Writers Lie

Writers flipping lie, man. We lie all the stinking time. We make stuff up and sell it. That’s fiction. We’re good at it. Call it creative thinking call it whatever the heck you want. We lie.

I’ve told some big lies growing up. The dog did it, my brother did it, aliens did it. Lies, lies, lies…

But you know what else I’ve discovered about writers- We Lie to ourselves more than anyone.

I know what your thinking- I don’t lie to myself. Listen, if you said that- You just lied to yourself.

Imagine there is this magical ring of manure circling your head. Every time you lie to yourself a small piece falls. But you can’t wash it away- It stays there, stuck to your skin. Eventually, you walk around covered in manure and realize you missed out because you believed a bunch of GARBAGE about yourself and your writing that wasn’t even true.

Publishing is tough. I know. I’ve been there. Still am. I’ve had countless short stories rejected, been told I couldn’t write, and even had a mom email me mad because she thought my story “My Friend Louie” was a twisted piece of evil… (That’s a bit true: It is a mangled up twisted bit of evil told in a Raw Memoir style about a troubled teen with a psychological disorder who believes his baseball bat is talking to him: Now Go Buy My Book)

But I’ve lied to myself, so many times it’s held me back in what I want to accomplish.

So here they are- In no particular order- Lies we writers tell ourselves. I’ve told these all to myself.

1) I just write for myself- It doesn’t matter if I get published. 

Oh come on, don’t tell me that. I use to say that as well. Until I had a short story published and wondered aloud- I hope someone is buying it..? Do they like it…? What do they think of it…? Writers write to be read. Sure there is the hobbyist, but those are rare- The very act of writing a story is for the purpose of communication.  Saying you only write for yourself is like Jesus saying: I’m going to tell a parable, but it’s only for myself. You write to be read.

2) I don’t have time.

Seriously…? You’re going to tell me that…? I have a full-time job where I’m a senior level executive in a very Busy Marketing Company. I’m involved in church. Have two of the most insane Toddlers. And a wonderful wife. I eat right; I work out daily, I read, watch TV, and still manage to write. Life is about Balance. It’s tough to find because it means sacrifice. Do I get stressed- You bet. Do I get mad and bark at my kids- Sure. Do I forget to tell my wife what she means to me- Yes. I fail. But I have time to do all those things which are important plus write. You have time to write. Turn off Netflix, Hulu, put the book away, tell your friends no, stop sleeping in, and write. 15 minutes a day. 30 minutes a day. Doesn’t matter- Just Write. I always tell people when they can’t find time to work out, read their Bible, or write, then they need to do those things in 25-minute increments. Why…? Because 25 Minutes is only 1% of your day. You can find 1%…

3) I don’t care if it sells.

Oh please, YES YOU DO!!! I don’t know of a single writer who hasn’t checked his / her Amazon rankings. Maybe Stephen King – But he is the exception to the rule. But if you haven’t crashed the Big Bestseller List, then you check them… Trust me- I know. Saying you don’t care if it sales is like my boss saying “J.J. – If this campaign doesn’t work, it’s alright.” We pour a lot of time, creativity, and money into our campaigns. They better work. And if they don’t-  (Trust me- Some haven’t) we have to find out why and fix it.

4) I don’t care if I get Bad Reviews.

Listen, bad reviews come and go. I got one because it was to Christian. Another one said I was evil (The Mad Mommy). Your story isn’t going to connect with everyone. That’s a fact. And in my case some won’t understand your voice. But you care, believe me. You do. You know how many times someone has asked me to vote down a bad review. (Don’t do that by the way- More likely I’ll vote it up) People don’t like to be criticized. They don’t like to see something that they pour time, effort, and energy into. Even if what the reviews are saying are true- We care. I get nervous anytime my wife reads my work- I get anxious when I email a story to a critique partner.  You care, and other writers understand. So pour out your frustration to those who can relate- Stop keeping it locked inside because you want to pretend you can handle it.

5) I have to work at building my platform before I can write a book- That away it sells. 

Here is the issue with this. If you spend all your time trying to build your platform, what are you going to say/sell when you step up on that platform. If you’re writing nonfiction and building your brand through blogging- You may be able to get away with this. But a fiction writer- Dude, just write the blasted book. I believed this lie for a long time. Partly because I work in Marketing and it’s branded within my mind. Platform/ Branding- Worry about that junk later. Right now just write. Imagine if a young new man came into your town- Passed out flyers, had a booth at a local health fair, and was telling everyone “I’m opening a new family practice. My name is Dr. Boo.” What would we ask him? Well, where is it…? When does it open…? What kind of insurance does he accept…? What would you do if his response was this: “Well, it’s not open yet. I still have to finish med school then do my residency. But, it’s coming soon.” Most of us are going to laugh, move along, and forget about him. The 4 P’s to Marketing are Product, Place, Price, and Promotion. But you have to have a product first… The horse is your story- The cart is your brand and platform- Go write.

