2015 – My Resolve for Resolution

Typically I don’t do the whole New Year’s Resolution thing. Instead of using a fairly arbitrary date as a springboard for change, I try to keep myself in a rather liquid state. If I notice I’m developing/resorting back to bad habits, I try to conquer them there and then. Life is too short, after all, to put off til next year that which I can change right now.

Only, I haven’t exactly been doing a bang-up job of changing. I haven’t even been adapting well to the changes going on around me. Perhaps I’m at an age where my stick is firmly rooted in the mud. Maybe I’ve settled into a sense of what is right and wrong, and can no longer see/think past my narrow viewpoint. Maybe those damn kids need to cut their hair and stay off my lawn!

I thought it would be good this year to use the New Year as an opportunity to realign my thinking and set myself back on my intended path.

Resolution #1: No Time Like The Present

Procrastination has long been a friend of mine. It was there for me during school for every pre-final cram session. It rears its head still every time my car is due for an oil change. And of course, it inspires me to write about my resolutions three days into the new year.

No more.

Yes, I have a chaotic (some might say artistic…my regards to those fine folks) mind, but technology is such we can temper those urgings. If I have to set a reminder on my phone for events throughout the entire year, so be it.

I just need to get around to setting them up.

Resolution #2: Be A Writer!

I started self-publishing in June of 2011. In the 3.5 years since then, I’ve put out seven books spanning two series and a stand-alone (at least until I get around to writing those sequels).

Not to shabby for a guy who works 40+ hours per week. But it could be so much more.

During this last NaNoWriMo, I wrote 25K words of my new novel, AfterLife. Well short of my 50K goal, but it was a tremendous start. And I truly only focused on it for a short period of time. Most of my writing energy went into publishing The Blood Contract.

I’m setting myself a goal of 5,000 words per week for this entire year. Again, it’s not nearly as lofty as NaNo calls for, but I believe it’s 100% doable (after all, the secret to successful goals is to make them realistic). This should allow me to produce a rough draft every six months or better. Then, while working on editing, I’ll continue with my 5,000 word goal on my next project.

I’m proud of what I’ve been able to achieve but I have so many other stories waiting to be told. I’m at a point where if I retired from my day job to focus solely on writing, I wouldn’t be scrambling for a new story idea for years to come.

Resolution #3: Communication

Whether it’s updating all of you through this blog or finding the perfect words to articulate to my wife how I’m feeling, I’ve come to realize communication isn’t my strong point. It’s not that I don’t want it to be. I’m a strange mix of an introverted-extrovert, someone you could work with for years and barely get to know, yet when I open up, I do so fully. I tend to eschew societal lines in a willingness to talk about most anything and everything. Especially if I think it’s funny.

I find most everything funny.

I can’t promise to change the core of who I am and suddenly be everyone’s friend, but I’m resolving to open myself up to the world a bit. To not be so afraid to make a comment in mixed company or to joke when there’s more people in the room than is my official level of comfort (seems to be three at this point in my life).

I also resolve to write in this blog more often. Not every day, but no more lapses of a month or more. This thing is supposed to be my microphone, my way of broadcasting without the fear of my social anxiety robbing me of all coherent thought. It’s the written word–my comfort zone–and I need to embrace it more often.

Which somewhat leads into…

Resolution #4: I Won’t Be Afraid of Success

Seems a silly resolution, doesn’t it? What’s the point of doing something if you don’t want to succeed at it? Yet, I constantly find with writing, I’ve given myself a way out.

“All I ever wanted was to get my books out to people.”

That’s been my mantra the past few years, and while it’s true, it’s not enough. Early on when publishing, I kept up on current trends, applied strategies on how to be successful at this whole writing thing.

Then I stopped.

I don’t exactly recall when it happened, but I started focusing solely on putting the books out. No marketing strategy. No author interviews. No giveaways. I just blog about my progress every now and then, perhaps a tweet or two and, oh, did you happen to notice I out out a book last week? Well, I’m off to the next one.

It’s no wonder my first few books were the only ones to really receive any reviews.

Even recently, I was part of an amazing sale put together by a great writer. What did I do to promote it? A single blog post. That’s it. Not only did I fail myself, I failed the other writers who were participating.

No more.

