Review: Writer Emergency Pack

Arrived today: The #writeremergency #darkmode deck! @writeremergency @johnaugust #amwriting

A photo posted by Michael Hicks (@mphicks79) on

Back in November, I supported the Writer Emergency Pack as a Kickstarter project and received the final print deck in December. I was absolutely thrilled with the final card deck, and wrote about it a bit back then and posted a couple pieces of iPhoneography to go with it.

Tuesday night, I received the Kickstarter backer-exclusive Dark Mode deck, which is basically the same as the regular pack but printed on sleek all-black cards and a much darker box. It’s really nice looking and a fun little change of pace from the standard cards. The Emergency Pack crew even added the delightful little touch of wrapping the Dark Mode deck in black tissue paper, helping to emphasize the stygian nature of this updated deck.

The two #writeremergency packs side-by-side. @writeremergency @johnaugust #darkmode #amwriting

A photo posted by Michael Hicks (@mphicks79) on

Although these decks started out as a Kickstarter project, the Emergency crew is now making the standard decks available on a wider scale. Every writer can (and should!) now buy them via Amazon.

Here’s the review I posted on their product page:


This is a terrific and easy-to-use resource for writers both established and up-and-coming, designed to help storytellers get out of whatever corners they’ve written themselves into or to brainstorm ways of reinvigorating stalled ideas.

The Emergency Pack is designed to look and feel like your average deck of cards, like Bicycle playing cards, but for authors in a jam. Using these cards is very simple and is outlined on a 3-step “Emergency Procedures” card at the front of the deck: focus on your writing conundrum, draw an illustrated Idea card at random, read it and then read the corresponding Detail card. Maybe the ideas will help, or maybe they won’t, but the goal is get you asking “what if?” and to hopefully get you drifting back into the right territory. Some random cards might be “What Would Indy Do?”, “Switch Genres”, or “Kill The Hero.” The accompanying illustrations are well-drawn, detailed, and amusing (and sometimes even downright irreverent).

Shuffling through the deck during one of my own jams helped me brainstorm a finale to a recent short story that I had no idea how to finish. The writing had gone smoothly throughout, right up until the climax. And while the fix ended up being fairly simple, it wasn’t really until I’d played around with these cards that I realized how helpful the Emergency Pack truly was. It gave me a much-needed kick in the rear, helped me think my way through a muddled segment of story, and wrap up my project in a way that I found both useful, true to the story, and a worked as a satisfying finish.

The Writer Emergency Pack is a fun little tool for writers, and it’s small size – the same as your average deck of playing cards – makes it’s conveniently portable for authors on the go. If you’re the type to write while traveling or at your local coffee shop, you can easily incorporate this pack into your writing routine at any place, at any time. You might not always need it, but, then again, it is for emergencies, and you never know when it might come in handy. It very well could save your entire story, although some of your characters may never forgive you.


I’ll have a new short story printed in an upcoming anthology (currently slated for Aug./Sept. time-frame), and I absolutely did use these cards to drum up that piece’s finale. They were a total lifesaver (well, for me, as an author anyway. Less of a lifesaver for some poor fictional schmucks, but whatever). I’ll let you be the judge on how well I did with that story later this year, but as far as I’m concerned the Writer Emergency Pack has proved to be an excellent investment already. I’m keeping these cards handy and close to the keyboard when I write, just in case.

And if you want some more info on these cards, check out www.writeremergency.com/

Review: Writer Emergency Pack

Dear Clean Reader, Fuck Yourself.

censorship

Chuck Wendig recently posted on Clean Reader, which I had not heard of before today, but which has seriously rankled my nerves and got my blood boiling. Let me put this simply – I fucking hate censorship.

Here’s another simple thought for you – if you don’t like swearing in my books, don’t fucking buy them. Don’t purchase them and then twist my authorial intent and manipulate the words I have chosen with some pathetic thought-policing app.

I am ridiculously livid right now. So, again, for the record – fuck you, Clean Reader.

Here’s the background:

First, check out Joanne Harris’s blogs:

Harris’ initial post sparked this article from The Telegraph, Joanne Harris condemns Clean Reader app for replacing swear words in novels, where the columnist writes:

The app, entitled Clean Reader, has been designed to take explicit words out of any book printed in electronic format – with or without permission from its author – to swap them with child-friendly versions.

