Archive for the ‘#transformationproject’ Tag

Cover Reveal #2   1 comment

Winter’s Reckoning has a cover (Book 6 in Transformation Project) and here’s a teaser of what it looks like.

This cover provided by Aurorawatcher Publications

Cover Reveal for “Winter’s Reckoning”   1 comment

Coming This Fall. The story of Transformation Project continues in Book #6.

Lela Markham Books

When Pleasure Becomes Difficult   6 comments

We’ve talked about writer’s block. Have you ever gotten reader’s block?


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Defining Terms

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I’d never heard of “reader’s block” before the question was asked, so, definitions are in order:

  • Readers Block is a phenomenon where a person cannot proceed with a book. They are frequently distracted from the book or after flipping a page realize that they have been reading individual words mechanically without processing and understanding the meaning of the text in their mind. It has been named in sync with Writer’s Block, where a writer suddenly loses interest in writing.
  • Reader’s Block
  • This can happen because:
  • a) You have no interest in the book.
  • b) The book is itself bad and not written to generate interest.
  • c) You are too tired and exhausted to read pretty much anything.

What is Common To Humankind

The answer is – yes. Pretty much everything other human beings have suffered, I have suffered also. I’ve said I don’t believe in writer’s block, but that’s because I’ve never allowed myself to be mugged by it. That doesn’t mean I’ve never experienced the processes behind it, but that I’ve taken control of them and used them to my advantage.

Reader’s block, however ….

I don’t know when I first experienced it, but I do know when I became aware of it for the first time.

In high school, a friend gave me a copy of The Hobbit. For a fantasy and science fiction geek reader, it was right up my alley and I eagerly sat down to read it. I read the first page. I set it down. I didn’t pick it up again until college when someone was raving about The Hobbit and I felt like I couldn’t claim to be a fantasy geek if I didn’t read it. I picked it up and I read maybe a page and a half. I set it down. I didn’t pick it up again until my daughter was a new reader and she begged me to read the story to her.

I read 10 pages to her that night and then she had to go to bed and I finished the book before morning, then read it aloud to her over several nights following.

The Hobbit starts with an info-dump and I struggled to get past it to the meat the story. It kept boring me and that boredom “blocked” me from the story. I didn’t have a teacher (how I got through the info-dump that starts The Tale of Two Cities) or my dad (who expected me to read all the classics) pushing me to keep reading and so, I didn’t — until a seven-year-old pushed me to do it and then I got past the hard part and found a lovely story.

Too Rich for My Blood

But I’ve also blocked on Conceived in Liberty by Murray Rothbard because it just is so historically dense. It’s hard to read big chunks of it because it’s so rich. Reading is an intellectual exercise, and not always an easy one. I’ve never encountered a book that demanded more than my intellect could handle, but I’ve definitely been humbled by an occasional struggle with how smart a writer might be. I am still reading Conceived. It’s just that I’ve learned to take it in small bites.

Life Happens While You’re Reading a Book

When my son was a baby and my daughter was an elementary schooler, time for reading became the constraint. Yeah, there were the frequent “Mommy, will you read this book for me?” moments, but the times to sit down and read a book for pleasure just wasn’t happening. There was about five years there when reading for pleasure was a forlorn hope and writing was squeezed into minutes between life events. I totally don’t regret not having much time to read during those years.

Try a New Genre

Sometimes there’s no explanation but that you’re tired of reading. Frankly, I’d been in a reading slump for a while this summer. I had several books to read and I wasn’t reading any of them. I felt badly about not cracking the spine on Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer after I’d longed to read it for over a year. Then a friend suggested something totally outside of my usual interest – a romance. I do occasionally enjoy mysteries or thrillers that have romantic elements, but pure romance where the focus is man meets woman and they fall in love, usually after disliking each other for a while — naw, not my style. I am a skeptic of Happily Ever After, especially for people who have nothing in common but sexual desire. But my friend suggested I read Ghosted because it involves a second-chance romance between a recovering alcoholic and his baby mama who is deeply angry at him. I could feel myself yawning even as I opened the Kindle file, but I truly enjoyed the story — probably because it was more true-to-life than most romances — and that got me back reading other books (almost entirely non-romances — still haven’t changed my opinion on the genre). I realized something from my foray into this genre. Several of the reviews for Ghosted mentioned it was long. For me 450 pages is nothing. I’m a fat fantasy reader. I guess that’s pretty long for a romance (which might be why I keep thinking “nobody falls in love that quickly”). But — wait, maybe that was why I was in a reading slump. Fat fantasies are a commitment. You start it and it will consumer your evenings for a while – days, sometimes weeks. And maybe that’s why I couldn’t start it. I felt overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. After I finished Ghosted, I still wasn’t ready to read Oathbringer.

Revisit an Old Favorite

Rereading an old favorite is one of the best ways to cure the book blahs. When you revisit an old favorite, you remember why you love to read, how a fictional character could resonate so deeply with you, what ingenious word-play exists in the world, and what diabolical drama a writer is capable of concocting. You can reignite your love of reading. After Ghosted got me reading again, I went through several old favorites that have been sitting on my shelves for years and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I then cracked open Oathbringer and finished it in about 10 days.