I suppose this harkens back to Resolution #1 in a way, but it’s more than procrastination. I feel a tangible sense of dread whenever it comes to promoting myself, like there’s a part of me who just doesn’t think I deserve to be successful.

I’m ignoring that part of me from now on.

If you made it this far, thanks for indulging me. If not, well you’re not reading this but anyway but I’m sure you have it your best.

As a little post-Resolution list Resolution, I resolve to never wrote a post this long on my phone ever again, starting to get the crab hand.

Thanks for reading and have a great 2015!

S.L. Madden

20 Years After

My 20th High School Reunion has come and gone, and I survived to tell the tale.

Other than serving as a constant reminder that I truly am that old (although as a point of pride, I was carded at the event last night… this baby face still has it!), I didn’t really expect much from it.  In fact, I had no plans to attend.  Were it not for one of my friends I hadn’t seen in years requesting we meet up, I would have stayed home both nights, determined to finish my book while succumbing to the temptation of starting up my Playstation.

But I did go out, and the first night was just as awkward as I thought it would be.  Few remembered me, and those who did, I often couldn’t recall who they were.  On the rare occasion we knew who each other were, our conversations were brief and fell into awkward silence that was drowned out by more boisterous (read: drunk) members of the party.

I expected all this.  It was, after all, my primary reason for not wishing to attend in the first place.  What I didn’t anticipate was that I’d not only have fun, but I’d learn a few things about myself in the process:

*For those of us who were socially inept in high school, it’s a common idea that if we could only go back in time and redo it all with our current personality/confidence, it’d be so much different.  I know I assumed that for years.  And yet there I was, given the perfect opportunity to strut the new and improved me, and I resorted to being a timid wallflower, an observer and not a participant.  My out-of-town friend is Mr. Charisma and knows everyone, and I stuck to him that first night like a shadow afraid to be swallowed by the night.  I talked to people who probably never even noticed me in high school, joked and laughed with them.  Then the next night, when he wasn’t there, I’m not sure they recognized me.

And I’m okay with that.  It’s who I am.  It’s my safe zone.  My friends know I can be boisterous and joke, that I have a fairly quick wit (well, I like to think so anyway), and can say and do some rather crazy things.  I have a rather dry, sardonic sense of humor that doesn’t often play well in casual conversation, and it shuts down altogether in a group setting.  This is who I’ve always been.  And if that’s how people remember me, I did nothing to tarnish that legacy over the past two nights.

*I consider myself an observer, interested in studying characters.  I like to figure people out from a distance, try to piece together their story.  Yet I was approached by a fellow classmate last night who sort of turned all that on its head for me.

First of all, I wouldn’t have recognized him in a lineup.  Unlike some of my classmates, he had shed his teen face and adopted one of a man.  So when he approached me, I was already at a disadvantage for not recognizing him.  But that was only the beginning.

He proceeded to tell me all about myself.  Or rather, what could be gleamed from Facebook, this blog, and other social media outlets.  He knew I was a writer, had a daughter, was recently divorced, etc.  All I could tell him about his current life was his picture was that of a chicken.

What I didn’t tell him I was as shocked and amazed he remembered me after all these years as I was he even talked to me in high school.  I was even surprised when he accepted my friend request on Facebook.  He was outgoing and on a completely separate strata of popularity than I was.  It just so happened we were masters of the keyboard, and so we were placed together in a situation where we had ample time to joke and talk, while the sound of the other kids pecking away at their keyboards in an effort to catch up served as the backbeat to our conversation.

He remembered things about me I couldn’t quite recall, like the fact I had borrowed his Beatles albums, then returned them to his father (I actually remember this now, but had it been on a quiz prior to last night, I probably would have responded by writing random words in German).  He’d met me at a time when I was obsessed with ELO, and he was responsible for opening my eyes to The Beatles (that is something I’ve never forgotten).  And I introduced him to Mystery Science Theater 3000.  Not exactly equal, but it’s nice to know I had some manner of impact on his life.

So there he was, able to tell me all manner of things about myself, and I had nothing in return for him.  He told me of his wood bending business, how he had studied law and found it just wasn’t him.  He pointed out his wife on the dance floor, and gave me a brief back story to how they’d met.  It was loud and smoky and not the perfect place for a conversation, but I learned a lot about him in a short period of time.  Even better, he gave me a website so I could do a little investigation on my own (www.shop17mareisland.com).

