I feel less inclined to take wild chances (chances that sometimes pay off, as in the twists people loved in Bad Dreams). 

I plan to finish the new Dick and Henry story I have in the pipe in time, but right now I'm taking a break from it and working on (you guessed it) a dark fantasy story about a guy who works for a memory altering company who decides to use the technology on himself. 

I have some interesting plans for Henry's character after the Dick and Henry series comes to a close, but I won't reveal them until things have moved further along. Until then, you'll just have to wait.

New Stories and a New Project (if you know some authors, comment below) by Kenneth Buff

There's a lot of projects I have going on now, and a lot of change going on in my personal life as well. My wife and I have moved to a new state, we've had our first child, and of course started new jobs. In the mean time I've come up with some new stories, many original ideas, one a sequel (a new Dick and Henry story), and I still have a finished novel that needs edited and published (though the cover is done, thanks to Michael Rubi). The obvious solution to this problem is to streamline my ideas, or rather, to pick a project and finish it, and then move on to another project and do the same thing, and to order them by urgency. So, that's what I've decided to do. First, I will finish a currently untitled short story that I'll release as a single and probably later add to a collection. Second, I will finish editing my next novel, Moon, and then publish it. While editing Moon, I will most likely start publishing a bi-weekly short story magazine that currently has the working title of "Alternate Worlds." It will be a science fiction and fantasy short story magazine featuring a rotating list of indie authors (if you know anyone who'd like to submit their stories, please comment below.)

I'm hoping to have the short story I'm currently working on done this week, I'll then have one of my writing buddies look over it, I'll edit it, design some cover art, then hit publish on KDP and get started on the next draft of Moon. I'll probably have to do several drafts of Moon before I'm fully satisfied with it. Hoping to only have to do four or five different drafts, but I'll keep hitting it until it's nice and smooth and all the themes shine through the way that they should.

Well, that's it for new updates on where I am, I'll get back with you when I have more news to share.

New Cover For A Friend by Kenneth Buff

As a self published author, you do a lot more than just writing. You spend a lot of your time editing, formatting, and creating covers. Below is one I redesigned for a friend, Quinn Baldwin.  

Justin Malone.jpg

Below is the old cover:

Unplugging by Kenneth Buff

Well, there's a lot of updates I need to make. Lots of new projects and life happenings that I haven't shared. I've been waiting to do so until the time felt right, and for me, it feels right. So I'll start below.

The biggest and most important change is that I am now a father. I have a daughter, and she is amazing. The feelings, and complete happiness that parenthood brings are in themselves things I will have to write about in the near future, as they are truly "life changing," as everyone states, but for me, they're different than the scary sounding words most people either intend to instill in you, or they realize you're going to be incredibly happy, and they just want it to be a surprise? For me, I feel like I haven't thought more clearly in years. My priorities are straight, and I'm just incredibly happy (in a content sort of way. As in, this is the way it's supposed to be, not in a I'm going to a theme park sort of way).

But I want to stop short of going thoroughly into the early feelings and experiences of parenthood I've had, and focus on one specific decision I've made as a result of now being a parent. And that's the decision of unplugging myself from my smartphone. I've made the choice to switch from my iPhone to a Nokia candy bar phone. I've made this decision as I want to be aware, as I am now, of what's going on in the room around me. I want to go out for dinner and talk to the people sitting across from me without getting antsy during the natural lulls in conversation. But most of all I want to be there for my daughter. And for me, having the constant urge to check my Facebook, the news, or any other time hole is not how I want to do it. I've noticed the slow change in my behavior that I once mocked my closest friends for exhibiting. A dependency on their phones that made them seem like metaphorical crack addicts, sniffing at their "feeds" from the glowing rectangle in their hands whenever possible. That, like everyone else I know (minus a few ridiculed outliers), has become me. I find myself tempted to reach down to my plastic stimulus machine while waiting in short lines, slow dinner conversations, and bowel movements.

It's tempting to just shrug our shoulders, and say, "Eh, everybody's doing it. This is just the new normal." But I balk at that. Just because something is ubiquitous, does not make it the best way to live your life. I'm ready to travel back in time a bit, at least in my hand. Honestly, I don't need to know what's happening in the Stillwater Community Watch Facebook Group page all day long. The shit just gives me a headache. I'm pulling the plug, I'll let you know how it makes me feel.

Lady Luck: Update by Kenneth Buff

Well, here I am. Plugging away on the fourth draft (maybe 5th if you count a typo run I’ve already done) of a book I finished writing a year ago. I know some of my friends who follow me on  my Facebook author page have felt it curious that I seem to jump from project to project (after I finished writing Lady Luck I started writing another novel), but for me, it’s part of the process. It’s a slow process, but it’s one that I plan to speed up now that my wife and I are relocating (again).