The downside of igniting your love of reading when you’re a writer is that you may be inspired to write your next novel. Or is that an upside? Hmmm?

“Gathering In” Excerpt #2   Leave a comment

The night of the pulse, Geo Tully and Wes Marcus were in the basement of Wes’ aunt’s home that had become their safehouse.

Wes, a wiry com tech barely old enough to shave regularly, held up a photo album that showed a man standing in front of the post-World War 2 bungalow with a shovel. The front door stood behind him, but not the view of the house that Geo recognized. The articulated arm of a backhoe could be seen on the edge of the frame.

“The porch is an addition,” Geo acknowledged.

A Navy Seal from Kansas, Geo towered over his Seattle-raised compatriot. They’d thrown in together when Bunnell & Wilson’s Knights Industry division seized control of the city by murdering military personnel. Wes’ uncle Fred had been an urban survivalist before he died a few years ago and his aunt Connie had died in Portland’s bomb attack. Their house had been a safe haven for two fugitives, so far.

“And look at how deep the hole is behind him.”

Geo turned to the front wall of the basement. The shelves had kept him from investigating here. They appeared to be attached to the wall, but when he ran his hand along the back edge of the shelving unit, he found a throw-bolt. He pulled it down and tugged on the shelves, swinging them out away from the wall. Hinged on the far side, they glided on hidden casters. Behind the shelves an open space stretched the length of the porch. Geo tried the light on the ceiling, but it didn’t turn on. He used the flashlight on his phone to illuminate the small room. A ham radio sat at one end, covered with plastic, while storage boxes filled the other end.

“I knew that tower had to still have a use.” Wes squatted down to look under the table the radio sat on. As an Army communication tech, he knew radios. “He left it disconnected. It’ll take me a moment.”

The light bulb in the main basement flared and popped off. Wes smacked his head on the underside of the table. Geo’s phone light went out.

“What’s that smell?” Wes stood, sniffing.

“My phone just fried, I think.”

They fumbled around in the dark to find the stairs and make their way to the kitchen. Duke, the Labrador retriever, stood in the living room, staring at the window and whining.

Geo peeked out the curtains as the neighbors came out on their porch, staring around.

“You smell that?” Wes asked. “I’m going to go check for fire.”

“Do you hear that?”

Duke whined louder. Raucous voices filtered in through the glass. Geo watched as the neighbors ran off their porch. Wes swept the front door open.

“What the hell?” Geo growled.

“They need help.” Wes ran into the street.

“Stay, Duke,” Geo ordered and followed his stupid partner into the street, where the neighbors could get a full view of their high-and-tights. They’d agreed they wouldn’t do that, but Wes had forced them all in. A municipal bus sat at the corner, smoke pouring out of its windows as the people inside tried to get out, screaming, kicking, punching at the glass, but when one window shattered, it just fed the fire that doomed them.

Wes ran to the rear passenger door and tried to pull it open, convulsing and chewing his tongue, smoke rising from his body.

“Gathering In” Excerpt #3   1 comment

They’d been told to expect a friendly village, an increasingly elusive concept in the Mirage these days, so they’d all opted to carry for their own safety. A young boy of about ten met them at the town entrance and jabbered away in a patois mixture of the local dialect, the Miragan central tongue and English. Although it seemed impossible for foreigners to master Miragan, Shane’s grasp of Arabic and the months spent with Sera meant he understood enough of the boy’s chatter that they could at least communicate rudimentarily.

“What’s he saying?” Commander Roth asked Shane.

“The levees came through about a week ago, but they haven’t been back. They took his older brother despite being younger than draft age. They took his father last year. He’s hoping for some food aid as he’s feeding three younger siblings by himself.”

“Do you believe that?” Logan demanded.

I do. Take a look. You see any adult males around here?”

“Not on the ground, but I’ll bet there’s plenty squirreled away in the attics.”

“Where’s the headman’s hut?” Roth asked.

The boy seemed eager to cooperate and they moved deeper into the village’s narrow lanes, leaving squads behind as they went, until only Mike, Killgore, Roth and Shane continued. One moment it seemed friendly, and the next an icy finger ran down Shane’s back. He turned his head toward the left to see the barely perceived danger. A woman in a dark cotton hijab materialized in a doorway. Shane opened his mouth to call a warning and several shots to his chest slammed him back into a stone wall.

Why Can’t I Have It All?   8 comments

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?


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I love the questions that require thought!

You’d think it’s a fairly binary question – creative versus market-oriented — but as is often the case, PJMcLayne has asked a question this week with an answer that is more nuanced.

