Blog Post #22: Short Stories and You

Today I'm here to promote another tab within my own website called "short stories."

I know, it's exciting.

Figured I'd put something here for those who check out the blog every week (thank you, btw) who think I may be slacking. Of course, I'm slacking, but I still managed to get some content up this week, and here it is: https://brian-corley.com/short-stories/

The first post is called The Minotaur in the Cube Maze and I hope you enjoy it. If you like it, feel free to shoot me a note, sign up for my mailing list, or retweet the link on Twitter. You could also mention it to random strangers while waiting in line for coffee, talk to your Uber driver about it ... if you're an Uber driver (or Lyft, they're great too), you could talk to your passengers about it. If you're a lifeguard, you can tell that kid to stop running and "WALK!" Then maybe mention something about this great blog you like to read while you have everyone's attention.

There are a million different ways to talk about the things we love, don't let me pigeon hole you. You do your thing.

Blog Post #20 Take a Look at Me Now

This past week I listened to a thoroughly enjoyable, yet slightly sad This American Life Podcast episode about break ups titled: Break-Up. If you listened to it, it had some great stuff, especially the Puppy Boy bit at the end.

However, the first story has stayed with me all week. The one about a relationship between two people that had a shared affinity for Phil Collins, and during the break-up, she paraphrased the lines from “Against All Odds,” and recited them to her now ex-boyfriend. “How can you just let me walk away? I’m the only one who really knew you at all.”

I know, I know—it’s corny, but it got me.

But then—then! Phil Collins enters during the next scene, and he’s on the phone talking to her about writing Against All Odds and giving her advice on how to write her own break-up song. What???

Maybe it’s hard to understand now, but growing up in the eighties, Phil Collins was a bonafide rock star. Sure, he may have kind of looked like one of your friend’s dad, but he was still cool. Now, all of a sudden, here he is again, back in my life, talking about song writing.

He didn’t have much air time on the show, but it seemed like from the conversation he had with the contributor that he really listened to what she had to say. She was a completely untrained writer. Couldn’t play any instruments, and had never written a song. Still, he gave great advice: simple is better.

I recommend the episode for anyone reading this hoping to get any writing advice, you have to hear it for yourself.

She went on to write a few songs, then collaborated with a couple of people to finally bring the break-up song to life. She was surprised that they picked the song that they did. It was from her “crazy pile,” and didn’t think anyone would read it.

I wonder if it was because it was so simple and straight from the heart, that it seemed easy to write, and she thought that writing had to be harder. Or was it too scary to write, so she didn’t want anyone to read it?

I think as writers, we’ve all had that moment. The moment where we almost delete something because it seems too close, too honest, too strange, too weird, too preachy … but we keep it on the page just in case.

 I think sometimes those are the moments we find our voice.

Where we move past agonizing over a sentence or paragraph because it’s not good enough. We think that there should be flowery words because this writing is forever! Once it’s on the page, we can’t change it.

We freeze ourselves out and cover our real intentions.

I remember the moment where I finally got out of my own way. I was probably two years or so into trying to write songs. I’d start a verse or two, look at it, retool it—replace my vocabulary with fancier words. Read it later, think it was garbage and throw it away.

I’d complete songs here and there, some better than others, but I couldn’t find consistency.

One morning I finally told myself that it can’t all be Shakespeare. Literally those exact words, “It can’t all be Shakespeare.”

That was enough, and I was free.

I just wrote whatever came into my mind from then on and got out of my own way. Some songs were better than others, but I was writing consistently. Some songs flowed out in one piece, that I’d be happy to play, while others—not so much. But after a while, I had a catalog to draw from. I could borrow verses, choruses, and bridges from songs that didn’t work and mash them together to create a Frankenstein’s Monster of mid 90s angst.

It translates to writing short stories and novels too.

That first draft is going to be ugly. So is the second, and the third. Eventually, you’ll get there over time—you just have to make sure you don’t stop yourself. What’s more, it’ll be your voice. You may not sound like Shakespeare, Neil Gaiman, Anne Rice, or Ursula Le Guin, but that’s OK—the world already has their work.

So, there it is, a blog with a great podcast recommendation, and a piece on voice. Also, let me tell you something, Phil Collins’ stuff still holds up.

I’ve had “Against All Odds” in my head all week, and that’s a good thing.

Blog Post #19 LitFest Pasadena (California)

By this time next week, I’ll be done with my first book festival panel. Incredibly excited to participate in the Shades & Shadows event at LitFext Pasadena next Saturday, May 19th. If you live in Southern California and want to make the trip, the event will take place from 8:00-10:00 pm at the address below:

 

Pasadena Playhouse

Friendship Room

39 S El Molino Ave

Pasadena, CA  91101

 

I’ll be reading a passage from Ghost Bully alongside some other great writers from the area. Hope to see you there!