The reason that I take so much time in my projects (specifically why I take so long editing them, and creating new drafts) is that I want the books to be as good as they can be. I do this for the readers, and for myself. I try to improve my books with each one, hopefully learning to slowly perfect what I do.

Lady Luck is becoming a much better book with each new draft. The story idea is staying the same, but I’m sharpening it’s message, speeding it up, and giving it more of a purpose for existing. My hope is that it becomes a page-turner dark fantasy. One that is fun, and maybe even a little scary at times.  It’s probably going to end up being around 50,000 words, putting it in the category of short novel, which isn’t a bad category to be in.

Well, that’s my latest update on where I’m at on Lady Luck. I better get back to the grind. I’m hoping to have it published next month, and from their I’ll begin editing my next novel, Moon.

Google by Kenneth Buff

I"m sure most of you out there are familiar with the world's most popular search engine. It's now used as a verb. As in: "I'll Google it." Which is great. We live in a world where you can discover anything you want with just the few clicks of some keys. I just wish more people would take advantage of this fact.

Why would some people prefer to sit around not knowing, or pretending that something is impossible to do themselves? I don't know. You can do literally learn to do anything yourself if you're physically able and own a computer, cell phone, or tablet and have internet access (which is now the majority of Americans). 

So, here's my advice, to everyone: if you want to know how to do something, Google it. If you don't bother to take the seconds it takes to type it into the search box, and then the minutes it would require to watch a video or a read an article or forum, than you can't really say that you actually want to know how to do something. You might really just want someone to do it for you. Which is fine, just be honest about it.

Donate by Kenneth Buff

I've posted this on Facebook and Twitter, but thought I should also say something on my blog to reach out to those on Goodreads (or anywhere else) who might want to help. A student of mine, a 9 year old girl named Kandice, was struck by a car three days ago while walking across the street at a park with her mother. Her mother was struck as well. They were pinned between two vehicles, and have suffered internal injuries (Kandice's injuries are extensive).

As we all know, medical bills are expensive, and their needs are very high. If you can, please help ease this family's burden by donating whatever you may be able to.

You can do so at the link below:


Summer Pace by Kenneth Buff

Summer's here, which means I'm freed up from my day job, and have more time to work on my writing. By more time, I mean all the time I want. Which is good, because getting a book polished enough to publish takes a lot of time.

I've been burned on editing before, I paid a lot of money and received numerous complaints on the quality of the job, so I now personally go over my draft numerous times, as well as have my writing-critique group go over it. I've got a whole process for this, and it works really well. The only problem is that it takes a lot of time. My critique group is probably the aspect that takes the most. We meet every two weeks and go over 20 pages of each others books (but if you're Quinn, you only do 15 pages). Once I have my critique-group's comments, it takes me about a month to edit through my manuscript with them. Then another few days of full time editing to get all the material added (or cut) that I want, and then another full day to get the typos. After that I spend a week or so getting the cover ready, and the description of the book for Amazon. And this all happens after having spent three months writing the first draft. It's fun, and I enjoy each step of the process (editing is actually my favorite part), but it is worth stating that it is a time consuming process.

I'm unfortunately a person who often cares about other people's opinions. Or, at least in select situations. Like most people, I'm a walking-contradiction, but for the sake of this anecdote, let's just say I often care too much about other people's opinions. So, I post a lot of writer updates on my Facebook page (Kenneth Buff—Author), and one day a friend of mine made a comment that "it seems you jump around a lot from project to project." By this, my friend meant that I don't finish projects. I just get one mostly done, and then move onto something else. Which, I understand when you just glance at it from the outside, that could be what you see. But I can tell you, the process is not fast. At least not when you're having other people give you a high quality edit for free. I could pump them out faster, but I don't want to give up the insights I get from my group (though, now that I'm not working, I do predict my publishing pace will increase).

Living: Jeet Kune Do Style by Kenneth Buff

As I said in my previous post, I love to talk to people. What I didn't cover in that post is that I love to take the information that I learn from talking to people (or even just from observing them) and apply it to my life. I like to think of it as a sort of social Jeet Kune Do. For those who don't know, Jeet Kune Do is a martial arts form that Bruce Lee invented. It takes the useful parts of various other forms of martial arts, and does away with the parts it finds not useful. This is what I like to do with my life. I'm the guy who actually takes you up on your suggestion (Hey, Buff [I'm a teacher, so everyone I know calls me by my last name], you ever tried a dark chocolate roasted Twinkie? You should. It's delicious). If I like it, I'll keep doing it. If I don't, I'll chop it up to a learning experience (I guess spanx are not a good substitute for actual fitness).