Within minutes of looking at the site, I knew much more about him.  He has a beautiful baby girl, and of course, a lovely wife who attended the reunion with him.  And it turns out he’s an artist in the purest sense, and he channels that art through creating chairs that are not only beautiful, but sustainable.  It’s a wonderful site, and I highly recommend checking it out.

For all my sitting back and watching the world pass me by as I write their stories in my mind, it’s good to be reminded these are people out there, with rich, complicated back stories I couldn’t possibly hope to create all on my own.

*I learned that people know me as an author.  It’s strange considering I spend 40+ hours a week doing something completely different, and very little time in comparison writing, but I was approached by several people asking me about my books.  Which is when I also learned I need to step it up and promote myself better.  Telling everyone I write about stuff and things is no way to drum up interest.  I suppose this is why successful people have promoters (or their own innate charisma).

*Lastly, I want to point out that not one person asked if I was related to John Madden.  However, several people mentioned the Steve Madden shoe company.  So that’s progress.  Perhaps at their next reunion, people will be asking them if they’re related to S.L. Madden.

Or perhaps not.

Thanks for reading, and a very special thanks to everyone who put the shindig together, and all of those who made me feel welcome there, even when it was clear I was completely out of place.  I had a lovely time and look forward to seeing you all again in a decade or so.

 

S.L. Madden

Dedicated

With a few exceptions, I’ve tried to keep this blog out of the realm of my personal life, choosing to focus more on my books (with the occasional post about autism or video games).  This particular subject is one that straddles both my personal and business sides.

It’s no big secret I was divorced last October (although I’m not sure everyone knows I was recently married again on March 9th).  At the time, we did our best to keep things amicable.  Do to the fact we didn’t know what the future would bring, we made arrangements to make sure my ex would be well taken care of.  We made verbal agreements to help each other out whenever necessary, and to keep things civil for the sake of our daughter.

This worked well (as far as I was aware) until quite recently.  Suddenly, the ugliness of divorce we should have faced and moved on from several months ago is now at my feet, and the civility we shared even a week ago seems to have crumbled into nothingness.  It’s a sad turn of events, and I won’t go into any egregious details here.  Suffice it to say, there are hurt feelings on both sides, wounds that, perhaps, will never heal.

So my question to you all is this: do you think it would be wrong for me to change the dedication found in my older books?

Right now, my first few (four?) books are dedicated to my ex, as she was who I was with at the time.  But I cringe every time I open up the book and see that right in the front.  I’ll still give her credit for her cover work, but I’d rather dedicate the books solely to my daughter if that’s an option.  I suppose it’s akin to tearing up old pictures of someone who hurt you, but this is something I’ve put out there for public consumption.

What say you, fellow readers/authors/people with opinion?  Should I leave the dedications as they are, a mark of what was?  Or do I update them to exclude her, symbolizing moving on to what will be?

Or am I the only person who would even worry about such a thing?

Thanks for reading,

 

S.L. Madden

The Maddening 11/29/2013

~Barring any unforeseen delays (don’t you just love that small print jargon?), I plan to have Together Alone (the third book in the Only Human on the Block series) available in both print and electronic versions on December 20th (yes, of this year!).  This release date is tentative based on how many errors my editor finds with it, and whether or not any formatting issues crop up.  I believe I have them pretty much hammered out at this point, but if the other five books taught me anything, it’s that formatting can be a bear when it wants to be.  Every time I read an indie book and see the same formatting issues I’ve been battling against, my heart goes out to them.  Perhaps if I ever get this thing fully under control, I should offer them my assistance.

~I think after Together Alone is released, I might go back through my first four books and redo them (the printed versions, anyway).  I experimented with a different font size for The Shadow Within, and I was pleased with the results.  Once the changes are implemented, it should shorten the length, allowing me to cut the costs of producing the books, thereby making it possible to lower the prices as well.

~Moving into 2014, I have a good chunk of World of Shadows Part I (Unseen Things III) finished.  I’ve been spinning my wheels on a chapter I want to add, but haven’t quite found the right way to do it.  After I get over that hurdle, however, I think it’ll be pretty quick to put the whole thing together.  I feel bad, as I really wanted to get this book out close to the release of The Shadow Within, but alas, it was not to be.  I still hope to have the fourth and final book ready to go by the end of next year, but I’ll have to see if I run into any issues when writing it.