P.S. I know I said there would be dumb jokes and writing tips for this week's blog post, but apparently I'm a huge liar. Sorry.

Blog Post #18: The blog that votes and buys cigarettes.

The Twitter Bug, and what it means for you.

 

Pretty good headline, huh? Disclaimor: I’m not a security expert, but I used to work for a large technology company that talked a lot about cyber security.

Some of us use the same password for everything—it’s easier to remember that way. Maybe you worked hard to create a strong, easy to remember password like Gh0stBullyismyF4vBook100%. Phrases like that are great (better than a password of, say: password). In fact, it’s exactly how you want to think about passwords, so you have a better chance at avoiding bots that are good at guessing those types of things. However, the problem with having one password for everything is that once someone figures it out, they might be able to get into all your other accounts as well.

This week Twitter realized that every user’s password was written into an internal log before completing a masking/hashing process. Meaning that if you knew where to look, you’d see usernames and passwords instead of ####$@$%@#$% or something to that effect. They don’t have an indication that there was a breach, but they’re letting us all know just in case someone else figured it out first or would have … because … of course they would have.

What does this mean?

When a hack occurs, someone or a group of someones figure out how to hack a database. They may know that user: Gh0stBully logs in with the email of BestBookEvarrr@madeupemailserver.com and uses the password: J0n4hSoC00l

Now, they can run a script that tries to log into Facebook, Insta, Twitter … your bank … log in, change the password, and presto-change-O, they’re now you for all intents and purposes. Because a lot of people don’t just use the same password for everything, they also use the same email address a lot of times as well.

Furthermore, it’s not just big companies like Yahoo, Google, or Twitter that get hacked. It could be your favorite blog about, and now your info is out there on the dark web (spooky sounding, right?) for all to see, which is why it’s crucial to have a different password for every site.

But how you say—how in the world could I ever remember all the passwords?

You can’t, probably.

I can’t anyway, so I use a password manager called LastPass. There are a bunch out there, so do your research, but for like thirteen bucks a year, I get super-secure, unique passwords for each site, so I don’t have to freak out if one gets hacked. I just change the password for that site and move on with my morning. Maybe peruse my favorite donut blog, I don’t know.

 

Password managers take some work to set up initially as you go around and load your sites and create new passwords for them all, but afterward, they’ll make your life a lot easier. Just remember to change your password for the password manager periodically … and don’t write it down on a post it and put it on your computer monitor (people really do this)!

TL;DR (Too long; didn’t read)

Twitter found a bug in their system. Change your password and take a look at a password manager if you haven’t already.

Back to dumb jokes and writing tips next week.

Blog Post #17

Another busy week of editing. Additional side quests and revision continues to dominate time spent on book two, so much so that I’ve barely been able to get past chapter twelve so far. I’m confident that the work done up front will all pay off for all of us down the line though (writer, characters, and reader … well, maybe not all the characters).

Talked to a friend about a podcast that could lead to an audiobook for Ghost Bully. Probably premature to write about it here, but why not? We’re thinking a couple of chapters a week that would finish out on Halloween (or the week of), what do you think? Go ahead and @ me wherever you feel like on social media.

Also looking forward to LitFest Pasadena next month, and thinking about which scene(s) to read. Funny, scary, or action? Maybe something that encompasses all three. A little nervous about a public reading, but it’s part of the storytelling gig, and it seems like an incredible event hosted by Shades and Shadows, so I can’t wait.

Blog Post #15

Started the revision process for the second book this past week after letting it sit for about a month. I noticed a difference in my attitude between the first revisions of Ghost Bully, and I’m pleasantly surprised.

I’ll never forget writing (in bold, mind you) The End on my first book. It was exhilarating—I’d done it. To quote Lisa Mangum, I was ready for my “Rich and Famous Contract,” where do I sign? Turns out it doesn’t work out like that for most people.

I’d read plenty of advice from other authors like Neil Gaiman or Jim Butcher that tell us to let our story sit for a while until we forget about it, so I did. Reading Ghost Bully again for the first time, I was horrified to see than many typos (in a dazzling variety), misspelled words, poor grammar, etc.… and that was before I knew what I was really doing wrong. I’d curse myself as I fixed the problems with the prose or dialogue, punching up jokes as I went along, and thinking I’d fixed everything by the time I finished.

Then cursed myself all over again on the next revision.