I've done this for the majority of my adult life. The oldest example I can think of that I still do today is how I eat my bananas. This was several years back (way back in 2008), a friend of mine had seen a youtube video about how to peel a banana. In the video the guy talks about how he was at the zoo, and he saw a monkey peeling a banana upside down, from the non-stem part first. And so the dude tried it, and he found that it was much easier. He found that all you have to do is pinch it from the bottom and it just starts to peel. Once I saw this, I was immediately sold. I tried it out, found that opening a banana "upside down" is in fact way simpler, and I've been opening mine this way every since.

I do this with almost everything. I'm constantly looking for ways to simplify, and improve my life. As most of you who frequent this blog know, I'm a writer, so I try to follow other successful writers to see what they're doing. One such writer I follow is Hugh Howey (author of WOOL). He's a super interesting dude, who's got all sorts of life philosophies. I've read all his non-fiction books, I follow his blog, I follow his Facebook page. Hugh shares pretty much everything that he does that he thinks might be useful to someone out there, from his wardrobe (he limits his style of clothing to make it easy to decide what to wear in the morning), to his fitness (he does the five Tibetans every morning), to his diet (he eats yogurt with raisins for breakfast everyday). And I've taken a lot of what works for him and have applied it to my life, doing what makes sense for me, and tossing the rest to the side—the way Bruce Lee would have done it.

I already have a pretty simple wardrobe (when I'm at work it's jeans, Converse, and a polo. Off work it's shorts, a t-shirt, and flip flops), but Hugh's is even simpler: cargo shorts, flip flops, solid color v-neck. I considered the idea of an ultra simple wardrobe, but seeing as how making a decision on which t-shirt I should wear is like a 60 second decision process (at most) there really wasn't any incentive for me to go this route (but Hugh donning flip flops year round did inspire me to hit Amazon up until I found a pair of flip flops that were in my style. Prior to seeing a male that I knew embrace the flip flop, I'd written it off as an ugly piece of clothing. Now I see it as an extremely comfortable and utilitarian piece of footwear). Once Hugh suggested doing the five tibitans every day, I said, "Okay, I'll try that." And I did, and I've been doing a modified version of them for over a year. I started off doing all five, but after a few months I nixed the spinning in circles bit as I didn't see any benefit to, well, spinning in circles. Later I added pushups to the mix, bringing my four Tibetans back up to five. Over the summer I hurt my shoulder doing one of the moves improperly, so I nixed two more, and now I'm down to three, which I still do every morning, and have seen real measurable results (my muscle mass has never been better, and my back has never felt stronger). I also tried the plain greek yogurt with raisins. I did this too, for over a year. Being a special education teacher, I don't have as much time as I'd like, and as simple as pouring a handful of gourmet raisins into a bowl of yogurt sounds, it was actually becoming too much for me to force down (maybe it was that I had to switch raisin brands? I don't know), so I ended up switching to Greek Gods' strawberry flavor and Greek God's black cherry. In case you're wondering, neither are as good as bacon and eggs, or biscuits and gravy, but for the dude (or girl) on the go, it works.

This is how I live my life. Constantly open to new ideas on how to do things, whether it be dress, cooking, cleaning, or any other lifestyle thing. I personally love it. You can't know what you're missing until you try something new. And if you live your life without trying new things, well, then honestly what's the damn point? If you hit 40 and you've done everything that you're ever going to do, why keep going? I want to live my life constantly learning, and applying what I learn to my life, and to the lives of those I affect (my family, my students, and my readers). To me, there's not a better way to do it, but if someone thinks there is, I'll be the first to try it.

To Talk Or Not by Kenneth Buff

I love talking to people. Sharing ideas, feelings, and just bullshitting. I think it's actually when you're just bullshitting, when you're talking to someone informally, that you learn the most. And man, do I love to bullshit, about almost anything (most things interest me, within a certain context). My wife was making fun of me for putting so much thought into my footwear before making a purchase (I was considering comfort, how the shoe will wear, how it will do in rain, if I could disc golf in it, etc.), and that's just one of the things I would love to ask someone. I'd like to know if other people think about the utility of their shoes before they buy them, I'd like to know what they do when their car starts going to shit (do they take it in to the shop, if so, where? Or do they fix it themselves?), what they like to eat for dinner, and if they prefer rock or country music. It's the little things that make people people, after all.