The technology works on a scale from “clean” – removing the “worst” swear words such as f*** – to “superclean”, which will substitute words including damn.

And who fucking told them they could do that? If I wanted to write a clean, swear-word free novel, then I could. But I deliberately choose not to. I write for adults, not children; my books are not “child-friendly.” And if you use this app to alter my intent, then be aware that you are not getting the proper story the way I have intended it be told. You’re getting an ineffectual, piecemeal bit of shit.

Swearing is an integral part of language, it’s a form of communication, a method of expression. When I write an intense and emotional scene, would you rather I write the most impactful way I know how, or water it down to appease the thin-skinned, hand-wringing thought-police? Should I have a sentence that runs along the lines of, “He was trapped, his skin boiling, guns pointed at him from all directions. There was no way out of this, and death was certain. He muttered, “Gosh fudge darn Popsicle,” and readied for the end.” because some self-imposed censor think that’s a cleaner, nicer way of writing?

Fuck that. Who are the app developers, these Maughan’s and the developers at Page Foundry, to determine what’s obscene, what’s moral, what’s good and pure, what is or isn’t?

Harris notes,

First, what counts as “profanity”? Close inspection of the “acceptable alternatives” suggests a very strong Christian bias. Therefore, “Oh my God!” becomes “oh my goodness!” “Jesus Christ” becomes “geez” and so on. “Bitch” becomes “witch” (bad news for modern pagans), and by now we’re already beginning to see some obvious problems emerging.

We’ve seen Harry Potter books burned out of fear, we’ve seen cartoonists murdered, and now these religious zealots are embracing the digital age in order to assault our written words, our very means of expression.

As Harris writes,

Apps like Clean Reader change the text without the author’s permission. They take the author’s words and replace them – sometimes very clumsily – on the basis of some perceived idea of “bad words” versus “good words”. No permission is sought, or granted. There is no opt-out clause for authors or publishers. This is censorship, not by the State, but by a religious minority, and if you think it sounds trivial, take a moment to think about this:

The Reformation brought about the destruction of over 90% of our country’s art heritage, including music, books and paintings.

The Nazis burnt countless works of art judged to be “degenerate”; including an estimated 45% of all existing Polish artwork.

ISIS are currently destroying antiquities and historical sites in the Middle East, including the ancient city of Nimrud, the walls of Nineveh and statues up to 8000 years old.

The Victorians bowdlerized and rewrote Classical myths and literature out of all recognition (they also converted hundreds of thousands of Egyptian mummies into fertilizer, having judged them of “no historical value”).

And all in the name of purity, morality and good taste.

Fuck you, Clean Reader.

And if you, as a reader, are so afraid of what words I am deliberately and purposefully choosing to articulate myself with in my novels and stories, then do not fucking buy them. If you’re offended by the choice of words I make in my work, that’s your problem, not mine. And my solution is pretty simple. Don’t buy them, and don’t read them. Stay away from this blog. Because my material is very clearly not for you.

Dear Clean Reader, Fuck Yourself.

2014 Writing In Review

2014 was a fairly productive period for my first year as an author. In late February, I released Convergence, and it’s since been featured as a Kobo Next Read Selection in their Science Fiction & Fantasy category, and was just recently a Book of the Week over at SciFi365.net. I’m pretty proud of this work, and reviewers have been responding favorably. I’ve heard from several readers who have greatly enjoyed it, and that alone has made this indie venture worthwhile. The title itself has raked up 10 reviews at Amazon, with a 4.8 out of 5 star average. On Goodreads, it’s accumulated an average of 4.42 out of 5 stars. It’s also made the Top 100 in Amazon’s Cyberpunk category multiple times since its release in both the US and the UK, which was very, very exciting to see.

My productivity hit its peak over the spring and summer, when I finished the first draft of Emergence and then dove into a short horror story, Consumption. Between those two works, I broke more than 110K in word-count over roughly three months.