6) I don’t listen to writing experts- They don’t know what they are talking about.

Well, chances are you won’t make it – Or here’s is a news flash – Maybe your listening to the wrong expert. If you are writing Science Fiction, you probably don’t want to always listen to the industry advice of someone that only sells cookbooks. I would even recommend finding experts in the genres you write in. Sure a lot of the industry news is across all genres. But agents that sell only Romance more than likely don’t know much about the Science Fiction market. There are a few great agents that crossover- But still- Sci-fi fans are a different brand of cookie. I don’t think anyone writing Romance would  come to me and say, “Hey, you got any marketing tips.” I would be clueless. One, I don’t read the genre, so I’m not in the target market, and Two, I don’t have a clue what makes Romance readers click. I just don’t. It’s a great genre with great writers but don’t ask me how to fix your plot holes because I’m  clueless when it comes to mainstream Romance. (Both in fiction and in life). There are writing experts out there in your genre- Find them- Listen to them- And learn from them…

7) Writing is too expensive- I can’t do this. 

Man Shazam!!! This is the biggest freaking whopper of them all. Writing is cheap. Just grab a pen and paper and go to work. Publishing is expensive. Editing is expensive. Cover design, advertising, and writers conferences are expensive. Storytelling- Is the cheapest hobby there is. Write it on a chalkboard, on a note card, or draft it on a used tea bag. Just write. Click to Tweet

8) No one is publishing my genre- It doesn’t seem to be salable. 

That isn’t quite as accurate as many think. The big publishers may not be publishing many titles in your genre- But that doesn’t mean small presses aren’t. Don’t be afraid of a small press. They are out there- And some good ones too. Remember,  Bloomsbury was a small, well-respected, independent publisher. They were the only publisher willing to take on a children’s book called: Harry Potter. Look what happened. 

I write this post mainly to me. I’m guilty of all these things- And I’m guilty every day. I have virtually no success as an author. Zero, zilch, zip… But I understand what holds me back. I lie to myself. I’m sure what I say seems arrogant, brash, even a bit pompous.

The truth is I get irritated by people that make excuses- Why? Because I hear them all day long, and normally, I’m the one making them.



Good Stories

I like quick addictive reads. They are fun, exciting, and enjoyable. Some people read to get a deeper meaning out of life, to learn a deep truth- I read for enjoyment.

There are different styles of readers, so whichever you are is fine. However, on both sides, I have found that Dean Koontz story structure method is a formula they all share.

From his out of print How to Write Best Selling Fiction (Writer’s Digest Books), © 1981. I first learned of this on Jerry B Jenkins Blog. Below is how Jenkins summarized it.

  1. Plunge your main character (lead/hero/heroine) into terrible trouble as soon as possible.

The definition of “terrible trouble” differs depending on your genre. For a thriller, it may mean your hero is hanging by his fingernails from a railroad trestle. For a cozy romance, it may mean your heroine must choose between two seemingly perfect suitors, each of whom harbors a dark secret.

2. Everything your character does to get out of the trouble makes it only worse.

The complications must be logical and grow increasingly bad until…

3. The lead’s predicament appears entirely hopeless.

4. Finally, because of what all that conflict has taught the character from the beginning, your lead rises to the occasion and battles out of the trouble, meets the challenge, accomplishes the quest, or completes the journey.

Jesus & the Beanstalk Review

“We live in a world populated with Giants.”

I dove into this book on a plane ride back home one afternoon. I expected to knock out the introduction then catch a quick nap. After the first line I was hooked. Every where I turned I was reminded of my own life. Before I knew it my flight was landing and I was having to jump off and catch my connection.


Lori Roeleveld’s new book Jesus & the Beanstalk takes the classic fairy tale Jack & the beanstalk and lines it up with powerful Biblical truths. Reminding us that there is power is the small things- like beans. That at times we toss aside our faith, listening to the doubts of the world, and never experience the power to slay the Giants that invade our lives.