~I’m on chapter nine of The Blood Contract (Only Human on the Block IV).  I remember it being pretty rough when I initially wrote it years ago, but as I work on this initial draft, I’ve been finding it flowing smoother than I thought.  Perhaps later chapters will need more work (and I never did quite get to the end), but I’m optimistic it’ll be ready to go next year.

~For the first time in over a decade, I’ve been working on writing some music.  It’s nothing spectacular.  To be honest, I was never all that gifted musically, but it’s a fun hobby.  I’d like to work up some songs to the point where I could eventually release a mini-album, but I’m sure that’s a ways off, if it ever sees the light of day.  But my friend David is very gifted at writing music, and I’m hoping he and I will be able to collaborate on some music and perhaps even graphics (he’s also an artist) for a future book trailer.

I think that’s it for now.  Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving and a safe Black Friday.

S.L. Madden

The Problem With Keeping It Real

This is going to be short, because I’ve got Nat for the night. That fact alone should be inspiration for me to finish my NaNo book, 7 Days (even if it falls short of the 50K mark). And in part, it does. Experiencing her and her mannerisms first-hand reminds me of that week I spent alone with her, and if the seven years I spent raising her since her birth. It’s hard not to get all emotional, and feel that others may interested in reading about it.

But that’s just it… I don’t feel like I’ve been doing a good job of properly representing who Natalie is. There is no way I can capture her idiosyncrasies–all the little things that make her who she is–through mere words. And even if I could, I’m not sure I want the world to know her as intimately as I. It’s already weird enough she has the rough equivalent of another dad out there, especially considering he sees her every day, and I only have her overnight once every two weeks.

That’s the other thing… The story was never just about dealing with Natalie and autism. It was also about my struggles with my (then) upcoming divorce. The problem is, it’s hard to represent that without letting myself go to a dark place, and embrace the pain I’ve tried to carefully wall off.

Truth is, her and I have done our best to keep this whole thing amicable. And for the most part, I think we’ve succeeded. That doesn’t mean there isn’t anger and resentment on both sides. We’ve just decided it’s better for everyone involved to not make it harder than it needs to be.

Unfortunately, that makes for a dull story. And if I were to truly write about my pain, I know it would only make the situation worse, possibly undermining everything we’ve fought to achieve.

Had I gone with my original plan and written this as a fictionalized story based loosely on my own experiences, I think I might have fared better. I went back and forth on how best to write it, right up until the moment I typed the first words. I thought it would be easier to use our names and try to recall conversations and events, but that proved more difficult. Ultimately, I felt like I wasn’t properly representing anyone, and I wasn’t comfortable fully talking about the entirety of my marriage and the subsequent divorce.

Perhaps the story will someday see the light of day, with characters that somewhat resemble myself, my ex-wife and my daughter. That sounds like a book I could get excited to write.

S.L. Madden

Winner, Winner!

No, I’m not talking about my NaNo book (I have pretty much given up on that 50K goal for this year). I’m referring to the fact I recently won three books (the Last Moon Rising series) from author Dale Ibitz. This was courtesy of a giveaway hosted by the talented and lovely Katy Sozaeva (who edited this series, not to mention The Shadow Within for me).

I won the giveaway some time ago, but The author had contacted me to say they would soon be available with new covers. I opted to wait, and I’m glad I did. I’m not sure what the old ones looked like, but the new ones are quite striking, colored according to themes found in the book (or so I gather from the tag lines and artwork). The first book, Fire In The Blood, is orange (self-explanatory there). The second, Strong Blood, is green, and features the tag line, “When nature collides, only the strong survives”. The third book, Water Over Blood, is blue and has a fish on the cover. The art and the design is by Tara Anand, who is clearly an artist u should check out.

At this point, that’s all I know. I haven’t read them yet, and I’m not even quite sure what they’re about, but that’s part of the excitement. It’s a whole new universe full of friends I have yet to meet, enemies I shall come to hate. I’m looking forward to diving in. Watch this space for future reviews.

S.L. Madden

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