This past week, I’ve been more forgiving of myself. This time around, I’m treating the manuscript like a piece of scrap metal that needs to be beaten into shape and polished before sending it out into the world. It’s OK if jokes aren’t hitting right now, or parts aren’t connecting like I thought they might … or that I even forgot to put the connections in. I just need to fix the story. It’s a much healthier attitude, and I’m happy I’m in that place … at least at the moment.

I’m also thankful to have a writing group this go-round to give me direction and counsel on how the story is shaping up and ways to improve it.

There’s a lot of work to do between now and the release next year, but I’m excited about doing it. I’ll be revising this thing pretty much non-stop until the Fall, but it will be worth it, and I hope you enjoy it.

*

Also, watched Loaded, the second season of A Series of Unfortunate Events, and Nailed It this week on Netflix. Highly recommend along with The Magicians which ended their season with a bang this past week as well. Fun and well thought out story telling on that show, can’t wait for next season.

Blog Post #14 Hoppy Easter

I’m almost upset when people don’t post “Hoppy Easter” whenever they’re posting pictures of their kids wearing bunny ears … or at all. Hey, this is the one holiday you can make a hilarious play on words with well-wishing … as a group. I suppose you could wish your friend a “Hoppy” Birthday if they were into IPAs or just sprained their ankle and refused to get crutches.

Blog Post #11 (Stranger Things)

Welcome back to another mailbag where I'll take your Qs and throw back some As. Ready? Here we go!

Question #1

Dear Brian,

Would you enable comments on your blog so we can say mean and hateful things?

Signed,

Let The Good Times Troll

 

Dear LTGTT,

I'll think about it.

Brian

Question #2

Dear Brian,

I'm from Germany and your book changed my life! Thank you for writing it.

Signed,

Euro Number One Fan

 

Dear ENOF,

I don't believe you.

Brian

 

Question #3

Dear Brian,

Hiya! I practice judo in Austin, and wanted to see if I could sign up with the Psy-Kicks.

Signed,

Kicking It Old School

 

Dear KIOS,

First off, I see what you did there with the intro, good work. Secondly, they're not real. Sorry.

Your Pal,

Brian

 

Well thanks everybody, glad we were able to get through this without any SmartWool questions--double checking ... nope, no SmartWool questions this week. See you again next time!

 

Welcome to Blog Post #10 ... Brought to You by, SquareSpace!

I don't really have a sponsor, that's just who I pay for this site. I like them though, easy tools to learn, highly recommend.

Anyone watched Ugly Delicious on Netflix? It’s great. Interesting food conversations beautifully shot—the whole nine. This week’s food decisions were heavily influenced by the docuseries—lots of delicious fried food eaten without much balance for health. Time to rectify that this (Sunday) morning with an intense new class at Crush Fitness here in Austin. I’m not looking forward to it (I know it’s going to kick my metaphorical ass), but I am looking forward to switching things up a bit.

Oh … and hey, let me drop this in I finished the rough draft of my next novel! What’s it about? Well, I’m not going to say just yet, but you’ll like it. Probably.

What am I going to do now? Now I’m going to focus on a short story, the first in a series, set in the same universe as Ghost Bully that I hope to have out by this summer. Want more information? Sign up for the mailing list, and I’ll get you exclusive details.

That and editing the new novel—lots of editing. Like the time I spent watching Ugly Delicious? Now probably editing. Time spent watching Mute? Editing. Time spent walking the dogs? Same amount of time on that, I’m not a monster.

So that’s what’s going on with me this week. If you haven’t checked out Ugly Delicious or Mute on Netflix, go ahead and change that and see if you like it. Altered Carbon is amazing too as long as I’m handing out recommendations.

Of course, if you haven’t read Ghost Bully, check that out. If you have, maybe tell a friend. I’d ask you to review it on Amazon and Goodreads because that’s a huge help to independent authors, but that’s just annoying, and I would never annoy you!

Blog Post #9 (The nine-a-ning)

It’s been rainy every day for almost three weeks and my Vitamin D level is low. We don’t experience this much in Central Texas.

BRIAN: I don’t know that I can remember the sun … it’s been weeks. Do you remember? The warmth, the strain on your eyes as you try to focus into the horizon? The light that shines down and illuminates the trees, the flowers … giving life to the plants that produce the very air we breathe.

STARBUCKS CASHIER: Sir, I’m going to need you to push the card all the way in or it won’t read the chip.

BRIAN: Ah yes, chips … do you remember the time before chips?

 

Not much to write about this week, so I figured I’d basically write a long tweet. This is the kind of stuff that keeps people coming back week after week. I know, you’re welcome. Tell you what, let me take this space to do a little author begging. Sales of Ghost Bully have been strong so far, so thank you for that!