There are two ways of doing art – and by art, I mean any creative endeavor. One — you can create for your own amazement. I wrote books for my own amusement for decades before I published for an audience. When I was doing that, I could afford to be bold and original, to try out plot lines and narrative techniques without fear that anyone would say, “Well, I’m just going to read another book because this one is … weird … boring … unbelievable … hard to follow ….” You get the picture. I loved what I was writing and I wasn’t concerned what anyone else thought because nobody else was ever going to read it.

The second way to do art is, obviously, for an audience. Writers are no less performance artists than my daughter — a gypsy musician who also dabbles in dance, painting and metal sculptures — not to mention graffiti. For that matter, my mother — a waitress — was a “performance artist”. Her audience consisted of the customers who followed her from cafe to cafe all over town because they appreciated her “art” in serving them. If you want to do art that has an audience, you have to consider what your audience wants.

So, am I original or do I give the audience what they want?

Can’t I do both? Take a pause and think about that. Of course, I can!

Creative on the First Draft

Image result for there is no new thing under the sun

I follow Stephen King and Kurt Vonnegut’s advice to write for my own enjoyment. I don’t consciously start by thinking “what does the market want?” I often read a book (written by another writer) or watch a television story (written by another writer) and think “What if …?” Or maybe it’s a news article that gets my attention, makes me wonder how someone got to the point where they did X. A character will stir in my mind and tell me his/her “what if”. In a way, it’s derivative in that I’m getting ideas from other writers. But my character is original and he tells his own story. He doesn’t inhabit that other writer’s universe. He lives in mine. His actions are motivated by his own personality. As I’ve often said – my characters tell me their stories and I write them down. Without a “living” character in my mind sharing the details of his “life”, there would be very little writing going on. In that way, I am utterly original.


I’m also not very mainstream — as a person, I’m an iconoclast. How many anarchist-admiring libertarian Southern Baptist evangelical Christian American-Indian-white Alaskans have you encountered in your lifetime? Yeah, I didn’t think so. That’s bound to show up in my writing and it does.

I took up a topic in Transformation Project that you don’t see a lot of novelists tackling outside the zombie apocalypse trope. I have an apocalyptic scenario where government is not the answer — where even the government of the small town at the center of the series can’t save the community. Not going to tell you how I resolve that problem, but I think voluntaryist solutions represent a distinct minority opinion in dealing with large-scale crises. We human beings, particularly of the modern-American type tend to think big government solutions are the only way to solve problems. I disagree because I see the “what if.” In this, I am writing for myself — what I would like to see in some parts of the world if society went seriously off the rails. When I’m writing my first draft, it is all about creativity and what I, the writer, want to put on the page.

Mercenary on Rewrite

That said, I only deserve to get paid for my work if I provide value through that work, which means I do, to a certain extent, need to be aware of what readers are looking for in a novel. What good is it to write a book that nobody else wants to read? Successful writers recognize that the success of their book(s) depends almost entirely on conforming to audience expectations. Being aware of that doesn’t mean you can’t be creative, innovative — original — but, yes, honing my originality so the audience will enjoy the read is paramount for having an audience.

And that’s where rewrite comes in. When I sit down with my gravel-draft (the roughest of the rough draft), some of my main questions are:

  • Would anyone besides me want to read this story?
  • What about this section? Yes, I love the dialogue — the back and forth between these two characters is wonderful — from my perspective. So what about everybody’s else’s perspective? Do I really need to describe the Eiffel Tower in all its detail to an audience that can google it and see it for themselves? I can feel the cold Shane is experiencing in this scene, but will someone who has spent their whole life in Texas feel the cold if I don’t describe it?
  • While I prefer to use proper grammar when I write is my adherence to those rules slowing down the reading? What if I tweaked these past tense sentences to make them more present tense since it’s clear the character is thinking about the past?
  • Do the details of how the Delaneys are coping with having no running water or electricity really need to consume 20 pages? Doesn’t that constitute an info-dump? Hey, look at that. I wove the entire thing into three sentences scattered through a chapter and I won’t bore my audience!

That’s paring a creative work with audience-aware editing. I remain free to express myself creatively, experiencing Wordworth’s “spontaneous overflow of powerful emotion”, but I don’t let creativity hinder what I deliver to the audience.

And, really, why are independent authors publishing their books on Amazon if not to have people other than their family and friends read the book? I don’t want to disappoint those strangers (especially since they’re willing to pay me money for what they read) and so, I combine creativity with more prosaic skills like editing and market analysis.

Announcing a Book Launch

If you want to see what creativity and rock-solid writing skills produce together, Gathering In (Book 5 of Transformation Project) debuts tomorrow Tuesday, October 22 and is currently on pre-order. You’ll save $1 over its launch price ($2.99) and $2 over its full retail price $3.99). It will also be available in paperback come Tuesday. All earlier books in the series will be on $1.99 sale from launch through Cyber Monday.

Life As We Knew It

Objects in View

A Threatening Fragility

Day’s End

On Pre-Order Sale   Leave a comment

My newest book is up and available on pre-order sale through Amazon.

Cover Reveal   Leave a comment

Cover Reveal Nearly Here   Leave a comment

Cover Reveal Continued   2 comments

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