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 buy 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'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 audio book! 

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.



Spring Break by Kenneth Buff

It's that time of the year again. The time when teachers get to live regular lives. Ones where we don't spend the majority of our none sleeping time working or thinking about work. I am beyond looking forward to it. Planning on getting some writing done, hanging out in the hot springs, maybe see a movie. The main goal will be to relax, recuperate from a draining school year, but I'm hopeful that I'll get some serious writing time in as well. Heck, it was in a hotel that King started writing The Shinning, and I myself have penned a Dick and Henry short while on vacation in Colorado. This year we're going to Arkansas. Hot Springs, Arkansas to be exact. As you might guess, their claim to fame are natural hot springs. I'm planning on spending a good chunk of time hanging hot spring side, kindle in hand, with some kind of not-water drink at my side (coffee, Mai Thai, who knows, teacher vacations can get crazy).

We're staying at a BnB that Miranda says is ran by an older woman who loves to knit and decorate. The way she described the place made it sound like that hotel from Gilmore Girls that was Alice in Wonderland themed. Only we like that kind of shit—unlike Lorelai—so it's cool. Yeah, it should be pretty great. 

Logan: Review by Kenneth Buff

4.5/5 Stars

4.5/5 Stars

Logan is the latest installment in the Wolverine/X-men film saga. It marks the 9th time Hugh Jackman has portrayed the character of Wolverine, and also serves as his last outing in the series.

The beauty of Logan lies in that it hardly qualifies as a superhero movie at all. Yes, Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman are playing their iconic superhero characters they established on screen 17 years ago in X-Men, but these portrayals of the Wolverine and Charles Xavier are nothing like we've ever seen on screen before. Logan is a burnt out, aging mutant, whose filled with more rage and regret than we've ever seen him with before (this is easily Hugh Jackman's best performance as the character), and Xavier, wow, talk about character evolution. Charles is no longer the wise calming character we've come to know these last 17 years, he's now a confused, scared, and often times angry, old man who's looking for as much redemption as Wolverine. But, putting aside the character defying expectations of Logan, the film does not move like a superhero movie, nor feel like one. Its pacing is slow, and deliberate. Every scene carries weight, developing the characters, revealing motives and traits, while pushing the story forward. It's a film that has more in common with Hell or High Water than it does Ironman. And the movie is all the better for it. Its themes, and tragic story mesh perfectly with the western genre the movie inhabits.

Now, it's definitely worth saying that this isn't a movie for kids. Which I know seems strange, but this is not your summer superhero movie. Logan was not designed to get as many 12 and unders through the door as possible, it was designed to give an emotional gut punch to adults with even a vague sense of who these characters are: a man cursed with immortality, and retractable metal claws, and a powerful psychic who can no longer control his awesome abilities. Much of this emotional gut punch comes from just how well written the screenplay is—never have Jackman and Stewart been given so much to work with with these characters. But another major factor is just how believable Stewart and Jackman's on screen relationship is. These two really do come off as if they've known each other for decades, and have become almost father and son in the process (the fact that these two actors have been making these films on and off for the last 17 years only strengthens this aspect of the film).

All of Logan's parts add up to an intensely entertaining film that satisfies as both the greatest entry in the X-men film franchise, and as brilliant twist on the modern western film genre.

Letter To Indie Authors by Kenneth Buff

All authors feel pressure at some point. I think most people do in general, but authors may be more susceptible to this. By pressure I mean that feeling you get in your gut that you're not doing enough, you're not "succeeding" enough. These thoughts are of course arbitrary. They're something you've concocted in your mind off of fantasies of what you think success is. In reality, success is whatever you want it to be. You decide what the benchmarks in your career should be. If you're being fair, you'll make these benchmarks realistic. That means you're not shooting to be the next Stephen King, or even some lesser known best seller. You're working to work, writing stories because you enjoy it, and you realize any eyes that end up on letters forming words that you wrote is just a bonus. This is the mindset you need to have if you're an indie author. It's a good mindset to have in any creative field, but it's especially useful if you're an independent author. This is because now anyone can be a published author. This doesn't mean anyone can write (or rather, will write) a story worth reading, it only means that the market is flooded with fiction, and your book is one among many. That being said, your book being one of the many is in itself a huge accomplishment. You put in the work, taking the time to hone your craft, trimming the fat off your story, and adding the necessary beats and developments that were needed. Bravo. This is success. Take a moment, soak in the benchmark. Now do it again. Because you're a writer dammit, and that's what you do.

Now, if you're looking to do this to find an audience to speak to, to share your brilliance on the page, then this may not be the thing for you. There's no guarantee that any of your stories will be read outside of your circle of loved ones. This is the reality of the modern publishing industry. When the doors are open to everyone, production will inevitably exceed demand. This is both a benefit and a detriment, as all of us now can publish our works, but they may or may not find much of an audience. This is why if you're going to commit yourself to writing down those ideas clawing away at your brain, you need to do it because it's what you love to do, and for no other reason, as nothing outside of publication (which come on, is huge) is guaranteed. So, fellow indie authors, keep plugging away at those stories of heroes, assholes, and characters in between, knowing that for the first time in history your stories have the opportunity to be read by anyone in the world, and that you have the opportunity to be paid for them. But also, these opportunities are not guarantees. Keep those things in mind, and you'll do fine. Art is a battle, just like anything else. You can give up on it when it gets tough, when your doubts creep in, or you can keep going, wading through it all hoping that you somehow come out on the other side clean. The truth is that if you do come out clean, it's not because you somehow didn't get shit all over yourself crawling through that broken sewage pipe, it's because you stopped along the way and changed your clothes.

Interviews by Kenneth Buff

So, as I said an earlier post, I'm planning to interview three of my local author friends. All three are indie authors, two of them have at least one published novel, one of them has several books written and has one he's in the process of publishing. I'll share their coming of stories and also delve into where they are now as we talk over coffee and tea on screen for your viewing. Should be a lot of fun, and hopefully enlightening for everyone. I find that you don't know how others think or approach your craft (or profession) until you start talking to them about it. Often times new ideas and ways of thinking sprout from these types of discussions, so I'm looking forward to it. I have an interview scheduled with author Sasha Abernathy next Wednesday, and I'm hoping to lock up one this weekend with two other local authors. Until then, stay posted.

To Do List by Kenneth Buff

Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying- Stephen King, Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption

To keep myself on track I'm going to post my writing objectives for the week. They are as follows:

  1. Start scheduling video interviews of three fellow writers that will be posted on youtube and on my blog.
  2. Write and record a pitch for Clive Barker's Project Green Light Contest. The contest is for a horror movie (I'll submit a pitch of an adaptation of Bad Dreams). The winner will get a budget of 300,000.
  3. Write

Pretty simple list, but the top two will take some time, so I need to get on them. So, with that I'm off to write a point by point list to hit for my pitch of Bad Dreams.