As I read this I looked back on my own life. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the countless times I failed. Only to realize that during those times I was relying on my own self-centered self. That I was making life about me, my achievements, and my ambitions. It was only when I allowed the Power of Christ to rule my life that I saw my Giants slain.

Jesus and the Beanstalk is a personal story of how the author overcame her own Giants- Walking us through 1 Peter ch 1 we learn 8 incredible truths to live larger than life faith.

I give this book five stars and highly recommend it as something to read in groups or alongside your personal daily Bible study. Lori has an excellent grasp on a doctrine that is Biblically based.

25 Reasons I’m Going to Realm Makers

25 Reasons I’m Going to Realm Makers and you Should to… 

So why would I choose Realm Makers as my conference of choice… ?

I’ve gotten that question a couple of times the past few weeks. Let me first start by saying I have nothing against other writers conferences.

However, when I’m choosing a Conference- I’m having to choose Realm Makers.

Those other Conferences are amazing conferences- With a great lineup of speakers, agents, and editors. The benefits are exceptional. So, why not go…? Because it just doesn’t fit me.

You see- I’m a spec writer. And contrary to what some may think- Spec writers are a different mold.

We have different mindsets, different ideas, and we enjoy different things. The creativity embraced by Spec Writers is one that is far different from those in Romance, Mystery, and even straight-line suspense. Those are great genres. I love those genres. However, spec writers like to sit around a table and discuss Role Playing Games, Fan theories, have Nerf wars, and think deeply about if Dragon’s Poop and / or discuss the possibility of Zombie Sharks. (Two conversations that have taken place in previous Realm Makers Conf.)

It’s not that we are exclusive or arrogant- We’re just different. We approach writing in a different way. And we have a far different Target Audience than most traditional Publishers have in mind.

Personally, I have a desire to connect with other writers. I especially have a desire to connect with writers who are like me and have strange ideas. When I discuss my projects at Realm Makers, no one looks at me with a strange expression that says: That’s just weird. They embrace the idea and want to hear more.

Realm Makers is the only conference solely focused on Faith-Based Speculative Fiction. It is the only place where if you write weird- You are certain to find someone that writes even weirder.

Here are the 25 reasons I’m Choosing Realm Makers this year.

  1. It’s In Philly: Who doesn’t want to go out and try an authentic Philly Cheese Steak.
  2. It’s Affordable: If you plan it right, and depending on where you’re flying or driving from, you can go to Realm Makers for $1,000 or less. Room, Meal Plan, and Conference Registration is around $500.
  3. The Dorms make it feel like old-school Summer Camp: I loved this. Staying in a dorm room made the entire weekend feel like summer camp and / or being back at college. It also keeps the conference affordable.
  4. Costume Night: Wizards, Black Holes, Jedi’s, Waldo, Katniss, Wolverine, Leia, dragons!!! Just come up with a costume and go (I’m thinking I might be the 12th Doctor this year.)
  5. Zombie Nerf Wars: Be a kid again, pull up your sleeves, grab the old (or new) nerf gun and have some late night fun.
  6. Great Spec Speakers: NY Times Bestselling Author Tosca Lee, NY Times Bestselling Author Kathy Tyers, Thomas Locke, Mike Duran, Steve Laube, Julie Gwinn, Patrick Carr, Kirk DouPonce, Lane Heymont, Suzanne and Shawn Kuhn, Carla Hoch, Chris Morris…
  7. Taxes: I mentioned Chis Morris above- The Creative Accountant who makes you love accounting. (Okay- That may be a stretch) But he gives you tips for staying out of jail. What more could you ask for…?
  8. Theology: I think I heard or had more theological conversations last year then I had in the previous six months. Spec writers have a passion for pursuing theology on a deep level and then fusing that into their fiction.
  9. Small: I’m not sure of the total numbers last year (I think 150) but Realm Makers is still pretty small. Regardless, it’s at the right size where everyone can find a way to fit in easily and not get lost in the crowd.
  10. Demographics: Most writers conferences I have gone to have been women. Men seem to be very under-represented. But at Realm Makers I was very surprised to see about an equal split.
  11. The Realm Maker Alumni Facebook Group: When you leave Realm Makers you will find that the connections you make- can come right with you. The Realm Makers Alumni Group is where the conference continues.
  12. You’re Strange, I’m Strange, We’re All Strange: When I’ve gone to other writers conference in the past I seem to be the weird one. I mean, I write horror and to most that seems to be an oxymoron. At Realm Makers- we’re all a little strange- So rest assured you’ll fit right in.
  13. Appointments: Last year I was all ready to go to a major conference. I had registered and everything. Imagine my disappointment when I learned that there wasn’t but one agent looking for Spec Fic. At Realm Makers- You will find those agents focused on your genre.
  14. Encouragement: At Realm Makers you’ll meet other authors who will encourage you to not give up- To keep churning out the words- And focus on finishing your story.
  15. No One Rolls their Eyes when I tell them What I’m Working on: When you describe your story- Don’t expect a smirk, a confused look, or even the occasion eye roll. People get what you are working on. They understand it. If it seems like a strange story- As I’ve said before- Someone has probably got something a little stranger.
  16. Lasers, Dragons, Keyboards: Only the best podcast for Christian Spec fic- And the best part it- The idea was born at Realm Makers.
  17. Vision: Ideas are born at Realm Makers. Podcast, publishing houses, collaborations- People meet and then leave with an idea.
  18. Deep Conversation: I had more deep conversations last year that went on until 1:00 in morning than I’ve ever had at a Con before. Authors at Realm Makers enjoy exploring the depths, for the surface brings boredom.
  19. Splickety: One of the things I love about Realm Makers is the way they have brought Splickety right into the mix. Short fiction is one of the best ways for a new writer to break in, and Splickety is the top Short Fiction magazine in the CBA (My Opinion)
  20. Speculative Theology: Mike Duran will be teaching a course on Theology in Speculative Fiction. If you read or attended his session on Christian Horror last year this promises to be a great course.
  21. SuzyQ: No one makes Marketing and Brand Building fun like Suzy Q. I promise they will make you laugh and understand the process of promoting your book with simple, easy, ideas.
  22. Spiritual Writing: Super Agent Steve Laube will be teach an in-depth spiritual track on preparing yourself spiritually for the writing process.
  23. Freelance Editors who Specialize in Spec Fic: If you don’t have an editor you will find one at Realm Makers- And better, these editors specialize in Speculative Fiction.
  24. Young Writers: One of the most encouraging things last year was how many young teenage writers I ran into.
  25. New Friends:If you work it right- You’ll meet a hundred new friends.