Consumption released in October, and is currently standing at a 4.4 out of 5 star average among nine reviewers at Amazon, 4.15 on Goodreads. Again, I’ve been really happy with the reader reactions to this one. I was a bit nervous releasing it, as it’s so very different from Convergence, and is a bit off the wall. Horror is a genre I love, and I plan on dabbling in that end of the writing pool again in the (near?) future. I’ve got a few ideas I’m toying around with, but for the time being I’m heavily involved in my next novel.

And that next novel is, as I mentioned above, Emergence. This sequel to Convergence has been undergoing some serious editing and rewriting throughout the back-half of 2014. I recently received some beta reader feedback, which I think has helped tremendously, and it was great to get yet another set of eyeballs on this work. My content developer had terrific notes and suggestions, as well, and between those two readers I really do think Emergence is going to be one heck of a strong book. I’m hoping a few more betas will chime in soon. The next step is line edits, and I know my editor is going to have some more mighty fine suggestions, and that, in some ways, the work is only really just getting started.

Once those line edits are done, it’ll be onto the proofreading stage, and then art design and formatting. I’m eying a late first quarter or early second quarter release for 2015.

That’s not all, though! With Consumption out, and Emergence close to wrapping up, I was invited to take part in an anthology. There’s been a few kinks to work out on the scheduling for that one, but I have a 10,000 word short story, Revolver, that will be in the mix. Current plans are to have that one out for the spring, and I got an early look at the cover art and some of the story ideas from my fellow contributors. This should be a really great anthology, and I’m looking forward to sharing more details as we get closer to release.

I’m also in the very early stages of sorting out ideas for book three in the DRMR series, which will follow-up on some of the plot developments that occur in Emergence. I’m still a little bit away from hammering out all of the story details, but have settled on some interesting ideas that help expand on some of the conflicts seen in Convergence. I’m about five thousand words in and things are just starting to gel, so lots and lots of work ahead of me on this one.

On the blog side of things, I published 258 posts. These drew in more than 11 thousand views, across close to eight thousand visitors. Not a bad first year for this site (note: posts prior to 2014 were imported from a previous blog). I’m going to hedge my bets and say, conservatively, that between this blog and all the story writing, I probably produced close to 300 thousand words this year.

So, 2014 was busy, and I’m expecting 2015 to be equally productive. Keep an eye out for more news, more reviews, and new releases in the coming New Year.

Now, back to writing…

2014 Writing In Review

eBook Sci-Fi Sale (But It Won’t Last Long!)

Hey there, readers!

I’m happy to announce that, for a limited time (i.e. today and tomorrow), you can grab some great sci-fi reads for cheap, including my book, CONVERGENCE, over at Amazon. Just click the links below to buy, but act fast because this won’t last for very long.

Convergence-800 Cover reveal and Promotional99 cents!

| Kindle | Nook | Kobo |


hereticFree!


whatitmeanstosurviveFree!


defiance99 cents!


And, as always, my short horror story CONSUMPTION is only 99 cents as well. Just don’t read this one on a full stomach…

consumption-complete99 cents!

| Amazon | Kobo | Nook |

eBook Sci-Fi Sale (But It Won’t Last Long!)

Inforgraphic: Self-Publish or Traditional?

The folks at The Write Life developed this infographic as a bit of a tongue-in-cheek guide to choosing your best publishing options.

Self-Publishing or Traditional Publishing: Which Should You Choose?
Courtesy of: The Write Life

 

What are you thoughts?

Inforgraphic: Self-Publish or Traditional?

Reblog: Writer Emergency Pack – helping writers get unstuck by John August — Kickstarter

I came across this Kickstarter project on Twitter today, thanks to this post from Chuck Wendig:

And that led me to John August’s page, and this tweet in particular:

So, now being pretty darn curious as to what the heck this all is, I hit up August’s Kickstarter page and pledged some support. Here’s the link:

Writer Emergency Pack – helping writers get unstuck by John August — Kickstarter.

And here’s what August says about the impetus behind his Writer Emergency Pack project:

Writing is hard. You’re constantly trying to figure out what word comes next.

Creative writing is even harder. When you’re working on a story, you’re not just trying to decide what word comes next, but what idea comes next.

It’s easy to get stuck.

I know what that’s like because I’m a screenwriter. I’m lucky to have had ten movies produced, from GO to BIG FISH to FRANKENWEENIE. I also host a popular podcast about film and television called Scriptnotes.