If you liked it, please write a review on Amazon or Goodreads.com and tell your friends. That would be a huge help! Appreciate all your support.

Oh, and I’m almost done with the rough draft for the follow up to Ghost Bully, expect it to be done by the end of the month. Right now, the plan is to have that book out in early 2019.

That’s too long to wait you say! Well, I’m sorry, I say! Here’s some other news: I also to expect to have a short story in the Ghost Bully universe out by this summer, so look forward to that!

Blog Post #8

“There is no artistry in perfection.”

 

That’s my favorite take away from this past week. I heard the line while listening to and exchange between Chris Hardwick and John August on the ID10T podcast (formerly Nerdist). I’m not sure if Chris made the statement himself or was quoting William Randolph Hearst regarding tiles within his castle (see, I’m not sure, and I’m not re-listening—artist).

The quote was in reference to tile laid perfectly within the Hearst Castle that WRH had a problem with because it was too perfect. He apparently liked little flaws because he thought it gave the overall look character.

I’ve heard Dave Grohl make similar statements on why he likes to record analog vs. digitally. Keeping some imperfections so that it sounds like humans playing music and not a computer.

This gives me comfort as someone who has told stories his whole life but is starting out as a newbie writer. I don’t have to be perfect, I just have to tell the best story I can.

Sure there are bad tile jobs out there, bad songs, and bad books … but we all have to start somewhere, and we all get better at things as we go along. I’m happy to help amplify Hardwick’s mantra of ‘go make your thing’ because he’s right. Too many times we listen to the voice that tells us we can’t do something. The fact of the matter is you won’t know until you try. So try and make your thing this week. Start on that outline for your first book, or move from the outline to the first sentence. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just start.

Write out that first chorus of your song. It may not be McCartney and Lennon, but that’s OK because we already have their stuff to listen to.

Or go watch a how-to video on youtube and practice with some spare tiles on plywood. Go make your thing.

Blog Post #7 (Launch Week)

I’ve vacillated between writing a deeper dive of the Superstars Writing Seminar from last week and talking about marketing a book once it’s out. After some deliberation, I’ve decided that marketing wins. Marketing always wins.

So for you indie writers out there, or maybe even first time published authors at a traditional house: you’ve written your first book, now what?

Well, now it’s time to get some advance reviews, prime the sales pump with Facebook and Amazon ads, and come up with a bunch of hilarious tweets and ‘grams to wow the world with your imagination. So did I do any of that? Eh, some. I wish I did more, but I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

For example, I didn’t know how long it took for Amazon ads to catch on and take off. Frankly, I’m still not sure. I read a book by Brian Meeks on how to price and position, but the average bid has increased significantly since he wrote his book. So what now? Option one is to throw my hands up in despair, which is tempting, but not particularly effective. Option two is to dig in and try new things.

I’m not sure how effective Facebook ads are, but marketing has a cumulative effect. It’s not like everyone is going to see an ad one time and buy your product, regardless of how great it is (you know, like my book: Ghost Bully). Facebook allows you to target your ad, to your audience, worldwide. There’s value to that, and I just need to figure out how to mine it. My ‘one click down’ lesson so far has been to make sure to link the appropriate Amazon site to the country (e.g., Amazon.ca to Canada, Amazon.co.uk to the UK … you get where I’m going with this).

I thought it would be cool to make a ‘band poster’ to advertise the book in places where people wait around in line for great food (like the Soup Peddler or Moonlight Bakery) and in coffee shops … wherever you’d see a band poster. Surprisingly, that’s been pretty effective … moreso than the Facebook ads so far.

So the net of all this is, I’m not sure what will work, and what won’t work. I’ve done my homework on how to position everything above. Read tips and tricks for ad optimization, spend, etc.… even floated up my own ideas. It’s only been a week since the book has officially been out, so we’ll see.

My main takeaway so far is that I need to keep writing everyday, regardless of what happens. That second book is going to be ready by next year at the same time. When I have nervous energy, I can go do something about it (hang posters, write a blog post, draft my version of a hilarious tweet … whatever). Ultimately, the work will speak for itself, but in the meantime, I need to endeavor to get it in as many hands (and minds) as possible.

If you enjoyed Ghost Bully, you can help too. Put up a review on Amazon or Goodreads, print out the poster from the Street Team tab and hang it up at your favorite place that has a bulletin board, or just tell a friend.

Blog Post #6 (The most creative title yet)

I’m writing today’s post between bouts of packing up my hotel room after spending the past week in Colorado Springs at the Superstars of Writing Seminar. I learned a ton, met a lot of talented people, and did my best to stay hydrated in the high altitude.