Now, there are lots of reasons for why I enjoy talking to people about bullshit (bullshit meaning non-work, or socially required things), and some of them I probably don't even realize, but I think a few of the important ones are as follows: 1. You don't really know someone until you know random bullshit about them. It's the little things that make us human, and what's the point of being one if you don't have any human friends you know things about to hangout with and shoot the breeze? 2. They may actually know some cool shit they could share with you. This is one of my favorite reasons to talk to people. Maybe I need a root canal, and after talking with you I now know the perfect dude in town to see about getting one of my teeth drilled and filled. Or maybe I'm struggling with making that decision of going with a Honda or a Kia, and after talking with you I decide to go with a Chevy (I'd never buy American, but for the sake of this example, let's say I did...and it was because you!)

Well, damn. I've gotten off the original intent of this post, and created an entirely different one. Well, to finish this thought, I'll just say this: talk to your fellow man. If you're already doing it, fabulous. If you're not, what are you waiting for? Life is short. I know, some of you out there are thinking, "What the hell is he talking about? Everybody talks to people." Sure, we all "talk" to someone, but talking and bullshitting is not the same thing, and everybody secretly knows that bullshitting is actually more real than just regular talking. So let me rephrase the final point of this post: bullshit with your fellow man. No ifs, ands, or buts. Just do it.

Words and Phrases to Not Use When You Write by Kenneth Buff

Now, there are many good resources out there to help you become a better writer (or editor, rather)—couple of my favorites are Self-Editing For Fiction Authors, and Eats, Shoots and Leaves—but after I read some blog posts that were needlessly long on this subject, I figured I'd give a condensed version (big fan of brevity here) as well as provide some things that drive me crazy that my writing buddies do that I know appears no where else in published fiction (because they're things you should not do).

All right, first thing is first, stop using adverbs. Quick review in case you've forgotten, adverbs are what they sound like, they're a word that modifies, or "adds something" to a verb. Like slowly, quickly, etc. Most of these end with -ly, but not all of them (some other big ones that don't end with -ly are just, began, and started). The reason we don't use these words is because they weaken the verb.

Example: Mark quickly pulled the trigger. Versus: Mark pulled the trigger.

There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but it's a rule for a reason. Nine out of ten times the sentence will be stronger without the adverb. Avoid these like the plague.

Don't describe exact distance or exact passage of time. Unless you're writing a story where the exact passage of time is integral to the story (maybe the MC only has so much time before the bomb blows up, or the serial killer is going to drop his wife off a bridge if he doesn't get there by a certain time, or whatever) you don't need to give it to me.

Examples of doing this: Mark stopped talking for five minutes before finally saying something.

Without the passage of time it would look like this: Mark stopped talking. He brushed back his hair, and stared off into the empty street.

So, instead of just telling me that time passed, you need to show it. See how I got rid of the telling of exact time, and replaced it with a beat? (a beat is an action a character does) That's what you need to do when you feel tempted to tell me time passed.

Another example: The heroes made camp, sleeping for eight hours before waking up and disassembling their tents and cookware.

Here it is reworked:  The heroes slept. When they woke, their bodies on edge from a restless night, they...

So, really there was more than one problem with that example. One, it tells the exact passage of time, which is boring to read, and two, nothing happens in the sentence that I want to read about. So in the reworked sentence I made them tired, which tells us they didn't get much sleep without me just out right saying it, and from there the sentence trails off on what we assume will be some description on where their journey in the story is going to be next, rather than just some description of them mindlessly disassembling their camp (Who cares about that! Get to the story!).

Now, the rule of not telling exact time goes the same for distance. I don't need to know that Jim was standing five feet to Jennifer's left, or that the coffee pot sits twenty-five feet away in the kitchen. I can fill that in myself. Just give me the action, paint the scene, and I'll use my imagination for all the little details. Including exact distance only makes me feel that you (the writer) don't think I'm capable of inferring anything, which makes me want to stop reading.

Example:  The soldier was fifteen feet from Marcus' blade. Marcus road toward the man.

Reworked: The soldier stepped back, staying out of Marcus' reach. Marcus road toward him.

In this version we've cut out the exact distance, but we've still shown the reader that the soldier is not close enough for Marcus to attack. This is better because it shows where the soldier is through an action, while also cutting the on-the-nose description of "fifteen feet."

Well, there you have it, a few things that you should avoid while writing fiction. This is by no means a complete list, but hopefully it will help point you in the right direction. As I stated at the beginning of this post, if you're serious about writing, you ought to head on over to Amazon or AbeBooks and pick yourself up a copy of Self-Editing For Fiction Writers and Eats, Shoots and Leaves.