Over the years, I’ve had conversations with hundreds of writers, both on the podcast and around the lunch table. No matter what genre or medium, all writers face story problems. Plots that plod. Characters that don’t connect.

Every writer has her own techniques for pushing past these problems — little nudges and prompts to help get the story clicking.

Writer Emergency Pack is a curated collection of some of the most useful suggestions I’ve encountered. It’s by writers, for writers.

I’m really looking forward to getting this deck of cards and checking out the Dark Mode booster pack when it becomes available next year. I think this is going to be pretty darn entertaining, and who knows what kind of crazy stories this could lead to!

As an added bonus that makes donating/pre-ordering all the more worthwhile, August is taking a Get One, Give One approach to help get these cards into the sweaty palms of both writers and youngsters just starting out in local creative writing programs. I think this is a pretty exciting initiative to help bolster support for writing and show kids just how truly fun and awesome this thing we do can be.

Reblog: Writer Emergency Pack – helping writers get unstuck by John August — Kickstarter

Writing is Rewriting

The old adage – writing is rewriting – is a small and wise nugget, but inside this little phrase is a whole world of magic. Maybe that’s a bit too much wide-eyed mysticism, but, damn it, there is power in the rewrite. Old world hoodoo. I’m a believer.

Writing isn’t easy. It’s not working in a mineshaft or being a grave-digger or garbage man difficult, but it can be incredibly frustrating, exhausting, and mind-numbing. The act of carving loose a story is tricky business. Stories, you see, they lurk. They hide and cower, shriveling away in stubborn obstinance, and sometimes they require a tremendous amount of coaxing to do with it what you will.

Not all stories are like this. Not all of them, and not all the time. But sometimes you get a good idea that you just cannot get a solid grip on. It’s an idea that wants to be a story, but which is slimy and feisty and refuses to be pinned down in a corner. That’s when you have to go at it from a different angle. That’s when you rewrite and trap it.

Convergence came somewhat easily, but that second draft…man, that was full of rewriting, trying to get those ideas lined up right and flowing sensibly.

I wanted to follow it up with a horror novel whose idea has been percolating in my head for about six years. I couldn’t even get through the first chapter. It was awful. I had no idea how to start it. Or, at least, I did have an idea but not a proper way of executing it. The idea still lingers, and I’m working on a new approach now. We’ll see if I can nail it down or not.

I shelved it for a while and tackled Emergence, a sequel to Convergence. Again, it came easily. Three months of solid writing and I produced a first draft I was really happy with. I sent it off to my editors at Red Adept. There’s a lot of rewriting in store for me again. I spent this past weekend rewriting and rearranging an entire chapter early on in the book’s going. I’ll be rewriting the ending and expanding it. There’s a whole litany of notes from my content editor, and a heck of a lot of work ahead before it’s publishable. But it’s all doable. I already did a lot of the heavy lifting. Now it’s just finessing and modifying and cleaning shit up.

Consumption came easy, fired out after three days of frenetic writing. That one bled out of me, and took on a life of its own. I wanted to follow it up with another short story for an anthology I’ll be taking part in next year. The first idea I had was solid, but again, the execution was a failure. Just couldn’t figure it out.

I came up with a new idea. It’s called Revolver. It wasn’t always called that, but it is now. I sat down to write it and got about three thousand words in. I was not feeling it at all. There was no direction. There was too much infodump. I had the big idea of splitting the narrative into present day with flashbacks to flesh out the character. It drained the story of any energy, robbed it of any sense of necessity, and felt a lot like chasing after myself in a big damn circle, getting nowhere.

I started over. Not right away, no. I let the ideas run free and waited for the story to come to me. I couldn’t force it, not this time. Trying to deliberately write Revolver was trying to hold onto a fistful of water. No matter how hard I tried, it just kept running away from me, leaking away. I waited and waited, until the story came and told me how to tell it.

Every story is a lesson. There’s always something new to learn, a new approach, a new mechanism. The imp inside Revolver wanted to change everything – narrative choices, point of view, characters, everything that surrounded the core concept of that small, initial kernel of an idea.

Sometimes, you just have to wait and listen hard. And rewrite.

Writing is Rewriting