There are many more reasons I go to this conference- these are just a few. What about you, why are you choosing to go…?


FIRST LINES!!!! – I Love Them

first line banner

Every book starts someplace, right?

I have a ADD. Not the type where I’m bouncing off walls all hours of the night, but I struggle with sitting down to concentrate. So when most people say that if you can’t engage your reader after twenty pages, then you’ve failed- I want to laugh. Why? Because with me, it’s much less.

Is that fair? No. But it’s reality. I have two kids under the age of two and a busy life outside of the home. My time is very valuable and I don’t have a lot of extra minutes to wait and see if a book will draw me in.

That’s why I always look at the first line.

I notice right away if a book is going to hold me long enough to get to the end. Basically, I want to be pulled into a story right away.

I love this Quote by Stephen King-

“A book won’t stand or fall on the very first line of prose — the story has got to be there, and that’s the real work. And yet a really good first line can do so much to establish that crucial sense of voice — it’s the first thing that acquaints you, that makes you eager, that starts to enlist you for the long haul. So there’s incredible power in it, when you say, come in here. You want to know about this. And someone begins to listen.” – Stephen King

Below are some of my favorites that I’ve collected. For some strange reason that first sentence in these stories pulled me into the pages and captivated me. They may not work the same for you. And that’s fine. But for me, they did what they should have done.

“It Was A Pleasure to Burn.” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

“You’ve Been here before.” – Stephen King, Needful Things

“On the second day of December, in a year when a Georgia Peanut Farmer was doing business in the White House, one of Colorado’s great resort hotels burned to the ground.” – Stephen King, Dr. Sleep

“There was once a time when only God knew the day you’d die.” – Nadine Brandes, A Time to Die

“Tonight we’re going to show you eight silent ways to kill a man.” – Joe Haldeman, The Forever War

“I did two things on my seventy- fifth birthday. I visited my wife’s grave. Then I joined the army.” – John Scalzi, Old Man’s War

“Szeth-son-son-Vallano, Truthless of Shinover, wore white on the day he was to kill a king.” – Brandon Sanderson, The Way of Kings

‘”I’ve watched through his eyes, I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one.'” – Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking 13.” 1984, George Orwell.

“It was raining the night he found me.” Tosca Lee, Demon

Now these aren’t a full list of all my favorites- But they are ones that pulled me in and kept me longing for an answer to the questions they posed in my mind…

What are some of your favorites…?