It was time and money well spent if not just for the craft day query letter and logline seminar with Lisa Mangum or the tip from a Tribe (that’s what attendees call ourselves) member to use https://www.yasiv.com/ to help maximize my marketing dollar.

I’ll write more on lessons learned and key takeaways in future posts, but for now, I have a plane to catch!

Blog Post #5

Question #1:

Dear Brian,

I noticed that the paperback version of Ghost Bully is available for sale. I also noticed that I was able to order it and have it delivered. Moreover, I’ve noticed that it is very good. So what’s the deal with the ebooks still on pre-order?

Signed,

Confused But Not Really

 

Dear CBNR,

First of all, thanks for not asking a question about socks directed to Todd. I was beginning to worry that it would be some sort of habit. Looks like maybe they fixed whatever linking issue that caused me to receive his email.

Now onto why the paperbacks are available and not the ebook. Well … I goofed. I’m still not 100% sure how I goofed, but I have some ideas. Anyway, if you’d like to pick up a copy of Ghost Bully, it’s available at BookPeople in Austin, TX as well as Amazon and a few other places on the internet. So don’t be shy, go to the store and demand your copy.

Really, demand it. Like it’s the eighties, and you want your MTV.

Your pal,

Brian

Question #2:

Dear Todd,

I’ve managed to work a hole into my SmartWool. I’m really hard on them, but do you think they’ll take them back?

Signed,

Holey Moley

Ed. Note: Dammit.

Dear HM,

I’m sorry, you’ve messaged the wrong blog again I’m afraid. That said, according to their site, SmartWool has a two-year satisfaction guarantee on their site (see here). So, good luck.

Brian

Question #3:

Dear Brian,

What are you currently working on?

Signed,

Curious in California

 

Dear CiC,

I’m about 50,000 words into a rough draft on a book I expect to be out about this time next year. Thanks for asking, hope you like it.

Brian

So that's it for the mailbag this week. Hope these A's sufficiently addressed all the Q's. This week I'll be attending the Superstars Writing Seminar in Colorado Springs, CO, so next week I may change of the format of the blog and share an insight or two coming away from the seminar.

 

Blog Post #4

Thought I'd open up the mailbag again this week to answer your questions, so here goes...

Question #1:

Dear Todd,

This is a bit of a two 'fer. Carb went out on my '67 'Stang, and I wanted to get your advice. Rebuild, or replace with an aftermarket part? Part two: the car is outside, and I wanted to see if I should wear Smartwool's lightweight fast dry merino, or the hike light crew.

Sincerely,

Carbo Unloading

 

Dear CU,

 

This is the second time I've received a message for Todd regarding Smartwool socks, so I think we may have a broken link somewhere. I'm Brian. That said, I'd probably try to rebuild the carburetor if you can, but if not, the Holley 4160 Series should do the trick. All while wearing Smartwool's lightweight fast dry merino socks, they're honestly a delight.

 

Question #2

Dear Brian,

How do you get inspired to write?

Signed,

Your Mum

 

Dear YM,

Excited for the international flair, thanks for writing in! Also, I called my Mom just to make sure she didn't submit this question.

Arrested Development Narrator: She didn't.

Still, it's a pretty good one.

Sometimes I wake up with an idea, and I'm off to the races, and somedays I have to find it. Outlines help, but some days it's just slogging through the effort out of pure determination. Other days start without much to go on, but I'm able to find inspiration after a half hour into the attempt.

This is a similar question and answer to the whole writer's block thing, but it's still good.

 

Well that's the mailbag for this week. Got a questions? Let me hear from you!

 

 

 

Blog Post #3

Mailbag! For my third post, I figured I would just go to the ol’ mailbag and answer some of your questions. So here goes…

Question #1:

Dear Todd,

I’m about to pack for a big hike up through the Christmas Mountains and wanted your recommendation: SmartWool Hiking or PhD Outdoor socks?

Yours truly,

Down, Set, Hiking Socks

 

Dear DSHS,

I think you may have e-mailed the wrong blog, my name is Brian. That said, I don’t think you can go wrong with the PhD Outdoor. They’re just the best.

Good luck,

Brian

Question #2

Dear Brian,

Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it?

Sincerely,

Block This Way

 

Dear BTW,

I look writer’s block in the face and say, “Not today’s writer’s block, not today.”

Wait. No, that’s death. I say that to death.

I don’t know, I just keep writing and hope I can fix it through multiple revisions. Hard to tell what was written on what day--even on the first revision.

Hope that helps,

Brian

 

Time to close up the mailbag for this week, but feel free to keep the questions coming. I look forward to answering more next week.